Walking into the Catholic church where I've spent many a major family event, where I spent Sundays as a kid with my grandparents in the front pew on the right-hand side, in the church where just eight months ago one of my cousins was married, I followed my grandmother's casket.
Standing there in the pew, looking around at my family, I was thinking about the legacy she and my grandfather left behind.
All good people. We have our problems, like any family. We have our difficulties with each other. But we are all strong, confident, trustworthy people. Every one of us you can rely on in a pinch.
I looked at my sister and our other female cousins and saw a group of strong, confident women. Each one of us has a different profession, from homemaker to engineer to nurse to teacher and everything in between. But we are all, each one of us, confident at what we do and who we are.
I looked at my brother and our male cousins and saw a bunch of guys who I would trust with my life. Each one of them, in his own way, is the type of guy you'd want your sister to marry. (There are still a few single ones, folks. :)
But the best legacy my grandparents left was laughter.
We are a family who teases constantly. In any situation. That can take outsiders a bit to get used to. I'm pretty sure that most receiving lines at funerals do not have people telling the bereaved: "I'm so sorry. Truly. Very sorry you have to stand next to him." (Insert person pointing at one of my mom's brothers, the one who is the family cut-up; his friends are very like him.)
Sitting in the funeral home's family room, trying to help my youngest cousin write a eulogy, all 16 of us were laughing like loons at our memories of our grandparents.
The cookies hidden in the Tupperware container in the dryer.
The fact that my grandmother would mix both chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin cookies together, so well disguised that you couldn't tell the difference. You had to take the first one you picked. I was unnaturally good at picking the chocolate chip oatmeal cookies -- they are slightly flatter than the raisin ones.
My grandmother chasing the dogs away from Easter eggs so the younger grandkids could actually find a few.
My grandparents loved to laugh. And they passed that ability along to all of us. Somehow, I think that's among one of the better legacies they could have left to us.
So, in honor of Tillie and Bill, do me a favor: Laugh with someone you love today.