A few days ago our local paper carried an obituary for a young man (38) named Jeremy Sleep. I did not know this young man. I had never met him. But his mother and grandmother were named in the obituary, and I did know them. His mother is my first cousin. Her father and my mother were siblings, but our families lived in different towns. My mother's family had numerous get-togethers over the years, so I knew all my first cousins, though there was not opportunity to become really close to most of them--I had 20 first cousins on that side of the family, plus some second and third cousins that were part of the family gatherings.
Age-wise I fell in the middle of this large group, and I was the only one. There was a group of older cousins, lots of younger cousins, and me in the middle. So I took on the role of watching over and entertaining the younger group. Some, though, were so much younger that I did not get to know them well before I grew up and left home. My cousin Doris, Jeremy's mother, was one of this younger group. It has been years since I have seen her, but, nonetheless, feel very saddened by her loss.
The photo in the obituary paints very clearly for me the kinship of family. The young man bears a very strong resemblance to his maternal grandfather, my uncle, and to my grandmother, his great-grandmother.
While I cannot grieve for young Jeremy as I would if I actually knew him, yet I know his family is grieving terribly. I feel sorrow for them. Such a loss is more than words can express.
It is not possible to keep up with and have close personal ties to all of a family that has spread out as large as the descendants of my grandparents has. But I look at the little photo in the newspaper and I feel the pull of that genetic tie--I see family in his face.
There is another thing that increases the sense of poignancy to me. I, too, have a son named Jeremy, who is 39 years old.
Although I never knew their Jeremy, I am so sad for his family.