I promised last night that I would be writing about Israel’s social protests, but that will have to wait, because in the meantime I’ve learned of a death in the family and find I need to write about other things. (It’s the beauty of having a teeny-tiny, personal blog: The blogger doesn’t have to put on her game face if she doesn’t want to).
Peggy was my mother’s cousin, and thus a somewhat distant cousin to me, someone with whom I have had very little contact in my adult life, almost all of that via email.
But she was a regular figure in my tumultuous childhood, a person we saw at family events or from whom we got the occasional letter, someone who was unfailingly warm, and welcoming, and as my mother said this morning, encompassing. She was one of those adults who was able to get down to eye-level with a kid, and make that kid feel like she had no place she’d rather be.
Her husband, Gene, is cut of the same cloth, and as a child, without any way of knowing the least thing about their relationship, I saw them as a unit — a warm, welcoming, encompassing unit. And they were fun and funny, too, and for a kid in any adult-heavy situation, “fun and funny” is something very valuable indeed.
I remember vaguely liking Peggy and Gene’s kids, Jeff and Megan, but never got to know them well enough to really form a relationship. They’re older than me, or younger than me, and up until adulthood, that can serve as a real barrier. I do know that I felt a certain small jealousy of their family and their parents. I do know it seemed that they had something beautiful that was worth having.
So I can’t say that I’ll miss Peggy in any real sense. I haven’t seen her in time out of mind, and for reasons that made all the sense in the world, we were genuinely out of touch.
But I will sorely miss knowing that she is out there, being her kind and funny self. I will miss imagining her smile, and the way were beautiful eyes crinkled up as the smile spread. I am sorry that it made all the sense in the world for us not to be in touch. I would have liked to keep up with her, and I know she would have liked to keep up with me. After all, she was always the one who made the effort.
I’ve been lucky so far. Other than my father — dead when I was ten months old and too young to do a thing about it — I’ve lost no one to whom I didn’t get a chance to say good-bye, no one about whom I feel any measure of extra sorrow or regret because I didn’t get a chance to say or do what I needed to say or do.
But there are people in my life who, if they were to die tomorrow, I would know I hadn’t done my best. We don’t always get a chance to say goodbye (the fact that I always have is nothing short of miraculous, probably), and we don’t always get advance warning. Especially not when many of the people you love have passed their 70th birthday.
Upon hearing of a death, the people in my circle (both close and writ large) tend to say: Hug those close to you.
And I have been hugging people, and speaking of my love, since learning of Peggy’s passing, but I want to do more. When I reach my own grave I want to know that I have tried my best to genuinely be in the lives of the people I love. I regret not having made more of an effort with Peggy. She was a lovely woman, and I lost a real opportunity to have a lovely relationship. I want not to feel, at my own life’s end, that I have failed the people who matter to me.
Of course, no matter what we do, there will always be something — some conversation never finished, some compliment never given. Life is never neat. But we can at least know that we’ve made our best effort. And starting today, I’m going to try harder to make sure my best effort really is my best.
Rest in peace, Peggy. You were loved, even by those you hadn’t seen in years.