A group of us – cousins, second cousins, siblings, aunts and uncles – were assembled in my sister’s basement for the Milwaukee version of Cousins Weekend.  Somewhere in the course of normal conversation, my cousin’s wife Brenda revealed the impossible:  She was (accidentally, so she claims) growing dozens and dozens of mushrooms in her yard and garden that looked just like a penis. Waves of uncontrollable laughter ensued.  Joke after joke was made about Brenda spending a little too much time out in the yard and asking why she was seen applying lipstick before tending to her flower beds. Each new person entering the basement meant that the the telling of a new and more embellished version of the story was required. It was, as they say, the gift that kept on giving.

I took a break from the nonsense to head upstairs where things were a little less raucous.  There sat my Aunt Lois, quietly visiting with a couple of other family members and looking perfectly content.  I asked how she was doing, and she said that hearing her family’s laughter wafting up the stairs was all she ever hoped for.  And you know what?  It was.  (Never mind that she would have been appalled at how un-ladylike our conversation was.  That is beside the point.)

The kind of togetherness our family has doesn’t just happen by accident. It is nurtured, cultivated, and harvested by skillful hearts – hearts like that of Aunt Lois.  Hearts that love their family so much they remove all the seeds from the cubed watermelon in the fruit salad they have lovingly prepared for that day’s feast. Who does that, you ask?  Aunt Lois – that’s who.  It is a love so precious and so rare that it is truly like no other.

Tonight the news of Aunt Lois’s serious health challenges have the whole family scared to bits, because she is the pillar we all gather around.  My cousin and I keep checking in and riding waves of tears and laughter together.  We are all thinking that we don’t even have to stop and ask ourselves, “What Would Lois Do?”  We already know – she would kneel down and faithfully pray.  And so is just what we are doing.


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