In the past week, my mind, body, and spirit have ridden a roller coaster of highs and lows. The news of my cousin Theresa's death undeniably pushed me to the brink of "WHY?!?" Though death can be understood in terms of a physical state - the leukemia growing unchecked by the arsenal of drugs and treatments available, I still cannot make sense of why now, why the miracles that kept her alive seven years since her first diagnosis ran out. And yet I am ever grateful for those years, for the memories they yielded, for the love born of Theresa and John and their darling daughters.
With gratitude to my parents for allowing it to be so, I gave up on driving solo the 15 hours that would lead me to Montana and possibly snowy conditions and found airfare in to Bozeman on Saturday. The drive, the flight, the drive...they were exhausting and exciting at the same time - good to be with family, a relief to hug and be hugged. I was delighted to see my cousin Ben and get to spend an hour with him before driving on to Helena in one of his vehicles. What a gift! And then to be welcomed into the home on Claussen Road, a home literally built of love and family. Grief tucked in our pockets, all wore the smiles of getting to be together, though we all knew the price. Gatherings continued all day Sunday, culminating in dinner and storytelling. What a proud padrina I was holding my little Ollie, basking in the sheer joy of his smiles and babbling! Visiting with cousins, teasing, entertaining and being entertained by the kids, hugging...and remembering! John amazed me with his positivity and gratitude, trademarks of Theresa's to be sure, but I see that likely their mutual up beat attitudes drew each to the other.
The funeral was packed on Monday. Theresa touched many lives, and the Nistler family is well-loved and supported in Helena, not the least for their own love and support of others. The Monsignor and Archbishop both intimated the depth of faith in Theresa and her zest for life, obvious qualities of anyone who knew her even a little, but also of her amazing fortitude through the struggle of her failing health. The memorial of Theresa paints an even better picture.
Sad to leave, many of us clung to the "see you in August" hope of returning to Montana for Amy's wedding; I sure do. Hurting to leave, many of us who arrived on Saturday left with a bug in out gut rendering travels home exhausting and seemingly endless. I was of no exception, though it had hit me Sunday night and withered my energy to endure the funeral and reception on two feet. By the grace of God, I made it home before the sun set.