Please excuse me if I sound a little disjointed. I have worked on this for a week and cry every time I do. Today is fraught with pain as my cousin is put to rest…..

It is a peculiar position to be the oldest child of the oldest child of the oldest child. Especially if each generation had children in their 20s. Most of the elderly relatives are still alive. And they have stories. So, to me, the 1920s are just as present to me as the 1960s. In a family who prized tradition, we celebrated holidays as if we were still peasants in Italy. As generations come and go, we all assume that each generation will be around for almost forever. The average age of death in my family is around 90.

That was, until this week. The world of our family stopped. Of course, the coronavirus played its part. But the brightest light of my generation was snuffed out too early. Not by the virus, but by some incipient mutation which caused chronic meyloid leukemia.

My cousin, Celine, was my first cousin. I remember when she came home from the hospital at two days old. I was just short of 9 and had a new baby sister, too. I knew all about holding babies. Now, there were two babies to dote over.  The two babies grew up to be best friends.

And I got to babysit, for 35 cents an hour. My siblings and I watched as three other cousins came, over time. And I got to babysit the first three often, before I went off to college. Celine was, quickly, the little mother, the organizer. Brian was the sensitive one. And Kristin was the happy one. Brendan, the youngest, came later, after I had moved away, so I didn’t get to watch him grow up. They lived on humor, music, their Faith, and cheese pizza on Friday nights.

Celine was bright, articulate, a great athlete (swimming and skiing) and a creative seamstress. She was a mechanical engineer, who put her whole career on hold so she could raise her children, herself. Her Catholic Faith was how she lived her life.

Named after a Catholic nun, Celine was an old soul. She was the type who could sit and contemplate, not like most of us who can not sit without something to do. She had her pink rocker on the front porch and could listen to the birds, aware of their joy. And their joy consistently was reflected in her smile. I am sure she had bad days, but I never saw one. All I saw was that magnificent smile that brightened a room.

Her parents have lost their oldest.  They should not fear. She is with her grandparents, who doted on all eight grandchildren. Her parents did a remarkable job in raising not only Celine, but the other three, as well. Celine will be missed more than we can predict. But she will live on in the lives of her daughters, Kate and Emily, who will remember their mother’s words. And she will live on in the hearts of her two wonderful parents and three siblings, who thought the world of her.