I attended the wake for my uncle James Thomas Walmsley tonight. He is the second man in on the right in the photo above. He was the last son in a family of thirteen children. Everytime I look at the photo, I am astounded by how beautiful and strong they all are. My mother is in the white dress, lower right. She is incredibly beautiful, even now.
As I stood beside my uncle's bier, paying my respects, I felt my legs begin to shake. I suddenly had memories flooding back onto me of this uncle and his sisters and brothers on the Sunday afternoons we all spent at their parents home when I was a child. Those were by far some of the happiest memories of my lifetime, those Sunday afternoons. My uncle Jim was a quiet man, but I could see him so clearly at that moment as the young man he was in those days.
I've spoken many times here about my family. There are many of us on both sides. I am constantly amazed every time I see them all together. Tonight, one image has stayed with me. My mother and her five sisters. Their sister Ann passed away a long time ago. Look at them in this photo. They make me cry with their beauty.
After making the rounds to say hello to everyone, I sat myself in a chair and just looked at them. All fragile in some way, the oldest at ninety-eight years. Despite illness or frailty, they were still beautiful. Supporting each other, wiping tears, smiling and remembering. A circle of six, no parents or brothers to lean on. Women who raised many children, who felt loss and joy, who never faltered in the most difficult of times, women to be admired. Beautiful women, strong women, loving women.
I can never hope to be who or what they are, I can simply look in wonder and be grateful that they are in my life.
"She was Samson strong and Buddha wise"
from the song Pale New England Sky by Bill Deasy