"When someone asks me about my family I say, 'I am one of nine'".
As these words came out of my step-brother Ken's mouth, a thousand moments of our families lives over the past twenty-one years ran through my head. As I looked up at the casket containing my step brother Kevin, the tears flowed freely again down my already wet cheeks.
He was only 49. With little warning as he was setting up camp with his beloved children Sarah (15) and Nick (17) his heart failed and he fell to the ground. Kevins death is a devastating blow to all who knew and loved him.
His brother Ken shared a story about a brush with death he and his younger brother had in their youth. They collided with a dump truck full of gravel and had to be rescued by a fire fighter. The fire fighter who pulled them from the vehicle was none other than my Dad-their future step-father.
My first memory of Kevin was meeting him in the hallway of my parents house, it was still under construction and we shook hands across a mound of carpet scraps. My Dad was about to marry his mother, after a very short courtship. I wasn't happy about this union, it was too much too fast as far as I was concerned having only been a year since my Mothers' death.
My Dad asked if I could give Kevin a ride back to Toronto, he was headed back to Ottawa and I was going home. I said sure, and then wondered what on earth I would speak to this total-stranger-soon-to-be-my-brother about for an hour. I needent have worried.
About thirty seconds into the trip after some small talk Kevin said, "So...how do YOU feel about this whole thing?" He didn't have to say what he was talking about.
I thought for a moment before I responded. I had no idea how his family was feeling, his father had passed away more than two years ago, maybe they were ok with their Mom meeting a great guy like my Dad.
"Well, I think it's a bit soon" I said tentatively.
"I KNOW! SO DO I!!" Kevin exclaimed.
The rest of the hour felt like a giant exhale as we both aired all of our misgivings about the union of our two parents. It was a huge relief to know I had an 'ally' on 'the other side'. But the line between 'us' and 'them' didn't last long, nor did our feelings about the marriage.
The wedding went off without a hitch. The night was so infused with joy that it lit the dark corners where sorrow used to live in my heart. We sang the "Brady Bunch" theme and my brother Dan introduced everyone to his brother Kevin, and his other brother Kevin. To see my Dad so happy was more than I could have hoped for him. We were now one family.
Our large, sometimes loud and overwhelming to new comers family may not have been what any of us would have chosen all those years ago, but it's exactly what God knew we would need now.
I am one of nine, plus spouses, and children and grandchildren, in other words a really big loving family that I wouldn't trade for the world.
This coming weekend we will celebrate our twentieth year of gathering together to spend a weekend camping, playing games, hanging out at the beach and just being a family and remembering the one member who will be there in spirit.