I drove away from the Wendell Cemetery and turned onto the freeway for the 100-mile journey back to Boise. I set the cruise control at 80 MPH and held the steering wheel as tears continued to roll down my cheeks. My vision was clear enough to drive to my destination but my thoughts were lost in the heavy reality of another family funeral.
In less than three years, five family members and my golfing buddy have died: my mother, my brother George, Uncle Mac, Uncle Jesse, my cousin’s son, and my friend Jean. I cried for the pain, for the loss, for the unfairness of it all. And I don’t understand why so many jerks get to live.
On my trip, I passed 18-wheel-trucks hauling their important loads of groceries and household items and thought of my father as a hard-working truck driver. I followed recreational vehicles full of families making their last vacation trips of the summer, and I reminisced that there had been too few vacations in my family. Farmers couldn’t get away for very long when there were fields to plow, livestock to tend, and sprinkler pipes to move. There were cars stuffed with young college students and all their possessions with University of Idaho decals on the window, and I remembered the thrill of leaving home and go away to college.
The landscape changed from high desert to rolling fields to the occasional small town. Vehicles drove north and south, life continued around me, and no one noticed an older woman crying behind the wheel.
I had driven to southern Idaho to attend the funeral for my cousin’s son. He was only 38, but his life was full of joy and so many people came to pay their last respects that another room had to be opened to accommodate all of them. At his funeral, his bike waited next to his casket, both decorated with floral arrangements from those who loved him.
He was buried in the Wendell Cemetery next to his grandparents. His grandmother was my Aunt Billie, my father’s sister, who used to read my poetry when I was a teenager full of angst. On one poem she wrote, “It can’t be that bad!” She’s buried next to Uncle Henry, a beloved man who called me Lanie. I walked past the headstone of gentle Aunt Mariana, my mother’s sister, and her husband, Uncle Muncie. He was a humble carpenter and built many of the sturdy homes still standing around Wendell. My parents and sister were buried nearby, and I stood to talk with them. I looked around and read familiar names of people I had known throughout my childhood. They had been my customers on my paper route, my teachers, my neighbors, and my relatives. I said “hello” as I walked past their graves.
As I drove closer to Boise, I focused on the road because traffic was getting congested. The tears stopped and I relaxed when I finally parked in the garage. I felt at peace until I remembered my cousin at home in Twin Falls. The tears returned, and I made a promise to visit her often. I’ll continue the 100-mile cry until there are no more family funerals.