And soonest our best men with thee doe goe

“DEATH be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so”

Senator Ted Kennedy lost his battle with cancer on Tuesday, August 25. On this rainy, gray day, a nation gathers to mourn the end of an era and to celebrate a life of strength and selflessness.

Michelle Singer lost her battle with cancer on Tuesday, August 25. There will be no wake, no funeral to celebrate this life of strength and selflessness. She asked that her four children not be put through that process, that the memories they maintained of her be ones of life before she was sick, not ones of caskets and black umbrellas.

How do you summarize a life? How do you capture in words the vast influence a single person has on the people and places she touched? It’s not my right to eulogize my cousin Michelle — there are far many in the family that knew her better and were more directly affected by her life. Yet I have much to thank Michelle for and I feel the need to express that gratitude in some form.

I grew up an only child with no immediate family in my country, let alone my town, and only a few vague memories of my grandparents. I knew of cousins and an aunt to the north in Canada, but other than a few weddings and a funeral, I had no real relationship to any of them. Michelle changed that. She brought me to my family. She introduced to my cousins, her siblings, and their children. She threw reunions and family gatherings that demanded my parents and my presences.

The family bbqs, the weekend cottage excursions, the cruises and the like were not only her way of bringing together the scattered descendants of the Gentle-Carmichael-Tobin clan. They were a way of building a network of love and support for her children, her nieces and nephews. None of those children have ever known a holiday or a long weekend without the shared joy of their aunts and uncles and cousins. A birthday or accomplishment will never go unnoticed. No family is perfect, this one included (the only reason you think your family is crazy is because you’ve never met mine). But thanks largely to Michelle’s efforts, this group of strong-minded individuals is one loyal family unit that will always be there to pick you up when you fall or find you a bed when you’re tired.

So thank you, Michelle, for introducing me to the family I never knew I had and would now feel empty without.

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