Yesterday I met a number of cousins (first cousins, once and twice removed) — the children (and their children) of my first cousins, who are the children of my aunt, Margaret Kirkwood Ferris, one of my mother’s sisters. We were all at Aunt Peg’s memorial service, at the stunningly serene and spacious Peacham Congregational Church. Set in the small, June-lush hill town of Peacham, with a grand steeple and enormous windows looking out on a quintessential Vermont landscape, the church is reportedly the most photographed in the state.
There was a small knot of family gathered in the front few of the many curving pews, to remember and celebrate and honor my aunt. David and I drove up to Vermont with my parents. Peg was my mother’s last living sibling; now there is only my mother of the five. Sitting in the sanctuary, singing the hymns, listening to the memories of cooking and knitting and sewing and days on the beaches of Cape Cod, I could feel a deep peacefulness unfolding. David and I are both still churning at the work speed we’ve been maintaining for decades, and the family situations and obligations we’ve faced since leaving our jobs close to two weeks ago, has not done anything to lighten the churn. But all that was gone yesterday afternoon. We were just there.
After the service, we gathered downstairs for refreshments. I went to look over the old photographs my cousin Peg had laid out. One of my grandparents, and my mother with all her siblings and their husbands and wives, was particularly sweet, everyone young and smiling, whole lives ahead of them, just a few of the next generation yet born. My first cousin, once removed, Lucy, has been researching family history, and she knew as well as me who everyone was in the photograph.
As we left, David showed me how to ring the church bell, pulling on the thick jute rope hanging from a hole in the ceiling of the foyer. I had to pull down with all my weight, let the rope float back up, then pull again with the fall of the rope and then the bell sounded, deep and clear, floating out across the first blue sky in days. The young boys, first cousins, twice removed, made a game of holding the rope as it pulled back up with the weight of the bell, letting it lift them off the floor, swinging into the chiming. Bell song rang out across the summer afternoon.