Since their youngest daughter was my age, and was in my class through high school, I spent hours/ days at their home and felt welcomed. Uncle Bill was a tease and Aunt Betty made mashed potatoes just for me. Sunday lunches, cookie baking before Christmas, holidays, and other times when I was young were spent with them at my grandmother's home (Aunt Betty's mother). Both of them made me feel like I was a favorite. I could tell many good stories about them.
The hardest part about living on the other side of the world is that I have to grieve alone. I am too far away to grieve with others who knew them well. I can't be there to hear and tell well worn or little known stories about them. I can't laugh and cry with extended family. I can send sympathy cards to my cousins, their daughters, but I can't give and receive the needed hugs.
Other family members have died while I have lived 'away' and it doesn't seem to settle into my mind until I return to PA and they are missing at family events.
Part of grieving is often regrets. Mine is that I spent weeks in the US in 2009 and didn't take time to go see them. When Mark and I would visit them, we were always fed well, enjoyed our conversations and delighted in Uncle Bill's paintings, Aunt Betty's quilts or whatever their present involvements. They always showed interest in our pursuits and adventures.
One of Uncle Bill's wooden ornaments hangs from the mirror in our car so that I can tell it from all the other white cars in a parking lot; I view it often. Like that ornament, I can take things and people for granted; see them but not really take time to notice and appreciate.
I will try to not to have regrets. I will try to not be so busy but take time for people who are important to me. I will try to notice and appreciate. God help me to be present and aware.
* Thanks to their grand-daughter's Facebook for the photo of Aunt Betty and Uncle Bill when they were first married.