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My first cousin, Curtis Smith, died this week, and I'm very sad for his wife, son, parents, siblings, grandson, and all the rest of us who loved him.

Our maternal grandparents, Clarence and Queenie Rose of Athens, Alabama, had six children. Three of them had three children each, and the other children had one child each for a total of 12 grandchildren, of which I am the oldest. We lost our first first cousin in January of 2007 when George Beverly Rose (known to all of us as Bev) died at the age of 48. He was so named because of his dad's admiration for the singing ability of George Beverly Shea. Now, Curtis is gone at the age of 60. Ten of us remain, and our ages range from 26 to 70.

Those of you who have read my blog in the past know how much my husband and I enjoy hosting Cousins Camp for our grandchildren every summer. Well, in my growing up years, our cousins camp happened almost every Sunday afternoon when as many of us as possible gathered with our parents at my grandparents' house for a visit. I especially remember the times we made homemade ice cream, caught tadpoles in the creek beside the house, or had slices of ice-cold watermelon. Our cousins camps also happened every Christmas night of my life when we were together for a big covered dish meal and presents. Most years my Granddaddy Rose gave each of his grandkids a shiny silver dollar. We felt RICH! We often spent at least part of the night gathered around the piano singing, because the Roses were (are) a musical bunch. We all grew up in church, so after we went through a rousing lineup of Christmas carols, we would invariably start in on all of our other favorite hymns. I remember how grown-up I felt when I FINALLY became proficient enough on the piano to accompany the group.

I remember the night Curtis was born. My mother was beside herself with excitement and couldn't wait to get to Athens Hospital to be sure her sister Gloria was okay and to meet her new nephew. I guess I remember it particularly because my siblings and I had to stay in the car since we weren't old enough to visit on the maternity floor.

In 1963, when Curtis was only three years old, his parents helped to start Emmanuel Baptist Church on Highway 72 in Athens, which was begun as a mission of First Baptist in Athens. For the next 57 years, that was his church home. I remember attending his wedding at the church in 1982. It stuck in my memory because until then I'd never heard an Elvis Presley song sung at a wedding. :) Curtis and Pam celebrated their 38th wedding anniversary less than a month ago.

Cousins help to ground us because we have so much shared history. I read this quote recently by Anahid Arakelian: "Cousins are important because they share blood, no matter if they are first, or distant, cousins. Going forward, they are legacies of ancestors who set the course for the future and remind us of our perseverance, will, strength and courage." So true.

I also read these thoughts in an article by Becky Mansfield in Your Modern Family called "Why Cousins are the Best (and so important for kids)":

  • Cousins won’t judge you because they are family.

  • Cousins look forward to seeing you at family parties.

  • Cousins are always around for a phone call, text, or facetime chat.

  • Cousins don’t need to make plans to talk – anytime is a good time.

  • Cousins share the same family and have many of the same memories.

  • Cousins share secrets that others don't know.

Maybe these are some of the reasons why Steve and I have been so focused on making sure our grandchildren know each other. Through the years, they have formed strong bonds and truly love each other. I know that they will feel a keen sadness one of these days when they face the loss of one of their cousins.

I will miss Curtis. He was a good, kind-hearted solid guy. A faithful husband, a proud father, and grandfather, a loving son and brother.

And let me just say to my remaining cousins -- Dixie, Mark, Joyce, Steven, Leighanne, Page and Kallie (and, of course, to second cousin Ginger who has always felt so much closer than that) -- I love you and hope we have many more shared memories.

For my personal comfort this week, I've gone back to an important passage of Scripture. Psalm 3. David wrote it while he was fleeing from his own son Absalom who wanted to take his life. Be sure to take a few minutes to listen to the anthem that was written with these words and performed by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir.

Psalm 3:1-8 "Lord, how are they increased that trouble me! Many are they that rise up against me. Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God. But thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head. I cried unto the Lord with my voice, and He heard me out of His holy hill. I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the Lord sustained me. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about. Arise, O Lord; save me, O my God: for thou hast smitten all mine enemies upon the cheek bone; thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly. Salvation belongeth unto the Lord: Thy blessing is upon Thy people."

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