I attended another funeral today for the Buhman family. The Buhmans had thirteen original long-living brothers and sisters that pretty much all settled down around each other. The Guinness World Record people a few years ago narrowed our family and another family in Italy down as the highest sum in years of siblings living over the age of 80. Our family had over 900 years, I believe it was, of the original brothers and sisters still living.  But like everything in life, death is inevitable. The last couple years has brought funerals for many of these original thirteen brothers and sisters.

These brothers and sisters were a close-knit Catholic family. They brought their numerous children up devout and steeped in tradition. As I sat in the church today, I was overcome by the powerful statement made when there are so many priests attending a funeral that they can’t all fit on the altar. When over three-fourths of the church is roped off just for family members…you know parents have done something right.

Yet the amazing thing about this large family is that the original thirteen brothers and sisters instilled in their children a God-given love for one another. In no other family have I ever witnessed sisters, brothers, cousins love one another so effortlessly. I have NEVER witnessed an adult brother or sister argue or talk badly about one another…Ever! And in a huge, huge family, that’s virtually unheard of. I watched my aunts (the second generation cousins) today make sure friends were seated upstairs in the balcony, I watched them unrope the sections so the immediate family members could start walking down the aisle with the casket, and I watched them make sure their grieving cousins were taken care of.  I watched a loving family hold one another up in love.

Most of the first and second generation family members stayed right here in this general area, while some of the third and fourth generations are moving around. My dad is the only roamer out of seven kids in his family. All of his brothers and sisters live within an hour or two of each other. However, he will come back for every funeral usually. A few months ago when another family member had passed, he was unable to fly back and attend. Being a third generation Buhman, we are still young enough we usually stand in the back or sit in the balcony so the older family members can sit (yes, the funerals are all pretty much held in the same church). I had waved to my aunts and uncles when I walked in the church and one of them leaned over and said, “Since your dad can’t be here, you need to represent for him.” The emotion I felt when she said that was indescribable. Just like that…I was to stand in the gap. And that’s really how this large family is. They know how to stand in the gap for one another.

One of the third generation cousins voiced her fear to me today…she said she’s afraid of what will happen to the family now that seven of the original brothers and sisters have passed away. I told her to take a look around. I could point to nearly every second generation cousin and tell you which branch of the family they belonged to. Many of them had already lost their parents, and yet no one was forcing them to be here…they were here out of love, honor, respect, and tradition. I think that says a lot.

Now, you may be thinking that I’m too biased to be objective about what I see in this tight-knit loving family. But I’m not…because you see there is something different about me. My sister and I were adopted. When I was nine, Bob gave us his name when he married my mother. And while I use his name and attend Buhman events, there is one glaring fact that can’t be overlooked: I do not look like any of them. LOL…and for those of you who know the Buhmans, you know what I’m saying. Every single one of them looks alike. I can tell Uncle Ermit’s kids immediately. I can tell Uncle Harold’s kids immediately. I can pretty much tell all the branches immediately. They all–whether male or female–have the same prominent nose and a full head of white hair. Doesn’t matter if they are twenty-four or one hundred and four (or one hundred and five in Uncle Johnnie’s case)…they all look alike.

I was standing next to my cousin, Laura, in line today and all the first and second generation family was coming over and hugging her and calling her by name. When they got to me they do what they usually do…scrunch their brow.  I can see the wheels turning…they can’t immediately place me. Of course not…I look nothing like them…lol…and that throws them for a loop! There’s no cheat-sheet with me. But I always say the same thing. I say, “I’m Bob’s oldest girl.” I don’t even really have a name, I’m just Bob’s oldest. “Oh, yes, oh, yes…Bob’s oldest girl! Of Course!”

After about the fourth time of doing that today, I leaned over to my cousin Matt and said, “I always feel so out of place. I don’t look like anyone here.” He said, “Jenna, I’ve never thought that about you. You do fit in here.” And while it was a blessed and beautiful thing he said, I couldn’t help but laugh a little. Because with his prominent nose and course black hair starting to turn white, he looks so much like his dad and grandpa, I can’t hardly recognize him as an individual…he’s just developing into an older generation Buhman.

I’m very proud to have been raised in a family that believes in the sanctity of family and tradition. For what the thirteen original brothers and sisters did was make sure that after they left this Earth, the children and grandchildren they left behind would still want to spend their days together. And in this day and age that says a lot. A more beautiful legacy I can’t imagine.