When we were younger, my brother, The Deacon, could not pronounce Aunt Judy’s name. It turned into “Aunt Doody.” For obvious reasons, this was turned into Aunt Doodle, and the name stuck. I was probably seven or so before I realized Doodle was not her real name.

Last week, Aunt Doodle died rather unexpectedly of cancer we didn’t know she had. So over Labor Day weekend, my family and I converged on Macon, GA, where she lived with her husband, for the funeral and for some much needed family time together. Her kids and grandkids all lived nearby. We spent the long weekend picking scuppernongs from the vines out back of their house, playing with the little ones, and waiting for my oldest cousin’s wife, who was pregnant and about to pop, to go into labor.

Death is always shocking, with its inevitability, universality and our utter powerlessness in the face of it. It touches us deeper than perhaps anything else, and rationality, in situations like these, is no help. All we can do are the things that remind us that, for now, we are alive. Togetherness tops the list.