One of the first things people learn about me is how much I love all of my cousins on both sides of my family, and how alike they are to brothers and sisters. The MLH (Matics-Lambert-Horne) cousins, and we are numerous, are family who have chosen to be friends for life. With marriage, we have added to our numbers: Bethany gave us Marshall (and Marshall has given us his brother Mike), Brandon has brought us Hannah from England, my brother David has given us Ashley. Truly, these spouses are more than just honorary cousins; to us, they are part of our brood for better or worse, in sickness and health, forever. When you marry an M or an L or an H, you truly marry the whole family.

Whenever I say my thanks for my cousins, I never can do so without honoring and being grateful for my parents, my aunts, my uncles, and especially my grandfather—all of whom made key decisions at pivotal times to put family above everything else. I am so humbled by the legacy of family love that they left us. At times when I have really started to grasp how truly huge a legacy it is, I am humbled beyond comparison. I think of times in high school when I chose to study instead of attending a family event, or times when I reveal my quirkiness, or times when I have been at my worst or best—and guess what? No matter what, MLH is always there. We never leave each other; we know how to watch someone test wings without forsaking her or him.

My cousin Kd drove up from Vista for a playdate this afternoon. I share a different special bond with all of my cousins for different reasons. Part of the neat thing about me and Kd together is that we represent the eldest and youngest of Grandpa Don’s eight grandchildren. The first and the last. There are a dozen years between us. I relate to the heart she has inside of her; she inspires me all the time. She is constantly doing sweet actions for others and thinking about them. She is both a young and an old soul at the same time—one reason I love her so. She is a blessing to our family, and I cannot imagine us without her. She has an inner light by which many of us can see ourselves better.

A picture taken at Grandpa’s Valley Center New Year’s Eve celebration, back in 2006. I am on top. From left to right: Jocelyn, Meredith, and Kd. Cousin love. (But not nearly all of us)!

It is a gift to me in this life that Kd wants to spend time with us, and that she values being part of Katie’s and Eric’s lives. What did I do to deserve such a gift in life? Watching her and Katie today, I kept smiling. I think Katie needs her in her life. They are copacetic, on the same wavelength. Even some of Kd’s preferences at Katie’s age mirror those of my daughter. She is a role model of someone who conducts herself with dignity, resilience, and gracefulness, of someone who honors her family.

Kd and Katie played Play-Doh and made jewelry out of it while I prepared lunch. I love watching them together. Katie asked Kd to tell her various stories from Kd’s life. I can see that she admires Kd. How awesome is that? And so Grandpa Don’s legacy of family love, perpetuated in turn by my dad and his siblings, is starting to be passed already to the next generation…

Here is a picture of almost all of us at my brother’s wedding last June:

A few are missing, but one day we will get everyone (all spouse-cousins and spouse-brother-cousins and even the next- generation-cousins) in one picture!

Growing up, I never knew that not all cousins were as close as mine. The longer I have lived, the more I understand what a rare gift I’ve been given.

Thank you, Kd, for your visit today. You brought your joy! What a gift!