I’m supposed to be working on a short little “Thank you” note to run in a local newspaper from a grieving family. But I can’t fit my thoughts under the mandated word count limit.
Nor could I fit them in an entire newspaper.
My cousin died.
That doesn’t nearly do it justice.
We were the same age. We started school together when we were five years old. We graduated together. Large chunks of our lives were spent either living across the street from, or next door to each other. She was practically a sibling. And that was even before she married one of my closest friends.
But this isn’t about me. Not really.
Nor is it about my confusion as to why it hasn’t completely hit me yet. (Though I hope that writing this helps.)
It’s not even about a heartbroken husband who is being amazingly strong, looking after his daughter, and making sure that his wife’s wishes are being carried out.
It’s about that daughter.
My cousin’s death was shocking and sudden. It was tragic and unfair.
It just fucking sucked.
It still does.
But my first thoughts were for her daughter.
Two weeks prior, my cousin had pulled me aside to whisper about what she planned on buying her daughter for Xmas this year. And even before the horrible news was official, it became my number one priority in life to make sure that her daughter gets those presents this Xmas.
I then thought about how we are all going to have to pull together to make sure that we help a grieving husband continue the amazing job that he and his wife have done so far with this kid.
And she really is an amazing kid.
As the worst nightmare an eleven year old girl could face was unfolding before her inquisitive and kind eyes, she kept a close watch on her crying adult relatives and offered a “You look like you could use a hug” when she felt it was necessary.
When it was over, she squeezed them even tighter and reassured that “We will get through this together.”
She made a doctor and a nurse from the organ transplant team cry openly with her sweetness and intelligent questions. She was very pleased that parts of her mother would live on in others.
When everyone was completely heartbroken in the hospital, she jokingly asked, “So, when they want to transplant my mom’s nose, do they just shooop it right off?”
Even while being strong, she still let herself feel. She crushed us with “My mom will never see me graduate” and “I never thought that I’d lose my mom at eleven years old.”
But she’s also kept on being strong.
She asked for, and received, final say on all aspects of the funeral. She even picked the readings for church.
She volunteered to give a eulogy. (I wrote it and, after she read it the first time, she gave me a reassuring, “You did a very good job, Peter.”) It was in front of hundreds of people at the reception. And she nailed it. Laughs. A standing ovation. She was very proud of herself. And everyone that saw it was absolutely blown away by her strength and courage.
After wards she went into the kitchen to thank all the ladies who had volunteered to serve food that day.
Since then, in a sign of the times, she even joined a Facebook group dedicated to her mom’s passing so that she could show her gratitude to everyone that had left messages of support.
We knew that she was a rock star, but even we are in awe of her.
I’ve been struggling with how to end this post. Nothing seems good enough.
Not for a hilarious and kind-hearted cousin. Not for a mourning friend. And especially not for such a special kid.
I will say that I now have a better appreciation for the “it takes a village to raise a child” stuff.
And with a child this amazing, you better believe that this village is going to work hard to make sure not to drop the ball.
Thankfully her mom laid such a solid foundation for us.
I’m still not sure how to end this, but I think the last word should go to the brave eleven year old girl.
The other day I was organizing photos for a slideshow for the reception, and she wanted to make sure that I had some recent stuff. She nodded in approval as I showed her each one. When we were done she kept staring at the last photo of the collection. With a face both sad and resilient, she said,
“I miss her.”