There is absolutely unbroken continuity. Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight? I am waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just around the corner. -Unknown
For those of you who actually know me, you probably know that I lost my cousin when I was 12. He was barely 20 years old.
He was the older brother I always wanted who looked after me, protected me and even kept me around even in his teenage years with his friends in tow. I was the baby sister that he always wanted, even wanting to follow my parents to the hospital as my mothers water broke in their kitchen, who annoyed him on occasion – especially the relentlessly cheering for him during his countless baseball games, the baby sister whose older brother was deployed overseas during Desert Storm that had a full blown panic attack at 11 years old in Science class while the teacher had the news on the radio reporting on the war while the air raid sirens wailed through the radio waves. While we were the only children from two brothers – we were bonded from the beginning.
It has been 25 years that I have lived on this earth without him in the physical realm. I've lived without him physically twice as long as I was able to physically touch him. It still never ceases to amaze me how much I can miss someone who was only in my life for such a short time, but who in life and in death had such a profound effect on me and my life. I look at my son, who has a cousin of his own and their relationship mimics my own relationship with my late "older brother".
There isn't a single day that doesn't pass that I don't think about him – whether intentional or something catches my eye that reminds me of him or a song comes on the radio – it's just become a part of my existence. He even still manages to piss me off – not because he died, but because like many people who experience what I will call an unnatural or untimely loss, I feel he should still be here to help me to tend to our aging parents or to give me older brother advice – even though I know he's still with me every step of the way. The moments I look forward to the most is the very rare occasion when I'm with him in my dreams – it's an experience that to me is the next best thing to having him physically here. I think we always have that one person we lose that really stays with us. He's my person.
I've experienced my fair share of death, I've gone to countless funerals, I've carried caskets and sung their praises in heartfelt and honest eulogies, but one thing that has always bothered me is when people say time heals the wound that is left when our loved ones leave us. I've had plenty of loss, and I couldn't disagree more with that statement.
I think that we live in a death denying culture where we just don't talk about it – we don't want to think about it. We avoid it. We keep putting off our wills and talking about final arrangements, aside from telling our nearest and dearest I want to be buried, cremated, etc. In our culture most of go about our daily lives assuming we will be here tomorrow. We tend to think we will die when we are old and gray.
Then when the unimaginable happens – children die before their parents, people take their own lives out of such a deep profound desperation that they only see one way out of their peril, freak accidents happen, yet our culture takes these untimely deaths as a blow to our hearts and souls in such a way that people think it shouldn't have happened the way it did. Guess what… tomorrow is not a guarantee. Death is ugly, it is unbiased and is unpredictable. But one thing I've learned personally – it doesn't mean it's the end. As long as they are in your heart, they live. Maybe you can't hug them or feel them, but they hear you when you talk to them and they comfort you when they pop into your dreams. And when it's your turn to walk over that threshold – they will be there waiting for you and your heart will once again be whole.
Do yourself a favor – have those conversations with your loved ones, tell them how much they mean to you and hug them tight. You never know when it could be the last.
Happy 46th Brother, I wish you were still here, but I know we will see each other again.