*This is part of my 35 letters project. It's for my cousin who died 3 years ago, which was much too soon.
It's been three years since we were laughing together and that number is never going to get smaller.
I remember our last moments like a stranger viewing a picture-perfect scene in a movie. We were lined up on the sidewalk, arms around shoulders, smiling and joking and planning. Inhaling the freedom of the outdoor air after such heavy confines inside. Other family members close by, watching our kids race across the hospice parking lot to the cars.
It was such a sad reason to be together: your mom, my aunt, dying of cancer. You had flown in to stay the duration. We were driving in to spend every weekend together. Her last days weren't quick; I think this was week 4. Along with the hard parts, of course, were the treasured ones of being with family. Our kids- cousins who lived far away- getting to know each other better. Having fun in spite of the sadness. Providing a little relief for those of us who couldn't really relax, but needed to watch children who could.
And those last moments... OUR last moments... were spent hugging and laughing on that hot summer pavement, making firm plans to spend Thanksgiving together for the first time since childhood. While expecting more weeks of hard times with your mom, we were looking forward a few months toward a happier time of celebration. My kids were older now, and had become close to yours. We would come.
We hugged and said goodbye. Your never-ending smile and infectious, joyful laugh sending me home until the next weekend when we would be back together one way or another. Except we weren't.
The morning after we said "I'll talk to you tomorrow!" I got the phone call. You had died in the night, in your sleep. Peacefully, thank God, but how could this be true? The next weekend came and we drove into town once again, but it was for your funeral instead of the one we were expecting.
We had all been preparing for sadness. While feeling grief for the life that was ending, we were trying to hold it back until your mom died; so she could feel our strong love and not our despair. Even being in that state of mind, though, was no help at all for the sudden loss of your life.
You were always bubbling over with love. I think it was flowing through your veins. You loved friends. You loved strangers. You loved animals. You loved family. In most of my memories your smile is there.
Age and location separated us. Our relationship wasn't consistent, but it was effortless when we connected. At times confiding in each other things that weren't spoken freely elsewhere. I appreciated knowing we had that respect and trust in each other.
I want you to know that I miss you. I want you to know I remember you. I want you to know that your beautiful children are growing up so wonderfully. They are taking good care of each other. I want you to know you were a good Mom. Sister. Daughter. Friend.
Whenever I recall your smiling, beautiful face, and the sadness of your passing, it reminds me of Emily Dickinson's poignant words: "That it will never come again is what makes life so sweet." The brevity of your life inspires me to shower my babies with love and remember that every day truly is a gift.
I wish you were still here.