My parents were the younger and youngest children in their families respectively. By the time they met and married, they had nieces and nephews in grade school. Due to circumstances beyond their control, they couldn’t have children and after seven years, they adopted me. So I was always one of the younger cousins. I was a child when many of my cousins married and started families of their own.
My oldest cousin, Dar, married at nineteen and her six children were more like first cousins to my sibilings and I then she ever was. Although I lost touch with my extended family when I went off to university, I did grow up, in a sense, with these second cousins.
Dar died a few years ago after a long battle with cancer. She was in her mid to late fifties. Young by today’s standards though my own widowhood has taught me that people are very unrealistic about what “young” really means. I think my late husband may have been in hospice at the time, so I didn’t get back for the funeral and never sent a note or card to her husband. At the family reunion this last June however I had a long talk with one his daughters and discovered that he has adjusted, as we all do, and was doing well.*
DNOS called me Sunday morning to let me know that Dad was not doing well. He’d had a rough night. His breathing was not good and he couldn’t get out of bed. But she had other news too.
Dar’s youngest son, who is thirty, came home after an outing with their two older children – aged 8 and 2 – to find his wife on the bed and not breathing. He discovered her because their baby, born just this August, was crying. He and his father tried to revive her but she was already gone. She was just 27.
Twenty-seven is very young.
I called a cousin who is close to the family. She is DF’s godmother in fact. She filled me in on the details. Everyone focus’s on the details in the aftermath. The timeline of events takes on huge significance. The story is told and retold, passed from one person to another. It’s important, as validating as the life that is now over. And it will eventually make the loss real.
I reminded my cousin that DF will need support for a long time to come and to not let that be forgotten after the first few months, as it sometimes is.**
CousinA also talked with me a bit about Dad’s turn*** and how hard it is for us now too. But I didn’t agree. 27 is not 81. Young and healthy with a life ahead of you and small children is not old and ill with grown children. All deaths are not equal. Some are more tragic and more unfair.
I have no prompt today, but I invite you to share your tales of loss or memories of loved ones. It’s a good thing to tell the stories because they are reminders in these uncertain days of the other thing we have in common with each other – our mortality.
*How well a bereaved person is doing is never really known to anyone but the person. Family and friends always believe we are better than we are. It’s a very subjective call.
**She agreed and of course brought up that if anyone would know this it would be me. I don’t like being an expert on the subject.
***I am reminded was we speak that death often comes in threes. My uncle’s wife two weeks ago and now my cousin’s. And Dad has taken a turn.