Until recently, I had gone almost my adult life without having to deal with the death of close family member. My paternal grandparents never got to meet me since they were deceased [before or shortly after] I was born. My maternal grandparents and my godfather died before I was in high school. I grew up feeling like I was missing key people in my life–people who were supposed to be instrumental in my upbringing and maturation–but I haven’t had to experience that kind of loss in a very long time. I’ve only been to 3 funerals in my life, so I had a vague recollection of what mourning a lost loved one feels like.
Until… my mom called me a few weeks ago to tell me my 42yo cousin Sherry lost her battle with breast cancer. Though my cousin and I weren’t very close (in age or relationship), I was devastated. I think I was mostly sad for the loss my cousin’s daughter, father (my only paternal uncle), and younger siblings (whom she was like a mother to) had to bear. I was also sad that she had to deal with such a horrible disease and the invasive treatments that came along with it in the first place. I’m incredibly afraid of breast cancer, since it runs in my family and there is a very high chance that my mother and/or I will one day be diagnosed with it. But even beyond the sadness I felt with my cousin’s death, I felt guilt. Guilt that I hadn’t made more of an attempt to be close with her, even after knowing she had been dealing with cancer for a few years, or reach out to her to give my love, support, and encouragement in her time of need. I would often visit the area in which she, my uncle, and others cousins lived but never made much attempt to visit. Even when I saw her last year for the first time in over a decade, holding her bald head high and proud, and she expressed desire for us to keep in touch, I didn’t. I couldn’t. I only communicated with her through her daughter on facebook. I was too scared of her condition. I allowed her sickness to be a barrier between us. Though I prayed for her constantly and managed to call her when her condition began to take a turn for the worst, I regret not reaching out more. I regret letting my fears ruin my opportunity to express how much I loved her and admired her courage, strength, and peace of mind which were all rooted in her love of the Lord. There are so many things I wish I had handled differently, but I take the time to miss and remember her dearly.
Her death served as a reminder to me how short life could be and that were was no room for “laters.” It seems so cliche to say that we have to enjoy our time with our loved ones now because we can’t predict when they will be taken away from us, but it’s so true! And so necessary. Sitting in my cousin’s funeral, in the arms of my older sister, I made a decision to make a better effort to reach out to my cousins and to try and restore my relationships with my siblings who I had been disconnected from (as I’ve mentioned previously).
But before I could even get the seeds of renewal sowed, my father called me yesterday to inform me that one of my older brothers, Butch, died from a drug-related heart attack at the age of 44. I find myself sincerely heartbroken at this loss. Heartbroken that my siblings and I lost a brother. Heartbroken that my father (along with his ex-wife) has to bury his son. Heartbroken that my nephew no longer has his father. Heartbroken that my big brother was so beaten by life and depression that he had to self medicate to cope. Heartbroken that we never rebuilt our relationship. Heartbroken that I wasn’t there for him when he needed love and support. Heartbroken that he didn’t reach out more for help. Heartbroken that I didn’t get to say goodbye. He was such a private person who shut most of the world (including family) out, so I wasn’t aware until now just how much my big brother was hurting and struggling. The “fixer” in me wants to rewind time so I could save my big brother from himself. I want to go back and pick up the broken pieces of him and put them back together. I want to go back and change him, make him more open to the love, support, and help of his family. I want to make things better. Or at the very least, I want to tell him I love him one last time.
Since I’m powerless to change the hands of time or control the circumstances of others, I submit my sorrows, grief and guilt to the Almighty. I pray for understanding, comfort, peace, and forgiveness as I mourn with my family over the loss of our loved ones. Undoubtedly my Cousin Sherry and Big Brother Butch will be in my heart forever. “And I’ll take with me the memories to be my sunshine after the rain…” And it’s my sincere hope that anyone reading this (myself included) will actively cherish those loved ones still here on earth with us and won’t wait until it’s to late to tell them you care.
With a heavy but hopeful heart,