I don’t know why my seventeen-year-old cousin had to die. When my grandmother passed away, she was seventy-two. Although her death was equally heartbreaking, her’s somehow made more sense – she had had the opportunity to build a life, and my cousin’s was just beginning.
I think about the last time I spoke to him – when he snuck out from his parent’s house a mere 4 or so blocks away. He was cancer free, and that is how I like to remember him. He was 12? 13? I don’t remember and sometimes that keeps me away at night.
When someone dies, you hear a lot about how great that person was, how radiant their smile was or how loving they were and how they always seemed happy despite maybe having a wrong hand at life; and it makes you wonder why you never told them when they were to hear it – like “hey, I miss you so much can we get together just to catch up?” And then they die and then you can’t.
I like to think of life as a string of experiences – both good and bad – and how you are not the only person that makes those memories, but so do the people you choose to surround yourself with. Every day you get to make that choice.
I think of how when I was younger, how all I wanted was him – my cousin to join me in drinking kool aid and riding our Razor scooters. I never got to tell him how much I loved those memories, but deep down I know he knew.
This may sound incredibly morbid, but when I sat next to him those last few memories, I wondered what he was thinking – if he knew everyone who loved him was surrounding him, or if he knew I was there screaming in my head, “I love you! I’m sorry! You were always my favorite!”
The night he passed away, I had a dream. He wasn’t sick anymore and he had all his hair. He sat at my kitchen table – but it was the old kitchen from when I was younger – blue carpet, wooden cabinets that were fading. He was being served cherry Kool Aid from my grandmother, back when she could do that before she became paralyzed by arthritis. They couldn’t see me. That’s when I knew he had heard me.
And then I got to thinking about heaven – I know many people don’t believe it, and now that I am no longer a naive Catholic school girl, I know better than to think heaven is within the clouds. I like to think that when we die, we do go some place great. Like when people pass away from cancer, like my cousin did, chemotherapy doesn’t even exist there – and when you get there you can choose what you want to look like. Like my cousin probably wished for hair and my grandmother probably wished to look like what she did in her twenties when she fell in love with my grandfather.
I think a lot about wasting time too – how time was created to be spent, not wasted. Honestly, if you want to rekindle a friendship or a relationship go for it before it’s too late, before they are gone and you’re aching to remember what their voice sounds like.
I like to lay in bed at night and wait to hear their voices – most of the time I can’t and I wonder if it will last the rest of my life. But then, I remember that it will always be like this because I loved them and I know they loved me. And then I close my eyes and fall asleep.