About two and a half years ago, my cousin passed away quite suddenly (or at least it felt that way to me). I knew she had been sick for the past year but I also knew she was getting better. She had a bone marrow transplant which was supposed to be the turning point in her illness (it wasn’t cancer) but instead of making her better, she ended up dying. I still remember the phone call from my Mom. I had just arrived at the Farmer’s Market with my daughter and I was chatting with one of the Vendors that I was friendly with. My phone rang and it was my Mom – I love talking to my Mom so I picked it up. As soon as I heard her voice, I knew something was wrong. And then she told me my cousin had passed away that morning. I think I went into shock for the rest of the day; I sat in that booth and cried for about 20 minutes and managed to stop long enough to drive back home. I laid on the couch feeling the heaviness of the news on top of me. I didn’t believe it. I didn’t want to believe it.
She was someone that I grew up with and was very close with as we became adults. As kids, we spent weeks together in the summer, one week at my house on the farm and one week at her house in the city. We played together as babies and were now raising babies at the same time. We had drifted apart a bit in the last couple of years, as tends to happen when you have a job and a family and a life. You think you have all the time in the world to catch up again….as soon as……I will always regret not spending more time catching up when we had the chance.
We were 35 years old….and she was gone. I didn’t have a chance to tell her I loved her, that I loved growing up with her, that I couldn’t wait to see her. That time was stolen away. To say this death shook me to my core is an understatement. She was the first person I had lost that I was really close to, that wasn’t a grandparent. It just felt different from losing a grandparent – they had already lived long, fulfilled lives. Death wasn’t supposed to happen to someone as young and vibrant as her. As I write this, it still brings tears to my cheeks. I still feel the pain of that phone call and that loss. Right or wrong, this loss still feels really fresh sometimes.
She was married and had three children. Two daughters that were 13 and 18 at the time, and a son that was only 3 years old. She had finally found the person she was meant to be with and they were so happy together. That was a long time coming, and she had a rough road getting there but she was still always so positive, happy, and grateful. And then she was gone.
I would often think of her kids, growing up without her and wonder how they were doing. I would think about her husband and wonder how he was getting through each day. And then one day I saw something on Facebook that made me stop. He was tagged in a picture with another woman. You could tell by the picture that this wasn’t just a friend. They were dating. My heart felt like it was breaking again. How could he be dating someone else already? How could he have moved on so fast? (this was about 6 months after my cousins passing). How could life be moving forward when she wasn’t here to enjoy it with?
I have learned to adjust to this change. To accept that everyone moves on in different ways and at different times. That it isn’t realistic to expect someone to spend their life alone just because you aren’t ready for them to move on. That it isn’t up to me to pass judgement on how I feel about how he is living his life. In my mind I know all of this. My heart is a little slower to catch up. When I catch a glimpse of his new love on Facebook, I still feel a twinge of sadness knowing that she is living the life my cousin never got to finish. It still doesn’t feel fair but I’m learning how to live with it. I know there will come a time when I will probably meet her, and I hope I am ready for that when it happens. For now, I keep a safe distance to protect my memories and protect my heart. For now – it’s not you, it’s me.