How someone handles death tells you everything you need to know about them. Here in the west our culture hides from death en masse. People cry if an 84 year old millionaire dies and scream about how tragic it is to lose someone so young…
Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but that’s what it often feels like. When I was a kid everyone knew their grandparents would die and that was just accepted. It was sad, and everyone needs time to mourn the absence, but that is a part of life. We are mortal and so death is always by our side.
Growing up, most of my friends had never known the loss of a friend or sibling. Cousins were healthy. But I felt death more closely.
Not only was I an animal nut, I cared for many strays and they did not always survive. This harsh lesson primed me for a true tragedy, when our neighbors’ baby died shortly after it was born. These friends of the family were a sweet happy couple. They held so many hopes and all of that was snatched away by a serious heart defect.
Coping with that really took time. But it helped shape my understanding of life. I was 12 years old at the time, and coming to terms with death turned out to be a gift as I aged.
A few years later, a younger friend of mine was murdered by his father, along with his mother, step-father, and 2 year old baby-brother. The bright happy 6th grader who looked up to me as we sang together in the school musical was gone without any warning. I hadn’t even known that his step-dad wasn’t his biological father.
A baby unable to live because it’s body wasn’t fit hurt, but a brutal murder truly tested me and my understanding of the world. It took years of soul searching, meditations, and spiritual connections to give me the answers I needed to properly cope. From there I lost other friends and family members. Some had medical issues, others were just being stupid and reckless. But as I sit here typing now I still smile to think of each and every one of them. Because every single moment we shared is as much a part of me as it was of them.
Death is a friend. A reminder to appreciate what we have while we have it.
I don’t care what you believe about where we come from or what happens in the hereafter. No matter what we look like or what we do, death is waiting. It is not a punishment or a reward. It simply is.
And that fact comforts me today. Even knowing that one of my younger cousins died just a few days ago, unexpectedly. Even knowing that foul play is suspected. Even knowing that he left behind 3 little girls he loved with all he had. And, yes, even knowing that it has been years since we were able to see each other.
My cousin Bobby was just a year younger than me. He is the first of my many cousins, on both sides of my family, to die. He was 37. I could cry and whine about how young he was or how unfair life is, or selfishly make it all about me and the fact that I could die at any moment, but instead I’m having a tree planted in his honor. Instead, I’ve donated to his favorite animal shelter. Instead, I’m remembering his smile and how silly he was on the few occasions we were able to really hang out.
He was from my dad’s side of the family, and my dad and I… we have a long annoying history. His side of the family always lived far away and trips were scarce since money was never abundant.
But that’s why being cousins is so great. Sometimes you just get along no matter how much time has passed. And we did. I loved animals and so did he. I loved being outside and experiencing life and so did he. We had so much in common. He was his dad’s only son, and I so was I (to a degree). haha I was the tomboy who was supposed to fill in for the son my father never had.
We both had so much in common and loved to laugh. This also comforts me because I hope his views of life and death were similar to mine as well.
Although he never got to grow old, he is damn lucky to have reached adulthood and known the love of his children. There is no tragedy here, because Bobby was a good man who lived a good life.
For me, the best way to honor a loved one when they pass on is to live as best I can. To smile and laugh and experience every adventure possible. The news was unexpected to be sure, and in a way, Bobby’s death is a small piece of mine. As I age I know more people I love and care for will die. I have always been very conscious of the fact that everyone I know and love are temporary creatures. That we are all on loan here in this existence.
So as Bobby’s funeral goes on tomorrow, I’ll be singing and dancing. I’ll be laughing and thinking of him. I don’t have the means to make the trip to be with everyone who wishes to say good-bye, but I’m there in spirit…
just as he is.