Saturday, February 26, 2011


My newfound optimism was sorely tested on Friday.  My 39-year-old cousin passed away Friday morning after a 2 year battle with cervical cancer.  We grew up together like sisters.  When I was about five my parents were in a very bad boating accident (which I was blissfully unaware of), and I lived with my cousin for an entire summer while they were in recovery.  Then from the time I was seven to my tweens I spent almost every weekend at her house.  I remember how we used to fight over her one pair of roller skates.  My aunt, in an attempt to keep the peace, would have us each wear one roller skate.  She would flip a coin to figure out who would get the undesirable left skate.  However, once the unlucky one finished grumbling about having to get stuck with the left, we would strap them on and spend our afternoons “skating” up and down the sidewalk.  Once we hit our tweens and outgrew the “one skate” form of entertainment, we would spend our days together carefully choreographing and memorizing the lyrics to every Menudo song… “Súbete a mi moto.  Nunca he conocido una moto mejor!”  It was good times.

When my cousin was about 16 or 17 years old her father passed away.  It changed her life and, unfortunately, we grew apart.  Over the intervening years we found ways to stay in touch – Christmas cards, weddings and baby showers, once-in-a-while phone calls, MySpace, Facebook – but we were never able to regain the closeness we once shared. 

For the past few months, since her disease took a turn for the worse, I have been struggling with deep feelings of anger.  Anger at myself for perhaps not being the person she wanted me to be.  Anger at her for not taking better care of her health.  Anger at this horrible disease that seems to sneak up the unsuspecting and suck the life out of those affected and their loved ones, equally, and with no mercy.  So on Friday morning, I have to say, it didn’t feel like it was the best day of my life.  I raged silently and wept openly for the senseless loss of life and the grief of her husband, mother, and brother who would never hold her or kiss her or hear her voice or see her smiling face again.  And in my grief I turned to my one remaining connection with her – Facebook.  I clicked on her page, posted a message to her, scrolled through old posts, looked through her photos, and as I did this so many memories came flooding back…of times spent and moments shared.  I spent the day remembering her with my husband and my mother.  I relived countless events that made me smile and even laugh out loud.    All of this made me realize something very important.

When I reminisce about my childhood it is impossible not to mention her name or relay an anecdote of our shared time together.  We were inseparable, and as such my childhood memories will always include her.  I think I will always harbor some guilt that I didn’t make more of an effort to spend time with her and get to know her as an adult.  Hindsight is a bitch.  However, I will forever feel blessed that I was able to spend the most innocent and pure times of my life with her…that every memory will be one of laughter, mischief, and growing up.   Despite our lack of closeness in our adult years, those childhood moments contributed greatly to the person I am today.  I know I will never forget her because to forget her would be to forget myself, and her memory will not only live in my heart, but will be shared with others throughout my lifetime. 

So I guess Friday was not the best day of my life…to say that would be over reaching…but it was a good day because I spent it with my cousin...even if only in my heart.

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