Published in LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 19, No. 09 July 17, 2009
How many days in our lives do we get to look back and say, “On that day, my life changed forever.” On some of those days we sort of intuitively know that our life is changing while it is happening. Events take on a surreal quality, a slowed-down movie effect such that even while it is occurring, we say to ourselves, “Is this for real?” Other days start out rather ordinary, but as we look back through the passage of time, the events of the day sharpen and become more focused. We know that in one moment on a particular day, the pathway of our life was forever changed. That change can occur through words, through actions, through a choice, or through an unforeseen event that strikes like lightning through our life.
Some life-altering moments happen through the choices of others. A loved one decides that he or she no longer wants to stay in a relationship with us. A friend decides to move away. Other choices may seem simpler on the surface but can still have long-reaching consequences such as the choice of a college or university, a job, or a place to live. I have found that no matter how frustrating it may be to deal with another’s choice, no matter how unfathomable it may seem at the time, it is still easier to deal with a choice than with the death of someone you loved.
How is it that one day someone can be here, walking and talking and the next day they are not; especially someone who is vibrant, alive, and younger than you are? While my brain has grasped the idea that death is but a passage to another lifetime and that the soul is infinite, my heart is slow to fall in line. And while I am not the first person to experience the loss of someone close to me, nor will I be the last, why is it that I feel that there will never be another person in this world that will see me in the same way that she saw me? Like a sister, a best friend, but it was more…she saw me as her protector, her strength, her shield. The look of respect mixed with awe, for so many years I could do no wrong in her eyes.
I held her as an infant her first day home from the hospital, tutored her through high school English, was her chauffeur when necessary, held her hand through her first heartbreak, and nursed her through nasty sunburns when she visited me at the university. I stood up for her at her outdoor Delaware wedding as she walked down the aisle on that hot August day. The birds were singing, an occasional car drifted by slowly and time seemed to stop, but only for a moment.
My world collapsed the day I received the phone call that my beloved cousin and friend was dead at the age of 27. She left behind two little girls under the age of three: 34- and 14-months. I will treasure the fact that her last words to me a week before her death were, “I love you.” In that phone call we had talked about her moving to Florida with her young daughters and I was overwhelmed with excitement at the thought of seeing her again on a regular basis. But a few days later I received a different kind of phone call and my life changed forever. I knew it would even as I heard my mother’s words, but you can never anticipate just how life-changing something like that can be. But life goes on and she would not want my world to stop simply because her life did.
Death is something that will reach out and slap all of us across the face. It will reach into our chests and wrap its icy hands around our hearts and will threaten us to the core. But even in our darkest hours, while we must allow ourselves to feel the emotions and feel the pain, and yes even question why, we must never give in and never give up the fight. At the end of the day, I know that she wants me to live my life. At the end of the day, I know that she wants me to be happy. At the end of the day, I am STILL here, I am STILL fighting, I am STILL alive and I will be until death comes for me and we are once again reunited.
That is the view from here.