Twenty Years.

May 28, 2014 at 9:04 pm | Posted in Intention (Living)., milestones, My life, Stuck with You (aka: Family) | 8 Comments

I didn’t even notice.

On Sunday morning, I was lined up with a friend to run a half marathon in Boston.

And it hit me when the bagpipes began to play Amazing Grace.

What’s today’s date? I asked my friend. Is it the 24th?

No, she responded, perplexed that I’d ask in the middle of a moment of silence. It’s May 25.

More than 20 years had passed since my cousin died.

And I didn’t even notice the day.

*   *   *   *   *

I haven’t had much contact with my cousins, not really, since my aunt passed away. I see what’s going on in social media, of course.

One of my cousins is recently divorced and dating a woman he met in Brazil – for work, maybe? I don’t know, only that they post gushy love notes on Basefook in Portuguese, and he seems to travel there a lot.

My other cousin, hugely overweight the last time I saw him, is barely recognizable in his pictures; he’s lost so much weight, he looks like a different guy.

My uncle seems to be happy with his new wife; there are lots of pictures of the two of them with their dog on beaches in North Carolina. The Caribbean. In Europe.

It’s kind of funny: I had no idea he loved to travel. He and my aunt went to the Cape every year, and Disney with the grandkids… but that was it.

Have they all changed? Or did I just not KNOW them before?

*   *   *   *   *

About a month ago, my sister in law asked me how old my cousin was when she died. I told her that Amy was sixteen; I vividly remember her sweet sixteen birthday party, when I was a senior in high school. I was into Jimi Hendrix and classic rock and especially Pink Floyd. I wore this awesome tye dyed long purple dress and black converse to her party, my long hair pulled back into a ponytail. I remember feeling so much older at that party; here I was on the cusp of college, and they were stuck in high school.

But wait.

She died a year later, when I was home from college for the summer.

No, I said. She was seventeen when she died.

My sister in law then told me that she had seen someone, a psychic,  in the hopes of getting in touch with some of her and Charlie’s relatives. And the night before she went to see this woman, she had thought of my cousin in passing – only because, she told me later, she didn’t have any sort of unfinished business with anyone in her family like she thought maybe I did.

And that day, the psychic told her that there was someone in the room, not a relative of hers, but someone who wanted to talk to her. A young energy, the number 17 stuck in her head. And whenever the psychic focused on the energy, she felt this massive pressure in her temple, a squeezing feeling in her head. And the other people in the room were pushing her forward – they were trying to help her be heard.

My cousin shot herself in the temple when she was 17. And it is SO what she would have done – hoodwinked a number of strangers to help her hijack someone she didn’t even know’s psychic reading.

I thought about going to see this woman, but I’m not sure how I feel about the whole psychic thing: because, you see, a psychic once told me I’d have two boys – twins that wouldn’t come together.

And I’m not sure I know what to think, this idea that my cousin is hanging around, hijacking people’s psychic readings to talk about herself. Why would she do that?

*  *  *  *  *

When Charlie and I were planning our wedding, I dreamed of Amy a lot. Always in those dreams, she’d show up and I’d feel this crushing sadness come over me. I’d always end up saying something like, I wish you could be in my wedding. But you are dead.

Recently I started dreaming of her again. Except this time, in my dreams, she’s NOT dead. Her absence over the past number of years is explained away as “she went away for a while.” And I’m always thrilled to see her alive and happy and in it, we’re a family again. The kind of family that has reunions and sees each other every year on the Cape.

*  *  *  *  *

The thing is, I don’t know what kind of relationship Amy and I would have if she were still alive.

We were the kind of cousins that might have had a huge blowout over something ridiculous – too close, in that best friends/worst enemies kind of way. I sometimes imagine she would have stayed in Jersey and turned into one of those girls I loathe from my early days: close-minded, full of drama, always finding something wrong with her situation in life. And of course, she’d be uber-fertile, one of those women who keeps telling me I should just relax and it’ll happen, and really, did I want the chaos of as many kids as she had? I mean look at how crazy her kids make her – I’m lucky I don’t have to deal with that.

What I know: the passing of the women on my mother’s side of the family has affected me on a profound level. It’s like the female energy from that side of the family grounded me and made me feel whole. As time goes on, I miss my aunt more and more.

And I feel unraveled and untethered somehow by the fracture in the family.

*  *  *  *  *

Twenty years ago, my cousin Amy committed suicide. Her death affected me profoundly: everything I am today is a result of her death.

I still wish I could have done more to help take her pain away.

I am still angry that she died three days before I had a chance to hug her and tell her that life got so much better once you escaped our stupid close-minded blue-collar small town.

I will always regret she never tasted the happiness and freedom I felt that first year of college.

I miss her.

And I think I always will.



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  1. My cousin killed herself, about 15 years ago (God, has it really been that long.) Then, about six years ago, my sister’s very best friend in the whole world killed himself. He jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge. I remember driving his car home from the impound where they towed it. His backpack was inside and I knew his mom was waiting for us to arrive at her home, eager to search his backpack, hoping their would be a note that might explain why he had done what he had done. I remember thinking, the whole ride home, I hope there’s a note. I hope there’s not a note. I hope there’s a note. I hope there’s not a note. Because I couldn’t figure out which would be worse, reading the last words and having all the responses to them that you’d never be able to say, or just always wondering… It was a terribly hard time for our family. The summer after it happened my sister and I spent two weeks in Guatemala visiting all his family. God it was bittersweet. And so incredibly sad. The whole experience has forever changed me. I’m not quite sure what it taught me, but it’s there, pulsing under everything I do and think. I think suicide, when it’s close to you, does that. It’s life altering.

    I’m sorry for you loss.

    Abiding with you.

  2. Oh wow. I’m so sorry for your loss and I’m amazing at your articulation of its effect on your life. So so sorry for your family and all you went through/are still going through.

  3. It’s amazing how soneone’s death can have such a profound impact on the lives of those they leave behind, and yet that person thinks their life is so awful, or matters so little to others, that they decide to end it.

    It’s also so interesting to hear your thoughts on what she would’ve been like as an adult. You’ll never really know.

    Twenty years is such a long time, longer than your cousin ever lived. Thinking of you on this anniversary.

  4. I don’t really believe in psychics, but I can imagine that she might have been there because your sister-in-law was there and maybe she wanted you to know something, somehow. I can imagine that she’s grateful that you do think of her at all still. To be remembered is to be loved forever and ever.

  5. Yes, you always will. Love to you.

  6. Love to you (and to Amy, wherever she is now, trying to talk to someone or not). It’s definitely strange to think what might have been – especially as you see others growing in ways you didn’t expect, and perhaps away from you as well.

  7. I am not one to blow smoke, but the book of your life isn’t completely written just yet, so how do you know that your 2nd son isn’t still finding a way to you.

    I would like to not believe in psychics and to say I am a guarded skeptic would be true, but there is something there. Something and not just because we want there to be.

    Yes, it has bee almost 37 years since my brother died and I still miss him as a then 11 yr old girl would miss her older brother. I think of every way he would likely be in our life and us in his and can’t escape the love I still hold and have for him. Missing her is part of who you are.

  8. I wonder how it would feel to embrace that the loss of your cousin changed the course of your life. I know that might sound impossible…but, to look at it positively. That you are a deeper, richer, more introspective, sensitive person because of her loss. That her loss and her life means something because it deeply changed you.

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