I never meant for this blog to transform into a constant meditation on loss and all the negativity in my life, and yet, that’s what it is. Today’s post will be no different.
On Friday, my 20-year-old cousin died. She was in a car accident involving two other vehicles. Everyone else walked away, but she died. I don’t know all the details, other than that she was a passenger in the backseat and that no recklessness or foul play is suspected.
I remember when she was born. I was 7, almost 8, and was thrilled to have a new baby to play with. She was pink and fat and smiley. Her eyes revealed her mischievous spirit. Over the years, she grew into a young woman full of strength and grace. She stood a full six inches taller than me and had been a star basketball player throughout her youth. She opted not to pursue one of the many athletic scholarships offered to her, selecting, instead, a more typical college experience. She was halfway through her junior year when she was taken from us.
On top of being one of the beautiful women I’ve ever seen, she was smart and incredibly funny. She was also fearless and seemed to possess not an ounce of self-doubt. I have always admired her.
Today, I admire her even more. Just as our tragedy began — as she slipped away from us, after multiple surgeries to stop the internal bleeding and to reduce the swelling in her brain, not to mention her crushed bones — she brought an enormous blessing to seven other families. My cousin was an organ donor. Her heart immediately went to save the life of a little girl, and six of her other organs went to waiting children at a leading pediatric hospital.
My cousin lived as a striking, confident young woman, but she died a hero. I’ve never been so proud of her.
The funeral arrangements are still being made. Because she isn’t an immediate family member, I can’t take any bereavement leave, but I will still fly out to attend the service. My aunt, her mother, has always been such an important person in my life. Before she had kids of her own, she and I spent lots of time together. She was even a reader at my wedding. I need to be there for her, and to say goodbye to my beautiful younger cousin.
Tragedies bring out the religion in so many people. Unfortunately it doesn’t happen that way for me. I’m not angry exactly, but I am heartbroken and incredulous. I guess I’m just the kind of person who needs comfort from this world, not the possibility that my existence may continue after death.
This poem, which I found yesterday, reminds me so much of my cousin’s indomitable spirit and her zest for life:
When Death Comes
by Mary Oliver
When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse
to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measles-pox;
when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,
I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?
And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,
and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,
and each name a comfortable music in the mouth
tending as all music does, toward silence,
and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.
When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it is over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.