love is thicker than water

but nothing lasts forever
your best efforts don’t always pay
sometimes you get sick and you don’t get better
that’s when life is short even in its longest days

-john mellencamp

my cousin died when she was 46…

her name was lisa and it happened last fall…

and i remember walking into the funeral home with my mom, dad, and sister…we came first to an anteroom, and upon entering, my eyes found her three children…one in college, one in high school and one in junior high…and then, i saw her husband coming ’round the corner…and that’s when i lost it…and then her husband lost it, too…and then we all embraced in a messy, tearful, tangled hug…

my aunt and uncle were there, too…bonnie and jay…and though they were visibly broken, somehow, some way they were keeping it together…my cousin john was there, too (lisa’s brother–it was always just the two of them)–wrecked, but holding strong as well…i guess they had all cried enough tears in the previous few weeks…lisa had been in the hospital for a little while before she died…and despite the fact that she had maintained an amazingly optimistic and hopeful attitude, right up until the end, the cancer was merciless and relentless…it would not be held at bay, it would not yield…

sometimes you get sick and you don’t get better…

so, over three days time, we went from the viewing, to the funeral service, to the burial and then to the reception …returning to my aunt and uncle’s place on occasion to regroup…it was weird, it was surreal…being around people who you normally long to see and visit with…our relatives, our family…yet, not having her there…it didn’t make sense…

along with that, i didn’t have a lot of experience being at funerals or knowing people who had died…in my world, it added up to a handful of people….most of them were older…grandparents, even great grandparents…people from “the greatest generation”…people who had lived long, full lives…and while we definitely felt the loss of their passing, their dying made more sense…and their funerals more closely resembled what people commonly call “happy funerals”…where the person “is celebrated” and the funeral is “a celebration”…

this wasn’t a “happy funeral”…this wasn’t “a celebration”…

this was sadness, grief, and pain…

i think everyone felt that it happened too soon…

probably because everyone that was there knew lisa…and if you knew her…you knew what living life really meant, you knew what true innocence and goodness and faith really meant…you knew it because when you saw her, when you talked to her…you would see it, you would hear it…and when you see that kind of life, that kind of life force…in a human being…you think to yourself...nothing on earth can stop that, nothing can extinguish that fire, that spirit…  

and when a light like that goes out, it goes dark for everyone who looked upon it…

that’s the way i felt (and feel), anyways…

and there was something else…there is something more to the story…

something remarkable, despite the utter pain of her passing…something unique about her story…from beginning to end, from birth ’til death…

the remarkable thing is the love that her family holds for one another…the four of the them–lisa, john, bonnie, and jay…now, don’t get me wrong they’re not perfect or without trial or tribulation…they’re like any other family–any other real family, that is, that goes through the up’s and down’s of life…and believe me, they’ve come through their own fires…and yet still remained–a family…a family that they created…in love…especially between lisa and her parents…and, most especially, between lisa and her mom, bonnie…a mother and daughter…but more than that, best friends…i guess it’s significant for me because lisa (and her brother, john) were adopted–early in their marriage my aunt and uncle came to realize that they couldn’t have children…but, they still wanted kids…so, they adopted lisa and john…

as a man, i have no idea what a woman experiences or feels when she’s told she can’t have kids…when she’s told she can’t give birth to her own children…i mean, i know women who have had that experience outside of this story and often think that…

that’s really, really terrible

because

man, she would be an amazing mom (and he would be an awesome dad)

then instantaneously, the same thought always pops into my head…

i wonder if they’ll adopt?

my thinking probably plays out like this because at my base, at my core…i know lisa, john, bonnie, and jay…i know their story…i know what they mean to me…

i know that their family was (and is) closer than some biological families are…

i know that bonnie and jay have always seen lisa and john as their own…their son, their daughter…

i know that we (my sister and i) always saw them as our cousins not our ‘adopted ones’…

i know that, growing up, they were (without a doubt) our closest cousins…

i know that they have been and always will be my family…

not by blood, but by love…

4 responses

  1. Oh, my gosh David, I cried when reading your tribute to Lisa. She was an awesome women and touched many lives. Did you send it to Aunt Bonnie – Uncle Jay and John? I think they would love to read it especially as next Thursday, the 26th, would be Lisa’s birthday. Oh, how I wish this beautiful woman’s journey would have had a happier ending and lasted longer.
    Luv, Mom

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  2. David,

    Your mom sent us this…. your blog entry about the death of your beloved cousin. What a beautiful tribute David. I don’t think I ever met Lisa…. but now I feel like I know her to some degree. What I do know, for sure, is your love for her. There’s no missing that in your writing.

    I can tell that you had a very special relationship with Lisa. I know from experience just how hard it is to say goodbye. But I want to tell you something I’ve learned. You never, EVER have to say goodbye. That’s the beauty of writing like you’ve written here. I penned hundreds of letters to my son Micheal over the years. I like to think that he receives the letters and we laugh together…. and we cry together. But whether he really receives the letters and notes or not…. I KNOW that I have written them. They may possibly speak to both of us…. but I KNOW that they speak to ME. Writing about grief is a powerful healing tool.

    Your heart is heavy now with grief. I want you to know that over time, it DOES get better. Your grimacing pain is so powerful right now, but it eventually begins to lessen and soon allows the slightest ray of sunshine back in her hair and her eyes as you think of her. It was a year or more before I could look at a picture of Micheal without crying. But, in time….. I was able to see an old photo and smile…. even laugh.

    Real men DO cry by the way. I like to tell people that my mission, my calling, here on earth now is to teach men how to cry. Love is tender…. male or female. There’s nothing unmanly about crying. In fact…. it takes a REAL man to cry…. especially where others can see him! Cry as much as it takes. Tears are God’s true blessing…. His cure for grief.

    I read the other posts you’ve made here on your blog. You write beautifully. Fully from the heart and quick off the tongue. I like your style. One post especially caught my attention…. one about an older man in your life. A very touching story about a son and his dad. Just a word of advice. Never pass up another chance to tell him you love him! ALL Dad’s want and need to hear it…. awkward or not. (That goes for moms too!) 🙂

    Keep writing…. God has blessed you with a beautiful gift.

    Blessings!

    Bill

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    • bill-

      thank you very much for your comments…really appreciate it…especially, with what you’ve been through in life…losing michael…

      keep on keeping on with your work with men…it’s important…teach them well!

      cheers. peace. dave.

      Like

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