I got a text from my sister that simply said, “I want you to know, I love you”.
Most times, you can’t decipher whether the person texting you is trying to be funny, serious, sarcastic, or buttering you up to ask for something. For some reason with this text, I sensed there had been true weight behind her words. I texted her back, “I love you too” and hoped the substance of my text would be felt, in turn, by her.
Thankfully, we have moved past calling each other buttface or hinting, not so subtly, that one of us was adopted and thereby loved just a little less by our parents (neither of us were) unless the situation demands such words. We have adult conversations. We have arguments. We laugh at the inside jokes the two of us have shared since we were kids. We hold tightly the bond, tempered by a lifetime, a brother and his sister have. So while the text came as a slight shock it was not unprompted. The other night, we lost a family member.
My cousin Michael died. He died without warning and now my family is in mourning. Unfortunately, I wasn’t close to Michael. Not for reasons built on grudges or hard feelings but Michael was quite a bit older than I am. And like life has a tendency to do, our lives kept us busy and away from each other’s company. Before you have time to blink, the days had turned in to years.
Regardless of how long it has been, in my family, coping with death becomes almost like a reunion. Family members ignore distance and keeping schedules to gather together. We show up and come in. We bypass knocking on the door because our hands are full with food and our arms are prepared to embrace whoever is closest to us. We grieve together.
So I went to Michael’s sister’s house. I needed to go, and more to the point, I wanted to go. So I could bring food and I could fill my arms with whoever was closest to me when I walked in to the house. I reached out to hug Michael’s sister, my cousin, and could see the hurt in her face. I could feel the fracture in her heart.
Her brother, her best friend, was no longer with her. He would no longer be able to laugh at the inside jokes, still find it funny to play ‘Got You Last’ at the most inappropriate times. Michael wouldn’t be there to push the sibling rivalry (that never goes away). My cousin no longer has one of her shoulders to cry on and one of the people she knew would be there to pick her up when life hit too hard.
So I grieved, even though I knew so little about my cousin Michael. I grieved his loss and I grieved for his sister because while I haven’t experienced it, I understand what she is going through. Across her living room, standing amongst the rest of our family, was my sister. I could see in her, the trials and tribulations we have been through. I saw the good times, the bad, the great times, and the times we have yet to experience together. I looked across the living room and there is my best friend and the thought of not having her would devastate me.
My heart breaks for my cousin. There are no condolences or masterfully woven words I can offer to her other than “I’m so sorry”. Because the words escape me at the moment so all I can do is offer a shoulder to cry on, to have the strength to help her up if she ever feels like she can’t do it on her own, an inside joke to laugh at, to start a game of “Got You Last” in the middle of church if that is what she needs, and to do all the things which come from a brother to a sister.