My heart has continued to be torn in these last couple months. My sister's death began an unbearable chain of loss that has also cost me a friend, two cousins, and an uncle.
My neighbor, Mike, lived directly across the street from me for the past ten years. Glances and quick hellos bloomed into him giving me gardening tips, sharing stories and life lessons, and his obvious enjoyment of watching my children grow. He lived alone and never had his own children but had a grown stepson he was very close to that visited him frequently through out the years. He was smart, quick witted, and lonely. I liked his stories and advice, didn't mind sharing my life and yard with him, and looking across the street to check and see if he was alright became part of my daily routine. He found out he had pancreatic cancer in November and died in February all the while believing that he would survive it even though there was no false hope ever given to him. I miss Mike. I miss sitting outside with him under my camphor tree hearing about growing up in Maine and watching his sad face turn to joy whenever he talked about his stepson or spent time with my children. Now, I look across the street and there is darkness. His plants have wilted, his orchids have been given away and his tattered American Flag blowing around is the only sound I hear when I go by. I hope he knew how much we liked him and how I appreciated him being the unofficial grandpa to so many kids on our street.
My baby cousin, Abbie, only graced this Earth for 3 months. She died from a rare neurological condition called microcephaly in which part of her head was not growing. She had paralysis, and, was, more than likely, deaf and blind. WHY?? Why does this have to happen?? It went undetected during my cousin's pregnancy who had already lost another child to this condition. I question, after the first time this happened, why her doctor didn't do any kind of genetic testing or deter her from having more children. Then, she had a successful pregnancy in between. So, the false hope was planted and the positive ultrasounds added to her thinking this would have another happy ending. Not the case, and, now she has two dead daughters in the graveyard and a lifetime of hurt and healing to try and take on. Through facebook and photos, it has been so sad and unbearable watching her brief life and death unfold. The love and life experience they managed to give her, hopefully, will help comfort them as they try and adapt to life without her.
My cousin, Caroline, had a brain tumor that she fearlessly fought for over 5 years. She married her soul mate young, had four children she adored, she devoted herself to her church and she loved her career in teaching. I'm sure she had her fears and cried her tears, but, her faith in God and the love of her family almost made you believe that she could survive it. However, it was not meant to be. She lived long enough to dance with her son at his wedding but did not make it to hold her first grandchild. It just does not seem fair when someone as good as her had to suffer and leave this Earth too soon, but, she did not waste her time here and will always be remembered with so much respect and affection.
Last, but, certainly not least, was my Uncle Joe, Caroline's father. He was such a kind and gentle soul. He made me laugh and made me feel loved my entire life and his death was a huge loss to our family. However, he made it to 80 years and spent 80 years making this Earth a better place. He, also, couldn't bear to watch his daughter die and received his wish of going before her. I would like to think they are together now and watching over us. I couldn't think of two better guardian angels.
And, so, five deaths, in 6 months. I am hoping this painful reality of the cycle of how we are given life and must succumb to death is over and looking for some happy days ahead. In the meantime, the sadness is permanent, the memories are more cherished, and the stories of them all will be told many, many times like I am telling it to you today. They were here, they meant a lot to a lot of people, and the bittersweet reminders of their existence must carry on.
My final thought to you, is to take the time, even it is brief, to notice or remind yourself of something amazing about your life or what is surrounding you at this moment. Also, pull out a photo, have a laugh, or raise a glass and salute just one or many that have made a difference in your life. It feels much better to keep the triumph inside and not the tragedy.
As Dr, Seuss said, "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened!" Michele, Mike, Abbie, Caroline, and Joe...you all happened and I am slowly learning to smile more and cry less about it.