After It’s Over

My cousin, who I looked up to as a child and was very close to as an adult, is gone.  She died of ovarian cancer last week at the age of 64.

She is survived by her four children and a devoted second  husband of twenty one years.  He has been her friend and loved her for 45 years;  Their story is a long and sweet  one.

She fought the cancer with everything she had and never gave up until two weeks before she died.  And when she knew there was no recovery she was ready for her body to give out on her as soon as possible and frustrated when instead, the cancer ate her alive with pain and her tumors stuck out of her skin: It is a cruel disease, cancer; a real, live bitch.

I knew what was coming for her because I had seen it before.  It ate up my parents and three other people I love.

I realize that we are all terminal.

No one gets out of here alive.

I just feel angry and betrayed that someone so very vital and still so necessary to her loved ones is simply cut down, like a weed, like a blade of grass. It’s as though a life is somehow an inconvienence to the cosmos: How can it be?

I have now lost three of my family members before they even hit age 67.

How is that fair?

What is going to happen to me?

Does it even matter?

I don’t know.

My cousin was loved.  She was spectacular.  Her life was worth a great deal and she touched countless people with her beauty and kindness.  She was talented and loving and a good friend.

She was a beauty queen,  an accomplished educator, a pianist, a mother and a wife.

She was a sister to me.  I opened a place in my heart to her that sort of closed when my parents died.  Now that part feels like it’s dying again and it hurts.

This makes no sense.

Yet, she was at peace and told everyone it was fine.

She really felt that way.  Her faith never waivered.

I wonder if my faith would be so strong.  Even writing this I realize I am angry at Something.  Yet I know that Something doesn’t mean us harm.

Two things come to mind here:

A.  I found her faith, her witness in the funeral ceremony she created for herself, strangely compelling. I am angry that bad things happen to good people, even though I know it is not G-d’s will that these things happen.  I am just left again with this feeling that I am helpless.

B. This feeling of helplessness is something with which I am well aquainted. I think it is because it is easy to see myself in her position.  I don’t know when and I don’t know why or which of my problems will get me but at the end of the day, but I know that I have some scary things that do tend to kill people.

I really don’t think about it.  If I did I would go crazy.  I just sometimes have doctors that raise their eyebrows at me and say things like, “Oh my goodness, you sure do have a lot things going on.”  Sometimes they say it like I am nuts or lying and sometimes they look at me like I am about to explode at any moment.

So, maybe this death and this funeral caught me in ways that were very, very personal.  You see, I don’t want to die before I reach my mid sixties.  I just turned fifty six.  That doesn’t sit well with me.

My husband would say that we don’t know things like that so there is no reason whatsoever to think about them.  I agree with him.

However, my brain doesn’t work like his.  I don’t compartmentalize as well as he does.  My emotions and my brains bleed over into one another: Damn Them!

I think I am just going through the stages of grief in a different sort of way.

But I do have to admit my cousin’s witness reminded me that if I stay solely in my own head and don’t reach for that which is Unseen, I will be afraid.  In her own eulogy she wrote a list of catastrophes she had lived through, ending with a five year fight against cancer with  …. “she wanted you to know that G..d was faithful EVERY STEP OF THE WAY….because her G-d was faithful to the end, giving her His ‘peace that surpasses all understanding’ throughout her life.”

That says it all.  She was faithful and peaceful to the end.

I never quite understood her ability to believe in the goodness of G-d through all things, but that belief was real.

I plan to take note of it in my own life.

I want to stop more often and remind myself that freaking out about every little thing is really not useful.  (I don’t freak out THAT much.. but you get the point).

When I intellectualize G-d and I think too much about my own situation, I end up in a dark place.  There is no reason to go there.

As I said in the previous post: The light is just outside the dark and all I have to do is step into it.

Today, I step into it with a purpose in my step.

Life is tough.  People you love get sick and die.  People you think are awful live to be super old:) Why is that?

But, in the end, my journey starts and ends with my spiritual health.  Thank you, sweet, sweet cousin, for reminding me.