So much sorrow. So much sadness. So much going wrong in the world. And then this, a loss closer to me, of a cousin I wish I’d known better, who I never saw without a smile on her face, a kind word for everyone, and a wee twinkle of mischief in the corner of her eye. A cousin who left far too soon.
It’s been a terrible month. Japan, destroyed. Thousands of people gone, gone, no sign of them. Environmental damage, too, that will take years to heal. Haiti, still struggling to rebuild, holding an election between a rock star and someone who might actually know what she’s doing, but who may also be tied to the corruption that has held the country down. Libya – previously being destroyed by its mad leader, now being smashed into the ground by the rest of the world. Of course, those are targeted missiles. Of course we know they kill no innocents. Of course we know that those on Gaddafi’s side must die. At least this time around. Last time we killed the other side.
I feel like Obi-Wan, hearing voices crying out in suffering and terror, everywhere. But there’s a new tone, now, because I hear my family crying, too. This closer tragedy highlights what people must be feeling all over the world these days – sudden loss, sudden terror, sudden sorrow.
My cousin Mary, like my Aunt Mary and Uncle John and all of those now gone that I knew a bit better on my dad’s side of the family, was filled with laughter and light and joy. It’s not that life was that easy for any of them – there were the usual challenges, the usual sorrows, the disappointments that hit all of us in life. But there was something within them that gave them the strength to carry on and still shine. The Brown family knows how to laugh. They are present and open with their love; their families are strong and supportive and filled with that kind of unconditional love we all wish surrounded us more often. My mother always wanted such a family for us – but her own family was split with rivalries and imagined offences and somehow missed the closeness that my dad’s side of the family seemed to have pulled together in the end.
Mary grew up as the baby in a family that was squashed into a smallish house that resonated with laughter. I remember being astonished at how my Uncle John and Aunt Colleen managed to fit their large family into their home, with built-in bunk beds and specially individual spaces for everyone. I loved their house. Something about it was so perfect, in every way. When we visited, we eased in like water through marbles, so welcome and so warmly greeted. They welcomed my husband, my children, and every time I see them, I feel like there has been no time passed, that we are all still rumbling along, friends always.
I know the loss of Mary must be like an open wound to them, and I’m left broken-hearted, for my loss of friendship unexplored, but mainly for a family that is so interwoven it must feel as if they’ve lost a limb. I talked to my cousin Susan last night, and she was calm, having told the story so many times of Mary’s illness and sudden death – she commented that “she’s with her Da”, my Uncle John. Oh, I do so hope there is a heaven, because it is so lovely to picture them there – they were a team, the two of them – and I can still see them laughing together. It’s just too bad for the rest of us left back here, our lives immeasurably poorer with her loss.
Go safely, Mary. We all loved you, even those of us who knew you less than we should have.
And may the heavens open up to take on all those others who need solace, whose families are also shocked and alone and struggling.
The world is a hard place these days. But take a lesson from my cousin’s family, and use this time to draw closer, love each other more, laugh with each other in shared joy despite the sorrows. Life can be short, but if you take a lesson from Mary, you can make every second count.