It has been a hard week. Harder than most. I haven't mentioned it on this blog, but interestingly last night, in an email, a friend asked how I was and said, "I just don't trust every cheerful thing you put on your blog . . ." Hmmm. Perceptive.
Nearly two weeks ago a cousin, who lives in another town, suffered a cerebral hemmorhage. He was flown to Portland, to the medical school hospital and remained in a coma until he died Sunday morning.
We were never close. We grew up hundreds of miles apart and I was 8 years older. I remember him as a sweet little boy we saw when we visited our grandparents in the same town where he lived. As adults we lived, for several years, in the same town, but apart from some shared holiday dinners and a family reunion, our paths did not cross much. I had little in common with him or his wife. If I'm honest I'll admit that I thought they were odd.
And suddenly he was dying in a strange city and I was the only family, apart from his wife, that was nearby. He had no siblings, no children. I talked daily with his wife and I emailed the cousins to report on his condition. While I was writing about the "blue hour," he was in his own transition between daylight and darkness and though I didn't say so, that was what was on my mind.
When the Drs said there was no hope of recovery and his wife should let his family know, I was the only one here to tell him goodbye. I did my best. Whether he heard or not, I told him his family was with him. I told him about the sweet little boy I remembered and how much his parents loved him. I talked about Grandma and Grandpa and our other cousins—common ground we did share. It wasn't so much, but it was what I could do. He died the next morning and I was the person his wife called to come. I sat by his side with her for hours while the hospital arranged for organ donations. She was alone and devastated, so I brought her home with me. Her grief filled my house. When she left today a bit of it remained, lurking in the corners.
Something about all this has pitched me into a dark place. To know that I was really never part of his life until he was dying seems terribly sad. My sister has twice written, "family is family" as we've gone along this past couple of weeks, and I guess that is what it was all about. I was the family that was here and representing the ones who weren't here became my job. It's over, but I'm having a hard time shaking it.