My cousin passed away this morning.
She had been battling Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) for the past four years.
The news of her passing came in the form of a 3 am phone call.
The wailing coming from the bedroom alerted me to the fact that it was bad news.
In less than ten seconds, every member of the family had made their way to the small room.
My mother reacted by sobbing inconsolably for thirty minutes straight.
The Son attempted to comfort his grandmother, but only after retreating to his room to say a prayer.
My thirteen year old niece made herself useful by passing around Kleenex and pouring her mother a glass of water.
My sister, still on the phone with another cousin, repeated the words, “Oh no!” at least a dozen times.
I stood at the door, gazed up at the ceiling, and whispered, thank you.
As I slowly made my way back to the living room, my eyes opened and closed slowly.
Much like a “Viewfinder,” it was as if they were switching slides of earlier happy times with my cousin.
One blink allowed me to see her sewing her daughter’s wedding dress.
Another showed her at the beach with my sisters and I when we were young girls.
And another captured the time she learned of the birth of her first grandchild.
All the while, the chaos and weeping around me continued.
It wasn’t until I inhaled and forced my eyes to stay open, that I realized that in our own way, we were all grieving.
Some of us wept at the realization that we’d never physically see her again.
Others shook their heads in disbelief, while others prayed and thanked the good Lord for his mercy.
And I say mercy, because after her long battle with this debilitating and painful disease, God had finally taken her home.
Sadly, while her suffering had ceased, I realized her family’s had only begun.
How would her daughters cope without their mother?
How would her husband carry on without her company?
Who would remind her grandchildren to put on a sweater when it was cold?
I believe the loss of a loved one, while excruciatingly painful, serves to remind us of the fragility of life.
It also proves that even while we may grieve in different ways, the loss is the same; the realization that the person is physically gone is unavoidable.
For those of us who believe in the afterlife, there is also the awareness that someday we will see our loved ones again.
Death, while it may seem final, is only a pause, an interim, an intermission before the show goes on.
For those of us who believe in heaven, the passing of our loved ones only signifies that they have finally earned their wings.
In loving memory of Nicky.