My cousin Linda passed away this past weekend. From what I heard, her cancer was quick. It was a stage 4 killer before anybody knew she was even sick. I have to wonder how long she had maybe kept her own little secret.
Since there were 13 “kids” in my dad’s family, there are 70 or so first cousins on just that one side of my family. Not first cousin, once removed and all of that – but first cousins. So it is not surprising that I don’t know many of my cousins very well. This was the case with Linda. So how do I mourn a cousin I barely knew? I’ve discovered the answer is with tears.
Linda was older than me. I’m not sure how much older - maybe five years or so. She was the cool, can do anything she wants cousin. For much of my early years I wanted to be like Linda. The bad, daring kind of girl. Linda knew no bounds. She drank and smoked too much, drove too fast, and cussed like a sailor.
Linda introduced me to makeup and the poufy high teased hair styles of the 60’s. She was a cousin that my mom and dad tried to shelter me from.
Linda was one of the kindest persons I ever knew. She didn’t put people down or talk behind their backs. She just wanted to live life her way – and so she did. Her demons were many. I cannot recall a single family get together where she didn’t either arrive drunk or soon succumbed to the liquor. Yet even in her drunken haze – or perhaps because of it – she always had a hug and kind word for everyone.
She was there for me. When my dad passed away a little over a year ago I missed her at the visitation. She was one of the cousins who always showed up at any family event – including funerals – so I couldn’t imagine she wasn’t there. But as we walked down the aisle following the casket, there was Linda in the third to the last pew of church, reaching out to hug us and telling us that she was there for us. And then she was gone. Just gone. I never got the chance to tell her how much that hug meant to me. It was the last time I ever saw her.
I found out much later that she was dealing with her own tragedies. Her husband was recuperating from a stroke. She had driven from St. Louis to send “Uncle Ed” off. She had made the 2 1/2 hour trip, only to give a hug and watery smile and return home again. That was Linda.
I am embarrassed to say that I imagined that she was probably once again drunk. And she may well have been. That was also Linda.
All I know is… I probably saw Linda once every two or three years and yet I am going to miss her a lot. She lived life her way. Not a good way by most standards – but her way. And her love was genuine. Genuine love cannot be faked. I cannot imagine another reunion, wedding, or funeral without Linda. Linda was always there.