I won’t often go into personal matters on this blog. However, there are times when every rule must be broken and this is one of them. So, please bear with me and help me celebrate the life of an extraordinary woman even as I grieve her death.
Last week I learned that my cousin — actually, my first cousin — had fallen and broken her hip. This was a matter of concern because of her age. Until then, she’d been an active, alert and all-too-often feisty 90 year old. But her health had been declining some in recent months, so word of her fall and the need to do a hip replacement was worrisome.
For awhile, it looked as if our prayers had been answered. Even though there were a few complications, she came through the surgery and the surgeon was optimistic of a full recovery. Unfortunately, that was the calm before the storm. Complications arose and an hour after I spoke to my cousin’s daughter last night, she died.
While her death is almost as hard to accept on an emotional level as my father’s was too many years ago, intellectually I am so very thankful that she never really had to suffer. More than that, I know what a wonderful life she led. Sure, there were bumps along the way, some of them painful. But she persevered and overcame, never losing her faith or her good humor.
This woman was wife, mother, teacher and confidante. Her four children are grown and with families of their own. She lost her husband and grieved for him. But it didn’t break her. Instead, she put her faith in God and continued living and growing, no matter — or despite — her advancing years.
She was the glue that held our extended family together. She was the bridge between so many of us and, other than my mother, the last real link to my grandmother. She was also the first to figure out I wanted to be a writer and the first to encourage me.
Even though there were never many books in her home, she always had one close to hand that she was reading. The local library was her supplier. She read fiction and non-fiction, introduced me to Tony Hillerman and others. Her house was the first place away from my bedroom where I could write and not feel that urge to hide my work away when someone came into the room.
The first time I showed my work to anyone, it was to her. She returned that battered manuscript to me a year ago. I cringe now when I look at it, not because of the tattered and dogeared pages but because it truly is one of those pieces that never should have seen the light of day. But she saw something in it and encouraged me to continue chasing my dream of one day being published. I did and I am so very glad she lived long enough to see it.
I knew she she returned the manuscript that she was “putting her house in order”. I’ve seen it before. My father did it before he passed. Besides, she was almost 90 then, so it made sense for her to start preparing. I just didn’t expect it to happen so soon.
I will miss my cousin a great deal. But I celebrate her life. I will be there for her children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren, sharing my love for her with them.
Do me a favor, don’t take a day with a loved one for granted. Tell that friend or relative who has been there for you with a word of encouragement and love how much they mean to you. And help me celebrate the life of an extremely incredible woman.