A year (and one day) ago I reached out to the wonders of the world wide web to explore some of my innermost thoughts and feelings, ponder at the intricacies and complexities of life, and share some of the "that would only happen with courtney" stories that define my life. I have always been an incredibly expressive person, so as daunting as it is to expose myself in such an open and public, nevermind vulnerable manner, it was very natural for me to do just that. As much as I enjoy being surrounded by the energy of people, I can be fiercely independent, which is why I am so drawn to writing. My mind never.shuts.off. So being able to pour my tiny little heart out to the unassuming, nonjudgmental keys on my laptop in complete solitude is undeniably therapeutic. There's something intimate and wildly refreshing about decompressing through words by candlelight with the company of no one else, but me, myself, and I.
As I sit here tonight, with the soft glow of burning candle flickering beside my computer, my mind is in a million different places. So I turn to my computer and let my fingers type away and quiet my brain.
For the first 18 years of my life, I shared every major milestone with my cousin. Our mothers are sisters and gave birth to us less than two months apart. We lived less than a mile away from each other. It would have been nearly impossible to not go through every chapter of life side by side. So we did just that. And despite our drastic differences - he was private, I am full disclosure; he tested the boundaries, I often times stayed within them; he preferred the attention of few, I love the attention of many; he was tough, I am sensitive - we remained close for the first 18 years of our lives. When we graduated high school, we went our separate ways, reuniting only every now and then at weddings, family picnics, holidays, and the like. I do wish we had remained closer, but I refuse to regret the path I have taken.
Two days ago, my 27 year old cousin vanished from the world, leaving a seemingly empty void in hundreds of broken hearts.
Death, no matter how familiar we are with it, or how much we can anticipate it, prepare for it, and even accept it, is irrational and cruel. It makes even the most faithful of us question and doubt life as we know it. We fight and deny its very occurrence, refusing to believe there is any truth to it. We surrender ourselves to regret and the all too familiar would of, could of, should of's. It's a vicious cycle that someone maliciously put on repeat everytime we lose a loved one to the universe, God, heaven, whatever it is you believe in.
I have been trapped on an emotional rollercoaster that doesn't seem to want to stop any time soon. My heart aches not just for myself, but for the dozens upon dozens of loved ones my cousin is survived by. I could write until the sun starts to peek out from the horizon on this Thanksgiving dawn about the powerful impact my cousin had on each and every one of the lives he touched. But I'm pretty sure he wouldn't want that. Just a little bit of speculation, but I'm listening to my heart and it's telling me not to make this blog about him anymore than it already is.
So I won't. I'd rather take the time to reflect on how such a devastating and untimely death has pushed me to focus on what's positive in life. My heart runneth over in sheer gratitude and happiness (coincidence that I'm writing this as the early morning hours of Thanksgiving roll in? Maybe. Maybe not), yet I don't often pay enough attention to its presence.
My family - immediate and extended - will never cease to amaze me. They truly bring to life the meaning of the phrase "when the going gets tough, the tough get going." The bonds between and across my family members are intense and unbreakable; it truly is a blessing and a half to know that my family will always be there for each other. The past few days have been a huge testament to this fact, a fact that I will always be grateful for.
My gratitude extends beyond this though. For the past year I have felt a sense of contentment that I haven't quite felt before, yet I don't think I have fully expressed it to the people I need to. For the first time, I feel that I am exactly where I need to be, which is unbelievably satisfying for someone who is constantly trying to figure out this crazy little thing called life. I owe a large part of this to my friends, the ones who have taught and guided me until I was on the right path. The love, patience, and honesty my friends have shown me is unparalleled to anything else I've ever experienced. I have needed my best friends so much over the past few days, and their kindness, love, and support have brought me to tears in the privacy of my own bedroom. I am so humbled and honored for their presence in my life and pray that I am there for them they way they are for me. When I stumble, they pick me up; when I overreact, they gently put me in my place; when I cry, they don't try to stop me; when I call at 2 in the morning, they answer. Their love is just as great as the love of my family. It's so easy for me to say "I love you" to my parents, sister, and brother, yet I hardly find myself sharing my love with friends. This week has served as a harsh reminder of how precious life is, a reminder that I am thankful for. We often overlook and take for granted what it means to love and to be loved. And more importantly, to express this love.
So while I can sit here and feel as though there is an empty void in my heart that will never be filled by the passing of my cousin, I feel as though I'd be lying to myself. I want my heart to be overflowing with love for my family and friends, yet this can't happen with a void. So, yes, I will cry my tears and process the irrationality of death, but I will not let there be a void. Filling the void created by death with love is not replacing my cousin or any of the other loved ones who have passed away. It is my way of honoring them.
To all of my friends and family. I love you.