This morning I got a text from one of my sisters that totally put me on my ass. It was a line right out of a Quentin Tarantino flick, you know one of those lines in his films that you had never expected, that had never even crossed your mind. Not about that particular subject, anyway. Her text message relayed the heartbreaking news that Chris, my cousin, and his wife, were gone. Just like that. Gone.
Chris is one of my oldest cousins, and up until the tragic events of yesterday, served his community as a police officer. A huge Steelers fan – he even had a Steelers motorcycle – and the entire garage looked like a bumble bee had exploded in it – all black and yellow. Soft-spoken but it didn’t take Sherlock Holmes to see the terrifying possibilities that seemed to lurk just behind that kind face. A well-informed warning to any who might take his kindness for a weakness, like a churning undercurrent waiting for a blowhole. Yes, what I now lovingly think of as a hallmark of the men and women from the South Pacific side of my family tree.
This morning, after getting this message, my mind furiously picked up and rejected pairs of possibilities as to the reason why someone so…good and so sweet and someone who was always so protective and kind– why would he take such drastic measures? What could make someone of his ilk and character do such a thing? We’ll never know. Well, not in this lifetime.
I’ve been thinking about it all day. And about his kids, who are all adults now, but I know from personal experience that being an adult doesn’t make it easier to deal with. When you lose a parent, that’s like one of your roots dying. One of your BIG roots.
One of the roots that planted you and kept you from blowing away with one of the hurricanes that life brought breezing through on occasion. One of the roots that has been not just a root, not just a bridge, not just shelter…one of the roots that is Home.
Without that root, you lose your balance. You feel like you can’t stand. Like you don’t want to. Like how could you, without that root?
I think being an adult makes it worse because you’re expected to be an adult, and even though you just want to curl up in a ball, pull a blanket over your head, and pretend that it’s just a bad dream that you’ll wake up from in the morning, you have to talk about funerals and burials and tombstones and who’s talking and who’s holding the box. It’s a devastating experience that just feels like it will never end. And then it does and you’re left with this hole where the root was. And you try to fill that hole with any number of things, none of which will ever do the trick. Roots aren’t like gecko tails. They don’t grow back.
I think about my Aunty, my dad’s sister, and my cousin’s mom. As a parent I’m sure the last thing you ever want and one of the biggest fears you live with every day is having to plan or even just attend your child’s funeral. My Aunty is a tough lady that scares many people with her family je nai se quoi. She used to scare me before I knew what color her heart glowed in. I’ll tell you what – I would much rather revert back to being scared of her, than watch her go through The Parent’s Worst Nightmare. If that trade was acceptable, I’d stock up on some adult diapers and smile.
I think about my cousins, my cousin’s siblings. One of whom is already fighting an epic battle with some physical demons that have rendered him not himself. And I think of their sister, my cousin, who fought her way to a master’s degree and still worked 3 jobs to care for her family. Who moved all the way out to Mormon Land to be closer to her kids – not even that long ago – and I think of the weight that must be pulling at her heart. I’m scared to think on it for too long because it feels too eerily familiar.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve not become more afraid of my own death, it’s the death of those I love that can send me into an inconsolable state of black. It’s that fear that makes me curl up into a ball inside myself, afraid to touch anything, for fear I might love that thing or, worse, that person- and add another portrait to my wall of Please Don’t Take Them.
*Sigh* Yes, I know this post has been particularly sappy and I’ve waxed especially poetic. I’m not sorry. But I’m so sad. And so…yeah.
I love you, Chris. I’ll never know why this became the path you least resisted, and I’ll never ask anyone else to speculate. Your reasons are your own and, if you feel like it, one day we’ll talk about it. You’ve got a whole lotta family waiting for you, so I’m thinking that’s a pretty big party, eh? And just think, you can eat whatever you want – you never have to worry about these stubborn Samoan genes that make it so we smell a cheeseburger and gain 5 pounds. HA! I hope you find your smile again there.
Fa Soifua, toe feiloa’i…alofa ia te oe. XOXO Rissa