Tuesday, August 05, 2008


Last night, I received an email from my father letting me know that my cousin, Catherine, died suddenly and completely unexpectedly. He wrote, "She complained of not feeling well, lay down and died. No one knows the cause yet."

I'm completely shocked. I wasn't close to Catherine but I've known her all my life. She's quite a bit older than me (17 years or so) and has three grown children. Catherine was living in Oregon, married happily (I hope) to her second husband. Her eldest daughter, Helen, is getting married in September. How terrible for the family. Her youngest daughter is just out of college.

When I got the email, I didn't want to believe it. Instead of feeling sad, I was irritated that my father hadn't called. I should have called him right then but I couldn't do it. I should have called my mother--to tell her and to have someone to talk to, but I didn't do that either. Instead, I tried not to think about it. I hoped that when I woke up, the email would be gone--that it would just be a bad dream.

How could this happen? How can an otherwise healthy woman just lay down and die? In my mind, Catherine is still young. She always had a youthful appearance and she was a very pretty woman. It's funny to think that she was in her mid- to late-fifties. I'm sure she still looked young--that was Catherine.

And what about Helen and her wedding plans? A wedding with an absent parent is the saddest thing in the world, even if it's years later. Will this wedding go on in just a month's time? Poor Helen. If I feel confused and guilty, how must she feel? Not only does she have to mourn a parent but she has to decide what to do about her wedding.

A death like this makes you question everything about your life. I feel like a trivial person living out a trivial fantasy. I'm not even taking full advantage of my time here. I'm wandering, occupying myself with a search for friends, going to movies, dating (dating!), and not writing. I have no focus, no purpose, no sense of what I should be doing. Yes, I wanted to float. That seems so foolish now. Time is precious and short and life is so unpredictable. It's a gift to have any time without purpose…and I feel selfish for squandering mine.

My first instinct is to return to the States for the funeral but it's completely impractical. The town where Catherine lived in Oregon is small and remote. I priced a ticket to Seattle at $1800, leaving tomorrow, which would probably be too late to make it to the funeral. I don't have to go, I don't think anyone would expect it. But if I were in DC now, I would go, no question. I would go because it's the right thing to do.

It seems strange to be this sad over the death of a person I didn't know well, was never close to and hadn't seen in years. Is it self-indulgent? We weren't close, but I love her kids and she is my family. Always.

(After I wrote this, I took a walk to a park and I couldn't stop feeling sad. I sent a text to the "certain person" from the last post, "I got some bad news from home and I could use some company." He called within minutes. When I told him about Catherine, my voice almost broke. Talking about it make it more real and even harder to comprehend. We're going to have coffee. I feel like a fool but company is what I need. I don't know what else to do.)

Grateful for: family.

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