On Friday, June 22, 2012, my young cousin passed away. She committed suicide. She was 19 years old.
I didn’t have many words when I first found out she was in the hospital 5 days ago. I didn’t know what to say or think or feel. My cousin, her older brother, told me the words over the phone and I felt my chest tighten up. 2012 has been so rough, on me personally and on my entire family. This news just felt like the last straw. I rushed from my cube at work, ran down the stairs and out into the parking lot where I leaned over, hands on my knees, and tried to catch my breath. Hot tears slid into my mouth as I gasped for air repeatedly. Almost simultaneously I was overwhelmed by sadness…and shame. For months, I’d been telling myself to hit her up so that we could talk. Not even 2 weeks before, she’d created a new Facebook page and added me, yet another reminder that perhaps she had something going on. We were definitely due a conversation. And yet, even as these mental markers had been added, I’d found myself too busy caught up in my own life to actually get around to that conversation. I mean, I had time, right? It just never occurred to me that I didn’t have the time.
As a person who always has an opinion or something to say, it has been incredibly overwhelming to find myself stumbling over my words, repeatedly, as I’ve tried to express my feelings concerning my cousin’s death. I can only hope I’ve come across calm and competent as I’ve extended my condolences to her father, who is my big cousin, and siblings. It has been with great difficulty that I’ve managed to talk to my family and a small select group of friends, without dissolving into a miserable puddle of tears. The mere mention of my cousin’s name is enough to make me feel like my heart is breaking all over again. And this is how I feel about a young cousin that I didn’t grow up with, and therefore, did not know as well as I know her older brothers. It’s unfathomable to imagine what THEY feel.
What has made this so hard isn’t just that this kid, this beautiful person, is gone…but that she’s gone and I just haven’t been able to wrap my mind around it. No amount of staring into a cocktail has been able to help me find peace with the fact that I’ll never understand this. No amount of talking about it to my immediate family has made it easier to process. And no matter how many people I call to remind that I love them and am always here to talk, no relief comes over me in making something good from this tragedy. So far, the only thing I feel certain of is that we’re all going to have to let this burn. I hurt for my cousin and I hurt for my family.
Every day since that fateful phone call, I’ve visited both of my cousin’s Facebook pages. I’ve stared at her photos, attempting to sear her face into my brain, and I have watched message upon message appear on each of her walls, as the people who cared for and loved her so much have said their goodbyes. I’ve felt, envious almost, because while so many people have been able to say so much, I have been completely blank. My words just wouldn’t come together.
Last night though, that changed. I watched the movie Colombiana with my stepfather and found myself shaking my head in disbelief as Cataleya’s brilliant deception fell apart because of an iPhone photo. “Aint it crazy how the smallest, simplest little thing can end up exposing it all?” I remarked to my stepfather. Later, as the movie faded to black and Johnny Cash’s version of “Hurt” began to play, that statement never rang truer. I found myself piecing together all of the words that I wanted to say to honor the memory of my cousin. It wasn’t just what he sang, but how he sang it, that made Johnny Cash’s voice—tinged with the age, experience and knowledge of hurts beyond my 28 years—pierce my soul…
“I hurt myself today,
To see if I still feel,
I focus on the pain,
The only thing that’s real,
The needle tears a hole,
The old familiar sting,
Try to kill it all away,
But I remember everything.”
Will I ever be able to understand why my cousin did this? No. But I do understand how you can get to a point where you wonder if you still feel something. And I understand wanting to get to a place where you don’t feel anything at all. I just wish so very much, that my cousin had also understood that it was possible to get to a place where she’d be happy to be alive…and would want to stay that way.
Someone cares about you. I PROMISE THAT. But, we will never know how much we truly matter if we don’t talk to people. And they may never know if you don’t talk to them, so don’t wait around to be the first to speak. And since you’ve read this far, I’d like to ask you to help me honor my cousin’s
memory in 4 ways:
- Please pray for my family, me and anyone who ever loved my cousin. Pray that we come to terms with this and are better people for doing so.
- Start contacting the people you’ve been meaning to talk to and have that conversation. And say ‘I love you’ to everyone that you love, especially if you’ve never done it. You don’t know how much time you have left.
- Never forget that no matter how bad life seems, there is someone in this world that loves you and/or will care about you, no matter what. You can survive your pain. There’s nothing stronger than the human spirit.
- Make a promise to yourself that you will call someone if you ever get to a point where you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel and are considering suicide. If you don’t want to call someone you know, or feel you don’t have anyone, know that help is out there:
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1.800.273.8255
- The Trevor Lifeline for GLBTQ youth – 1.866.488.7386
- The Veterans Crisis Line – 1.800.273.8255 and press 1
- This link takes you to a USA directory for suicide prevention hotlines if you prefer to research online: http://suicideprevention.wikia.com/wiki/International_Suicide_Prevention_Directory
May you rest in peace Kyler.
You will never be forgotten.