My Granny and Granddad’s back yard backed up to a Catholic Church. All of my aunts and uncles, as well as my parents and myself (and one of my sisters) attended the parish school, just steps from their back yard. My parents were married in that church, I was baptized and confirmed there. As kids, we played all over the grounds, including the graveyard (most particularly that graveyard). As the area around it changed and developed, that particular spot stayed the same. Sure, the uses have adapted – the ‘old’ school is now a retirement home, the ‘new’ school (built in 1959) is now a private Christian school and I’m not entirely sure what the convent is – but the church is still there, its physical presence seemingly unchanged. For all intents and purposes, it is the spot that is home to me, the one that is always there, exactly as I remembered it, if smaller (because everything is smaller than we seem to remember it).
I was there last week, for my cousin Sarah’s funeral. She was laid to rest next to her mother, my Aunt Loretta.
I’ve spent quite a bit of time thinking about this post. I wasn’t particularly close with Sarah – truth be told, I hadn’t spoken with her in some time. Sarah was 35, which is way too young for a life to end. I’m not even sure how to politely state how she died – her liver and kidneys gave out, the result of years of hard drinking.
Life isn’t fair and it isn’t always kind. It can be hard on a person. Not all of us can overcome the cards dealt us. Some of us just aren’t equipped to deal with what life hands us, some of us just can’t see the way out. That was Sarah. She was good at talking the talk, but when it came to the walk, it turns out, she just didn’t have it in her.
It’s sort of funny, how my generation of the family, having seen so many of the generations that came before us battle cancer, are terrified of the disease, when it turns out, the two of us that died before the age of 50, did so because of the mental illnesses that quietly run through our family, and not the cancer. I’ve lost two cousins in the last year and not quite a half, to what the rest of us chalk up as mental health battles. It may actually be more terrifying than cancer to be honest. I think I can safely say, the rest of us are starting to talk more freely about this with each other, questioning what the other is doing in regards to all this. The answer is that we are addressing it, if only because we’re all too stubborn to let anyone or anything, beat us. The family streak of competitiveness might actually be a good thing when you combine it with the crazy.
Sarah is finally at peace. May her legacy be that we all learn to be more open in regards to taking care of ourselves, in every possible way.