My Cousin

October 16, 2011
By nikky917 GOLD, Brooklyn, New York
nikky917 GOLD, Brooklyn, New York
18 articles 2 photos 6 comments

Some people don’t think about how important of a member in your family a cousin is, but in my family my cousin played a really important role. Her name was Susan and she was absolutely beautiful. My father’s sister had given birth to her 18 years ago in April, and a few short years after she was born they were noticing things wrong with her. She was brought to a hospital in 1998 and diagnosed with brain cancer. This was the year I was born.

For most of my life, she surrounded me weekly and spent all her time with me during our family dinners and get togethers. Until I was about 8 years old, I didn’t notice the illness. It grew on me and I realized something was wrong with Susan, that was when I started asking all these questions about her. I was about 9 when my parents informed me about it. It finally began making some sense to me, why she talked slower, why she needed to take pills every couple of hours, why she was always so skinny, frail, and weak. At that point, this amazing family member and practically best friend became someone to avoid every time we visited my aunt and uncle. For the next couple of years, she wasn’t a normal person to me anymore. I stopped coming to our family dinners, I never called her, and I never even wished her a happy birthday. The pain of being around someone so broken was killing me.

Every couple of months she would call me, I’d pick up and try to make the conversation as short as possible. Her voice sounded so fragile, but she had made it so many years. I thought that meant she was healing, that she would still be around for many years to come. I had never brought up the disease with her, I did as much as I could to put in my head that she was normal and able to be just like me. But she was in special education, the same kids my friends made fun of in my school, and it killed me to know that my cousin had to be picked on by kids who didn’t understand the seriousness of it all. I would ask when we we’re younger about if she had any friends and she always said something along the lines of, “Well you’re my friend, silly.” The truth was that people thought she was slow, stupid, and weird. She wasn’t any of those things, she was the most kind and amazing person I knew. But at that point, I didn’t think about her like that.

In the beginning of 2011, some time in February, was my grandmother’s 90th birthday. My grandmother lives with my aunt and uncle, so I didn’t visited her often either. I decided to show up at this specific family dinner, late as always. I saw my cousin, for the first time in 6 months, with no hair on her head and in a wheelchair. I ran to the bathroom to cry, but stopped myself when I looked in the mirror. “They don’t need this right now,” I told myself. I didn’t put much of an attempt to communicate with her that night, I was just staring at my phone trying to countdown the minutes till my mother decided to go home. That was the last time I saw her.

April 6 I came home from a friend’s house to my father sitting on the couch crying. In my entire 13 years of existence, I haven’t once seen a tear fall from this big man’s eyes. He informed me that my cousin had been rushed to the hospital after she stopped breathing. She had just turned 18 a few days before, and I hadn’t even wished her a happy birthday. They didn’t tell me she had died that night. I went to school the next day crying my eyes out each period while I was in the bathroom. I received a text at the end of the day from my mother to come to my aunt’s house, my cousin had passed away the night before but they didn’t want to tell me then. When I got there my aunt attacked me with a hug, her eyes were a puffy red, and it had been visible she had been sobbing for hours. She then again began to cry. She told me about Susan’s love for me and how she always wanted me to be there. I didn’t cry, someone had to be the rock, and from the looks of it no one in the room was deciding to stop the waterworks. I made myself seem like the strongest person in the room, while in fact I was just as ready to burst into tears and blame god for taking such a beautiful soul as the rest of them.

I didn’t attend the funeral, too busy being a rock. My aunt called me a week after, and this I didn’t even tell my parents. She screamed at me for never calling Susan, for not coming to the birthdays, the dinners, and for not being around enough. She told me to never come by the house again, and this emotionally killed me. I stopped myself from being close with my family members, who never were the same again. I separated myself from my friends, who didn’t understand why a cousin’s death had been such a big deal for so many months to me. It had been a big deal because this wasn’t just a loss of my cousin, it was a loss of everyone in my family, including myself. All these months after her death, I haven't been by that house and I haven't seen or spoken to anyone from that side of the family. My father and his sister barely talk anymore, and my outlook on life felt as if it completely altered. I lost myself in this entire experience, this had been the first death I witnessed and that’s what still scares me the most. What comes with the next death? I miss Susan more than the world, and hope anyone who reads this understands how important any person in their family or in their life really is. No matter who the person was, their death will affect you. To me, it ruined my relationship with so many people in my life. I never want anyone to go through what my family went through the past couple of months. I want people to understand how important and precious life really is; and how you should spend every moment with the people you love, you never know when it will be the last.

The author's comments:
Based on the death of my dear cousin Susan.

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