My cousin Lisa died suddenly on Sunday. She was my Godfather’s youngest daughter, my first cousin in my close-knit Italian family. She was 27 years old.
I wish I had the words to express the emotions welling up inside me, but there aren’t adequate words for something so tragic. For such a beautiful soul to die so young, for her never to have the chance to grow old, to find romantic love, to have children, for the missed opportunities, the missed experiences, my first feelings are of regret and despair. But not only does that not cover it, it doesn’t do justice to the life she was able to live.
What I Missed
Lisa was a smart woman, dedicated to her family, loved by so many, most of whom I never knew. I don’t want to say she missed out on anything, because in truth I don’t know that she did. I know she had close friends who cherished her and considered her part of their families, but sadly, I only know that in her death. Lisa wasn’t as open with her extended family as she was with her chosen one. I never got to see Lisa’s vibrant love as her friends saw it, and I suppose I’ll have to live with that regret. I wish I’d known Lisa better. I wish she’d been comfortable enough to let me into her life. I wish that the unspoken barriers our family has around topics deemed “too personal” or taboo wouldn’t have gotten in the way of knowing my cousin, of possibly helping her. I wish I could have helped. And I know I’m not alone in feeling this way, that we were all too afraid to say things that really needed to be said. And I know that being so far away from my family in Texas added another layer of distance between me and my sweet cousin Lisa that made it even harder to breach the tough topics.
Grief and Accepting What Is
I want to believe that there was something I could have done to prevent this tragedy, but part of me — maybe even most of me — wants to believe that there was nothing anyone could have done. That would be easier to live with. And thinking any other way won’t bring her back.
Although I can’t presume to know her true feelings because we never talked about it, Lisa and I shared a struggle with our body image. I can’t fathom what Lisa’s struggle must have been like, or how lost she must have felt. I can’t imagine how isolated she must have felt, but again, I don’t know. There’s so much I don’t know and will never know about Lisa, and it breaks my heart.
There’s a hole in our family that will never be filled, but I want to believe that Lisa lived the life she was meant to live. That her soul needed to rest when it did. That she’s at peace now, free from the burdens she faced in life. But that’s too hard to accept right now.
With the contemplation of the impermanence of the human form, something very deep and peaceful opens up inside you … When you accept the impermanence, out of that comes an opening within, which is beyond form. That which is not touched by death, the formless, comes forward as you completely accept the impermanence of all forms. That’s why it is so deeply peaceful to contemplate death.
If someone close to you dies, then there is an added dimension. You may find there is deep sadness. The form also was precious, although what you loved in the form was the formless. And yet, you weep because of the fading form. There too, you come to an acceptance – especially if you are already familiar with death, you already know that everything dies – then you can accept it more easily when it happens to somebody close to you. There is still deep sadness, but then you can have the two dimensions simultaneously – the outer you weeps, the inner and most essential is deeply at peace. It comes forward almost as if it were saying “there is no death.” It’s peace.
– Eckhart Tolle
I just finished Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now, and the timing of Lisa’s passing with my exploration into this book is giving me an opportunity to practice some of what I’ve learned within the pages. I can’t say that I can embody all of it, because Lisa’s passing is too raw and too close to home; she was too young, and the disbelief and unreadiness to accept it is part of the struggle toward consciousness that this book is really all about. But in hearing the words in my mind and recognizing that nothing real truly dies, I can accept that Lisa is free of her human form, that the formless part of her was her, and that precious soul lives on. Of course, that feeling of peace he describes is fleeting and interwoven with a deep grief, but in some way it’s a comfort.
I’ll miss my little cousin Lisa, and that’s really all I can say about it right now.