…Sink me in the river at dawn, send me away with the words of a love song…
One year ago today, I found out first-hand the true meaning of the word numb.
Sure, I knew what it felt like before. You sit on your foot, you lose feeling in it. You go to the dentist to get a tooth pulled, and they freeze your mouth. I knew what that kind of numb felt like.
But when you find out that, for the second time in two weeks, your world has been rocked to the core? That’s the truest sense of the word numb. At least, that’s how it was for me.
Two weeks to the day that I had received a phone call that my cousin Jeff had been in a terrible accident (he succumbed to his injuries a day later), I found out that my cousin Troy had passed away. Another early Sunday morning. This time, though, instead of a phone call, I found out on Facebook.
It’s not the kind of news anyone should ever have to find out on Facebook.
But that’s how I found out. I sat in my bed, scrolling through my newsfeed on my Blackberry, and there I saw it. I held my breath. For a long, long time. My hands shook. I whispered aloud to myself, over and over, “No. I can’t do this again. I can’t do this again. I can’t do this again.” There were no tears this time, at least not right away. Just shock. I felt frozen. Stuck. Numb.
I prayed it was a cruel, sick joke. But when I called my parents’ place and my dad answered the phone, I knew it wasn’t a joke. My dad never answers the phone. When I asked casually, as though I had no idea something was wrong, “How’s it going?” and he answered, “Not too good.”, I knew.
I found out later that my mom had gone to be with my aunt & uncle, and had decided to wait until she knew more details before calling us with more shattering news.
Troy had passed away in his sleep during the night.
One year ago today.
I honestly don’t think I could’ve made it through another week of sadness that deep and painful, unless I was numb. To lose someone you idolize as much as we idolized him? It’s incomprehensible. Compounded with the loss of another close relative during a 14-day span, it felt entirely surreal.
It still feels that way. Surreal.
I used to count myself lucky and blessed to have lived a fairly pain-free life. I did not know grief of this magnitude. I did not know it was possible to shoulder it, to carry on with it, and to continue to live.
But during the past year, I’ve discovered it is possible. Some days are harder than others. Some days the tears come more easily. Some days you try to push aside the memories, but they flood your soul and refuse to be pushed aside.
I’ve learned to accept those days for what they are. Endure them. Wallow in them. And know that the next day will be better.
I’ve often thought of how my feelings must be felt ten-fold by the parents, siblings, and close loved ones of my cousins who passed away. I honestly shake my head in amazement at how they’ve been able to pull themselves together. I’ve had a hard time dealing with all of this, and I only saw Jeff and Troy a few times a year. I admire the ones who suffered the greatest loss; for their strength, for their faith, for their ability to put one foot in front of the other. I strive to do as well as they have.
We have made it a whole year. In my mind, I think of it as the year from hell. I wonder what any of us did to deserve it. I wonder what any of us could have done to avoid it.
But in the end, there is only acceptance. Acceptance that this is something we could not change. The reason is unknown, and I will likely always wonder why my families were tested in this way.
Yet, we’re still here. We’re closer than ever. We know now how fragile life is, and we know to be grateful for every day we have with one another. We know how important a hug, a squeeze of the hand, a reassuring smile is.
Family is everything. And if there’s anything positive to take from all of this, it is that.
I’m so thankful for the people who have traveled this difficult path with me this past year.
I don’t know where I would be without them.