Discussion Forums

A Tribute to my Cousin 
Started by Cath1
22 Jun 2012, 6:29 PM

On Monday afternoon, June 11, 2012 my cousin who was my age passed away. Her death was sudden. Although she had struggled for a very long time with mental health issues and alcoholism, her death was unexpected. Such is the nature of denial. I am sharing an excerpt from the eulogy I wrote at the request of my aunt and delivered as a tribute to her after her funeral mass. Be prepared, even excerpted, it is long. I have removed all personal references to my cousin's name to protect the privacy of her family. I hope somehow my cousin's life and death will inspire those who now suffer alone with mental health and/or addiction problems to reach out and seek the help they need and richly deserve. 

For my Cousin, In Memory and With Love                                                                   June 19, 2012

My cousin, in her life she loved Nature, to be surrounded by the stillness of a majestic forest, a clear-water lake gleaming in the distance reflecting the heavens above. In the quiet escape of a summer day amidst the sounds of birds, wings aflutter, chirping and singing in accompaniment with the whispering breeze, she felt most at home.

From the time she was a little fair-haired girl with long curly locks adorned with pretty bows and ribbons, preening and prancing and posing in a handmade party frock designed especially for her, and sewn by her resourceful and talented mother, she loved to dress up and to play make believe.

Guided by innocence and imagination, my cousin adored the fantasy of being the centre of attention and yet ironically she was by nature shy, and therefore she rarely sought the spotlight. Deeply sensitive and private by birthright, much like her mother, she did not pursue a professional career in music, theatre, modeling or film, and yet she was born with a gift to perform and in any of these artistic areas where she dabbled, she excelled. While her name was not featured on a glittering marquis, the spark of her innate creativity lit any project in which she had a part.

The flame of love and fidelity between a daughter and her mother sometimes rages with passion, sometimes it glows softly and warm, protective and comforting, and while over a lifetime its brilliance in moments may flicker and fade, it ultimately burns brightly in the heart and soul and cannot be extinguished. Such is the nature of maternal love, it is perpetual, it is an eternal flame, and speaking for my cousin, and from experience as both mother and daughter myself, I know the flame of love and fidelity she feels for her mother and which her mother feels for her. They each hold the torch now, timeless and true, and will treasure one another forevermore.  

My cousin admired and emulated the superbly skilled and melodramatic, Academy Award winning actress, Bette Davis, whose ability to speak vividly yet silently with intensity, and simply by fixing her gaze into a camera captured for her audience the many dimensions of her character’s emotions. The legendary Bette Davis eyes, long celebrated on film and lyrically in song, captivated my cousin and appealed directly to her own aspirations, inspiring her to cultivate her innate affinity for all things theatrical. My cousin, like the incomparable Bette Davis, her screen idol, possessed the unique ability to communicate clearly with an expressive wide-eyed wonder the sensational and mysterious inner world of feelings.

If eyes are the windows to the soul, my cousin’s eyes revealed and beheld secret sorrows and joys, and a deep and compelling compassion for others whose lives mirrored hers in complexity and contradictions. While not critically acclaimed by the masses for her craft, she was nonetheless multi-faceted and versatile in the Arts for which she entertained a lifelong fascination and a deep appreciation.

Little wonder is the fact that my cousin inherited an artistic bent since she was born and raised in a household where classical music and opera are revered. It would have been near impossible for her not to have been influenced artistically when her father had a collection of classical and operatic music and volumes of music history and literature that would rival any museum, and also in light of the fact that she had a mother who could sing the music contained on the vinyl and CDs of her father’s extensive library, and better than most of the artists featured in these bounteous works.

Without any exaggeration, my cousin’s mother, is an exquisitely gifted and unequalled soprano. Her vocal rendition of the Ave Maria is delivered so phenomenally well with impeccable technique and superlative emotion that not only does one witness my aunt inhabit a transformative state of bliss when she sings, those whom experience the privilege of listening to her voice fully abandoned to the moment, are elevated, as if magically transported with her to the realm of angels.

I’m sure my cousin found her way to heaven guided by the harmonic voice of angels, those familiar and uplifting melodious sounds that blessed her childhood and echoed within her all of her days. Her father was also known for the deep and warmly resonant tone of his inimitable voice that was honed during his long and illustrious career as a tv and radio broadcaster.

And speaking of my cousin’s dearly departed and darling father, I must speak also of the lifelong bond they shared along with the distinct family traits. She certainly had the proverbial (family name) directness which is otherwise known as a lack of tact, but affectionately so, as the trait is softened by the utter lack of any willful insensitivity to others. I will not tell many tales out of school, but she loved to tease, and ever adept with a dramatic flair she knew how to embellish a story to bring more life to an event in memory than had ever existed in fact.

I think the ability of one to amuse another, to identify and embrace the funny and inane side of life and people is an underrated quality. Many excellent bonds of love and friendship are forged on the tail end of a punch line and fortified when laughter and tears mingle and are shared, and when the motivation behind them is understood. My cousin instinctively and inherently grasped the importance of a positive outlook and a cheerful disposition, and remarkably, even in challenging moments of heartbreak or worry she recognized the power of perspective restored with a smile that could boost a sensitive spirit with optimism. Often it was my cousin whose own sensitivity imbued her with empathy, and for those who knew her in context of character and condition, in her smile she displayed evident and exceptional charity, compassion and courage.

Like most, if not all of us, in my cousin’s life and personality there were conflicts and competing interests. None of us walking this earth are completely whole and integrated human beings and therefore I can say with certainty that my cousin was a both dreamer and a realist, independent and needy, a free-spirited individual and enslaved by circumstance, practical and visionary, confident and insecure, perseverant and fragile, unequivocally complex and simply unique. In essence she grappled, as do us all, with the same kind of common similarities and disparities in temperament and traits.

My cousin had dreams in her life and happily pursued each one with enthusiasm along with a hope and belief that she would succeed. She married early in life. Stunning was she on her wedding day, sophisticated and appropriately princess-like in both her dress and demeanor. Radiant she was when love’s blush gently grazed her and grew in her garden of dreams.

Sadly for my cousin her romantic aspirations were not fulfilled as she had imagined, yet even in the face of severe disappointment, she never stopped believing in the power and possibility of love. When I think of my cousin, at the heart of her nature, I see hope. No matter the size or the significance of the obstacles life put in her path, she continued to walk it. She never gave up.

My cousin and her elder brother, could and did engage in battles of will and wit, and while neither liked to give in, each not-so-secretly adored and respected one another. If she needed him, she knew without question that she could depend upon her brother to love her unconditionally with the fierce and loyal heart of a lion. He always knew and will know forever that his love for his sister is returned and is everlasting.

My cousin counted on her brother to help her through any situation if her chips were falling while knowing he would never let her down if he had the power to lift her up. If she fell, she knew he would try to be there to catch her, and if he could not spare her a hurt, he would not spare any expense or effort in trying to help her heal. He could be counted on by her to advise her even when she didn’t ask for his brotherly advice. She knew without a doubt in each moment she lived that her big brother would defend her, protect her, and love her and now he will treasure her memory which is emblazoned like a diamond medallion hung over his wounded heart as a stunning symbol of the little sister he cherishes for all time, in memory, in this life and beyond.

Her brother spoke to me of how courage is high among my cousin’s most enduring qualities and her sweetly endearing ways, those known most intimately and especially by her beloved brothers, and the baby of her family, her loveable little sister.

Some people routinely complain when the sky above them threatens rain on a summer’s day and they resent the fact that life interferes with their lives and their plans, but according to her brother, it is both astonishing and admirable that she did not complain when the storm clouds formed, when the wind raged and the rain poured down on her life, rather she silently and bravely accepted her circumstance, conceded control to her spiritual guides and faithfully placed in God her trust and commended her willing spirit into His loving hands.

Bolstered by courage, my cousin also knew the meaning and purpose of spiritual humility that some may wrongly interpret as sad resignation to despair or defeat, when in fact it is a rare occurrence to witness a soul triumph over earthly adversity and the shame and stigma unfairly placed upon them while struggling daily to carry a burden too heavy for any mere mortal to manage. She was enveloped by an inalienable faith that defied logic but which cleaved to the promise of a better day in a better place with risen souls awaiting her return. God rewards her childlike trust with His endless love and she is now gifted by grace with an eternally peaceful and joyful spirit. Bliss is now hers, her newly reborn and glorious state of being.

While my cousin appreciated the Nature of life and its mysteries, it is no secret that her life was not lived in a garden of roses scented by lavender like those depicted on postcards. Her life was real and her struggle with it truly valiant. She lived, and she let live.

What for years was originally a family of six is today now three and three more, but people are not numbers to be added and subtracted and for this family there is no division. For the past thirty plus years my cousin’s family had to accept living without their precious son and brother. My cousin and her brother were exceptionally close and his sudden parting was a particularly painful cross for her and her family to bear.

Fortunately few can relate to the depth of sadness and sorrow that losing a child or a sibling imparts, yet the faith-filled resilience to carry on in spite of their unspeakable heartache united my cousin’s family and carry on they did with remarkable dignity and praiseworthy valour.  I imagine how wonderful it feels for my cousin to be reunited with her long lost brother, her childhood companion and playmate, as they revel in the familiar presence and company of their father, whom she had missed so much, along with their grandparents, their aunts and uncles and cousins who went bravely before them.

As happy and contented as I imagine her now to be, still her death naturally brings with it grief to the hearts of the many people, family and friends, whose lives she touched if not daily, very deeply. I was not especially close with my cousin, nor she with me, and neither of us felt any need to nurture a deeper rapport, though there was between us undeniably deep love, it was more the wish of our mothers, both of whom had hoped since childhood that a closer relationship between us would eventually emerge and evolve.

God answered our mothers’ joint prayer in his renowned mysterious way, and instead she found in my mother, as I found in hers, a more natural fit for a profound friendship, and indeed she favoured the conversation and companionship of my mother over mine, just I as I did hers. She and my mother could and did talk for hours on end about the things that most mattered to them. They shared a mutual trust and understanding and prized one another and their relationship as singularly special.

I feel great comfort, as does my cousin’s mother and family, in knowing that she will be laid to rest in my mother’s grave, and though a gravesite is only a symbolic landmark of a life, it is nonetheless a fitting tribute to honour their close bond for all time. 

What I know about sisters is mostly intuitive but if my sixth sense is accurate I imagine that my cousins, as sisters for over half a century, were blessed with the comfortable presence of a knowing and natural lifelong confidant and comrade. Theirs was a private relationship, the precise details not intended for public display, and like a family photograph hung on a wall, no matter how gifted the artist, one still picture cannot paint the portrait of the vivid life between sisters.

Sisters see one another in the light of day, without the veil of beguiling innocence or pretense, their love is based on the truth of one another and yet they see too the silhouette of shadows that cast self doubts that only a sister can assuage. In darkness there are secrets shared by sisters that will never see the sun, there are harsh truths revealed to one another that no other would dare to admit much less speak aloud and yet every word spoken, sister to sister, whether tenderly truthful or candidly caring, is soft and sacred and serves to deepen and intensify their exclusive relationship and clinch their unbreakable bond of love.

When it comes to sisters there too are moments when what remains unspoken is as potently influential as the most well-intentioned composition of words well phrased. Like a lonesome soliloquy, overheard only by the heart and comprehended line by line with each silent expression in the other’s eyes, sisters learn to communicate wordlessly as they create a private space to delight in the perennial emotional gardens where they grow side by side, each planted from the same seed with their own shape and different design but ever deeply rooted and entangled in their shared riches of family history .

Late spring and everything is blossoming, emerald green is the grass, lush and sturdy are the trees as we stand in your shadow and remember you, cousin. You are and will be always an especially loved and delicate branch gracing our family tree.

Flowers sprout up from the earth, colourful blooms to decorate the landscape and the view is spectacular reminding me of your beauty in youth. It’s morning and the sky above is clear and cloudless and I imagine you are now at peace in Nature in all its glory and rapture. All in the world that at night appears dark is now more enlightened because of you.

The sun shines warm upon me and when I feel its warmth I remember your lovely smile and the gentle kindness of your tender heart, ever thoughtful, always giving. You inhabit a special place in our memories, our experience, our lives and our hearts and you will now be a part of our dreams. I imagine yours is a happy reunion with loved ones who were waiting to embrace you and welcome you to your eternal home. Your spirit is free and uplifted, and as you rest now, sweet angel, sleep in heavenly peace.

We love you. We promise, you will never be forgotten.
Report this post      
Reply by NatR
05 Jul 2012, 4:12 PM

Dear Cath1,

My sincere sympathies to you in your loss. You are gifted with creating a picture with words.  I am sure your cousin looked down and smiled at the way you captured her inner being.  She will always be part of your life and memories - 

Thanks for sharing this with us all.  
Hope you know how amazing you are as a daughter, cousin and friend.  Pleased to have connected with you via the Internet.  You have taught me a lot.

Report this post      
Reply by Cath1
06 Jul 2012, 6:02 AM

Hi NatR:

I am very humbled by your sweet message of condolence and support. What lovely thoughts to dwell on before I sleep. Thank you from my heart to yours!:-)

With affection - hugs- xo
Report this post      

Our Partners
Asked and Answered
Asked and Answered

Find out what Canadians
are asking

Ask a Professional
Ask a Professional

Our team of experts answers
your questions about
life-threatening illness and loss.

Just want to talk?
Just want to talk?

Join the Discussion

Books, Links, and More
Books, Links, and More

Recommended by our team

Programs and Services
Programs and Services

Find local, regional,
and national services