Yesterday I said goodbye to a family member. I debated whether or not to share this news publicly but I can't stop thinking about it and I thought it might help the healing process to speak about it. He was my second cousin. We haven't been close in a long time. I was busy, we were on different life paths, things happen. He was my age. Our birthdays are two months apart. Our paths intersected many times over the years not just at family parties but through different groups of friends. He was dealt a difficult hand in life and had a challenging family situation. I don't want to go into details but he turned to drugs to escape his troubles. He went to rehab but once he turned to heroine, it only took a few years before the drugs took him from us.
Thanks to technology, I was able to read through my most recent Facebook messages to see notes from him. We hadn't spoken much, but when we had, they were kind words. He had told me I had a beautiful family and wished me congratulations when Patsy was born. He invited me and my husband to hang out for a drink (although we never did). When his grandpa passed away late last year and I didn't get to talk to him at the wake, I had sent him a note. He was thoughtful and appreciative. Despite our differences and troubles, he always had a kind word for me and for that I will be eternally grateful. Part of me has guilt and regret. What if I had done things differently? What if I had tried to be more involved in his life? What if I had reached out more? Would things have turned out any differently? I know I can't beat myself up over these questions but I also can't erase them from my mind.
A modest funeral mass was held at his high school (he had attended a local all-boys catholic school). Those years were some of his happiest times. He was a great athlete and made many bonds there. He kept in touch with his baseball coach after high school and they became friends. His coach gave a very touching and moving eulogy. There wasn't a dry eye in the church. During the service, I was very thankful to be holding Hank in my arms and sitting by my mom and brother. It was a very emotional and eye-opening experience. Life is too short to take things for granted. My family is important to me and we need to see each other more. We will always be busy (work, bad weather, other obligations), but I don't want to look back and wish I had done more.