January 27, 2011:

My cousin died today.

And so it begins. I’d already found myself wondering who among the twenty-two of us would be first. Figured it would be one us older ones. Hoped it wouldn’t be me.

Instead, it was one of the younger set—ten years my junior. Cancer’s what got him: unpredictable, ugly, indiscriminate disease. You never know about life’s twists and turns, how it will all end.  



March 20, 2016:

It’s happened again. This time on my mother’s side of the family. This time it was one of us older ones. Not oldest me but the next in line.

Life feels more precarious than it did yesterday. We’re all, we cousins, entering the danger zone, that time in life when a generation ago death was the norm at the age we are today. Now, we think we’re still too young. Clearly we’re not.

They say it’s when your last parent dies that you feel most vulnerable, when mortality becomes vividly real. But I’m not so sure. Cousins—we’re the same generation. We were toddlers together. We grew up together. We see ourselves in each other’s faces.

When it’s one of us, a different kind of light goes out.

9 thoughts on “Mortality

  1. Carole, how painful to read about your cousin – touching a tender spot in my heart for the one-year-younger cousin I grew up with, and who filled my “only-child” longing for a sibling. She said we would be “little old ladies together” like our sister-moms, but cancer took her at 60, leaving a hole in my life. I have learned to fill that need with dear friends, but have never let go of the love for her. I rarely hear someone else express such poignant feelings towards a cousin … thank you for that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Arlene. I tend to think–want to think–of my cousins as invulnerable, as always there. Family reunions were such special times for me as I was growing up because I’d get to spend time catching up with them.So sorry you lost your special cousin way too early. Being little old ladies together would have been really special and fun.


  2. The concept of mortality has always seemed to hang over our heads with Bill and Joe dying so young (and then Daddy dying relatively young). But, I will admit, that Jane’s death made me examine much more closely where I had been and where I am going.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mary, your family has had more than its share of reminders about mortality. The death of a sibling who’s been there your entire life has to have an impact all its own. My sympathies continue to reach out to you. ❤


  3. After I’d scheduled this post, but before it posted, I lost yet another cousin–just a few days ago. All three of those deaths have been the result of that vicious disease, cancer. I mourn them all and treasure the memories of shared times.


  4. I have been the oldest living member of my immediate family since 1998. And my parents’ siblings (two aunts, three uncles) all died before 1998, one in 1941. I do have two cousins who are older than I am though.

    Shouldn’t the oldest in a family be considered the wisest? I’m still waiting for that to happen!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. For me it was when my father died, leaving me the oldest living member of my immediate family. I felt a new kind of vulnerability, as if having a living parent or older relative was some sort of buffer or shield. Of course it is not. But neither could I avoid the “I’m next” mentality.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sharon, this was a discussion around the dinner table after my grandfather died. My cousin pointed out that she’d read that when your last parent dies, we lose
      the last thread to that imaginary link to immortality. “I’m next” is an understandable thought


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