So, last week, when I heard that my cousin wasn't doing so well, I made plans in my head. Who was going to cover for me, what I needed to reschedule at work, who was going to check up on my mom and dad while I was gone, what would need to happen if they wanted to go with, what arrangements needed to be made so I could represent the family in a difficult time. And I had a plan. Alls I needed, though, of course, was....a plan.
So here's something I know about myself: I'm not as proactive as I might seem. I'm actually very reactive - and though I may come up in advance with alternate scenarios of how to deal with various permutations of what "might" happen, I rarely act until I have something to which I can react. So although by the time I got the news of her actual passing I had three (hundred) possible scenarios lined up for the various dates and times they could hold the services...my family actually had to, you know, tell me what I was doing. Which contingency to activate.
As it turns out, they had some difficulty getting my cousin's body released to the out-of-state funeral home (I was thinking about this yesterday. I can't even begin to figure that one out. It's not like they can just strap her in the car and go...), so we didn't have actual plans until this afternoon. The funeral is Wednesday. Okay, I thought, check. Commence with plan for Wednesday!
Until, of course, my other cousin, her brother, called me and said, "Don't come."
And then my uncle texted and was like, "You shouldn't go."
Both of them, I think, were looking out for me. My cousin's point was that I had my hands full and should use my time to come at a happier occasion (like an upcoming wedding, he suggested. To which I haven't been invited, actually...). He's not wrong - my cup definitely runneth over right now (Happy first day of fellowship! Here's our policy on bereavement leave). But...later isn't really the point....
And so I polled my coworkers. I argued with my parents. I felt confused and abandoned. And then I did what I should've done in the very first place - I emailed my deceased cousin's oldest daughter - who, frankly, also seems to have an interest in healing this rift in the family - and I said, "What is it that *you* want me to do?"
She said, "Come be with us."
And so go I shall.
It also didn't help that today - my very first day of fellowship!! - I rounded with the pedi neurology team. Whoa. That was...devastating. In the middle of rounds we got called to do a brain death exam on a four year old who'd been found floating in a pool. EMS and the ER had apparently worked on this kid for over an hour to get any signs of life back.
We walked into the patient's room, right, and there, amidst multiple IV lines, tubes, wires, fluids running with life-maintaining meds, there in this chaos was one of the most beautiful, sweet little cherubs I'd ever seen in my life. Who was, very clearly from the moment I walked through the door, merely a shell. What the family describes as a vibrant, friendly, personable and loving child was simply gone. There was just nothingness. And my heart broke.
Life and death...it always amazes me. One expects trumpets, fanfare, a glowing ball of light, something, right? But in truth, the line is remarkably blurry. You're alive; you're dead. It's a process, usually. What is that moment of crossing over? Does it happen at physiologic death? Brain death? Some time before or after either of those? Where is that innocent little soul tonight?