Saturday, November 22, 2008
Over a Month Ago...
A little over a month ago, I drove to the Four Corners area in Northwestern New Mexico. It was a ten-plus hour drive. I made the trip to attend my cousin R—'s funeral.
The curious thing about driving those ten hours was the fact that I could not recall much about time spent with R—. I typically saw her twice a year, at Thanksgiving and Christmas, when my family would travel to Ardmore to visit Padre's siblings. R— was among a large number of cousins; for most of my childhood, she was one of Aunt Merrie's two children. Aunt Nelle, Padre's oldest sister, had four children.
I did remember that R— and I were close in age. When I read her obit I learned we were only a month apart — I was born today, Nov. 22, in 1955; she was born in December of the same year. Thus, it makes sense that her death would haunt me a little.
I only remember one event that includes her. I was very young, and had gotten a splinter in my finger. Her dad, Jack, told me a story of the clowns at bullfights as he extracted the splinter.
More importantly, though, I remember the feelings I have for her. We were quite close. I remember playing with her, though I couldn't tell you a single game we played.
R— did not have an easy life. It might be said she had poor taste in men. The men she was attracted to were verbally abuse and controlling. She had broken up with such a man a few weeks before she died.
On the other hand, she had a fulfilling career as a nurse at a local extended care facility. Half the chapel was filled with her co-workers, who also provided the traditional post-funeral feast for her family.
Officially, R— died of an accidental overdose. She was sad the weeks before she died, and some might leap to the conclusion that the OD was no accident. I make no such judgments.
Her memorial service was held at a Baptist church. Once I learned this, I was worried that I might have to sit through a stereotypical Baptist "get right with Jesus" sermon. I was pleasantly surprised. Although R— was not a regular church-goer, the minister assumed she had a good relationship with God.
What especially impressed me about his message is that he directly confronted R—'s depression. He named it. But he went further; he spoke of his own struggle with depression, and admitted that he had sought medical help for it. He said his relationship with Christ helped, but that he needed antidepressants as well.
Not something a stereotypical Baptist preacher would admit.
I was confronted with the fact that darkness was something R— and I shared. Even as I drove those ten hours to NW New Mexico, I could hear the dark voice at the edge of my consciousness. The dark voice sounded a lot like my own voice, only it was criticizing my every decision. It was telling me how I have wasted my life. It still tells me that I have poor taste in women, and might as well give up on finding a romantic companion.
As I type this, I'm aware it's melodramatic. But it's also true. It's something I believe I must get out of my head & send outer space.
I don't know what R—'s last days were like. I don't know for a fact that she had her own dark voice to wrestle. I know her spirit haunts me. That philia we shared continues today. I believe she wishes me well.
Perhaps she would encourage me to wrestle that dark voice. Perhaps she would suggest I say "get thee behind me" each time the voice whispers in my ear.
R— blows a farewell kiss