family. we come together.

I’m at a memorial for a cousin of mine. Our family hasn’t been together in years, yet here we are picking up right where we left off. Many spouses and children stayed behind, while the adult cousins are here in almost full attendance.

See my cousin? She leaves behind a large loving family: her parents, extended family consistent of many aunts, uncles and cousins, a grown son, and three siblings. My grandparents had six children, and from those children I have a ton of cousins. We don’t see each other often, but since the advent of Facebook and other social media, we have recently been able to keep up with each others’ lives.

We are here for a memorial of my cousin. She was always such a beautiful soul, inside and out. She had gorgeous red hair, natural cheekbones, skin which was always flawless, and the most beautiful eyes. When she would sit down with me at family events, to catch up, she gave me all of her attention. She made me feel as if I were all that mattered in that room; nevermind the colorful, albeit hilarious stories being shared the next room over by our parents. She became immersed in my life, and took something from each meeting to bring to the next. I felt as if I mattered at the ripe old age of ten, obsessed with tennis and fisherman’s bracelets, when she went along with me to get one. When I next saw her again at 15, she was stilling wearing a bracelet. There was a 10 year age difference, but I never noticed it.

As I sat through the amazing slide show set to poignant music, I was hit with a memory from 2002… it was hazy, but I remembered the phone call clearly. I was overcome with tears remembering how my cousin had tracked me down in the days before cell phones, Facebooks, and Insta… to reach out and let me know how my getting sober at 22 had inspired her to do the same. I was in a damn dark spot the night that phone rang for me. Still fighting those demons of addiction, and the guilt I felt from the hypocrisy of lying about sobriety…. the phone call scared me. But really, it reminded me of family, of the choice to choose sobriety over the next drink or drug. And the power that phone call had on me that night? Was to kick a guy out who was most toxic to my soul. Hearing from my cousin gave me the strength to stand up with my fighting Irish spirit and take a stand for myself. My sobriety, my true sobriety, started shortly after.

This cousin, this beautiful soul, leaves behind her parents, her son and his friends who were like a second family, and communities she built up online surrounding addiction and domestic violence, and an extended family who cares so very much.

It’s heartbreaking to see so much pain left behind. It hurts that we are here to say goodbye to one of us. I wish that weren’t the cause. I hope we are making memories, and plans to have one of these gatherings where happiness is the central theme. I am forever in awe of this one giant Irish family and how quickly we gather together to hold up one another.  It’s a beautiful thing to have a clan.

Family. We pull together. Love.

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