***From my cousin's funeral a few years ago.***
We grew up seeing each other only on holidays when we were kids, so I don’t feel like I really got to know my cousin until she moved back to my hometown as an adult. That’s such a shame, because at that point things weren’t going too well for her. A lot of her character was clouded with substances, although I could still occasionally see a smart, witty, creative girl peeking through. I regret that we weren’t better friends before the drugs.
Jenny’s death was really tragic. It was the culmination of a thousand bad choices; some that others made regarding her well being and some that she made for herself. She suffered in many ways and this isn't a happy ending.
There are some things Jenny gave me that I will not take for granted. When she became pregnant, our whole family started asking hard questions like, “What do you do when someone you love is hurting so bad it feels like they’re lost?” “Does trying to help just enable?” “Do you leave them to their own demise?” and “How do you help someone who doesn’t want the kind of help you want to give?”
She made our family look closer at what “being a family” really means. She made us pull together for strength. I met people in my family I was never connected with before and I spent quality time with family I’d spent my whole life loving from a distance. She made us tear down walls of judgement and fear, getting our hands dirty and giving us a fresh start at really loving each other. I hope that we use our fresh start to build a stronger, healthier family.
I don’t regret one single minute I spent with Jenny in the past two years: in court, on the phone, or at Golden Corral. I am proud to call her my blood and I will miss her.
Unsplash photo: Adam Gonzales