I have rarely met anyone in my time that is a pure soul. People always have an agenda, a reason, an evil plan. They can not be trusted, they will suck you in with their fake comforts and happiness and then steal it right back leaving you dead inside, picking up pieces that you didn’t know could be broken. I thought this way of the world until I saw my Aunt, in her deepest of darkest hour, be the strongest and most selfless person I have ever met in my life. So full of sorrow, yet strength.
My Aunt, who is married into our family through my favorite uncle, was brought into our family when I was about 13ish?? Her and my uncle were stationed in Spain through the Navy, fell in love and returned back to America with twin, 2 year old boys. Shortly after, another boy was born. As they struggled holding down full time jobs, and raising 3 boys they enlisted my sister as a babysitter for the summer. The twins were 3 now, barely spoke English and my sister didn’t speak Spanish. They were crazy, evil, hilarious, bad to the bone little boys. Tortured their poor little brother, painting him with shoe polish, locking him in rooms…..just pure boy insanity.
I went on about my life, selfishly choosing the wrong path time & time again, leaving my family behind and not watching my cousins grow. By the time that I returned, they were all teenagers, turning into men, dealing with their struggles. I would only see my family on holidays, as I was still wrapped in my own life issues. I had recently come out of a heavy drug addiction only to learn that the twins and 2 of my other cousins were entering into one. I never stopped to talk to any of them, to try to be that nonjudgmental ear, maybe help, maybe….maybe…..maybe.
June 27th, 2013-Mid Afternoon on a hot, sunny, perfect day in Chicago
As me and my sister go back to our chair set up at the subdivision pool after just feeding the kids and reissuing sunscreen so they can go back and swim, as I was about to put my put back on to prevent from being burned, my sister’s phone rang. Her boyfriend saying my mom was trying to call, it was an emergency. She got my mom on the phone. I will never forget the way she said what, the look on her face, the way she held the phone or the words that came from her mouth. My twin cousins were dead. Found by their little brother in their apartment. No way. Not my family. Not the family that just celebrated our grand parents 65th wedding anniversary. Our family of 10 kids, 22 grand kids & 13 great grand kids, not one death, but defeated numerous cancers, WW2, Pneumonia, and the list goes on……As I sat burning in the sun, I could not cry, I could not speak, I could not focus. I don’t remember much of the next couple days, as it was all a blur, a bad dream that I couldn’t wake up from.
July 2nd, 2013- The Wake
It is raining, it’s humid, it’s just shit. As me and my 3 boys pull into the parking lot of the funeral home. I do not “DO” funerals. I am scared of dead bodies. I walk in and see my family, members that I haven’t seen in years. All hugging in sorrow. Videos of my cousins play around on tv’s. There are pictures everywhere. There are 2 coffins in the front of the room. I stay in the back, as I do every funeral I attend. My oldest son, Andy, who is 12 at the time, walks up to the first coffin, it is John’s. He starts crying, my mom tells me to go comfort him, I walk up putting all fears aside, as soon as I get to the foot of the coffin I stop. I break, all control is lost. I am sobbing uncontrollably. My Aunt, their mother comes to console me. Calming me with her words and soft touch. As it came time to leave I couldn’t. How could I leave them alone? They were alone for 3 days in that hot apartment, alone. They’re only 25, I can’t abandon them, they need me. Why didn’t I feel like this when they were alive????
July 3rd, 2013-The Funeral
It is time to say good bye, the coffins need to be taken out of the room. I stand in the back refusing to walk up to my cousins. To tell them good bye. As long as I am in the same room they are still with me. There is only 2 rows of people left. My mom makes me go. I can’t walk, my sister practically carriers me to the front. I am screaming and crying in pain. I say good bye to John first. As I struggle to Gino’s coffin, I stay longer than I should. The guilt that I should be the one that he is saying good bye to is undeniable. Someone pulls me away, some how I get out of the room. Before I can pass out, one of my Uncles catch me, and holds me upright, lets me wet his shirt with tears. This should’ve been my funeral.
The procession to the church is a blur. I do not know how I got there. As the coffins are placed at the front, and my family takes up almost the whole church, the church I grew up in, I look around. I see all these men that I grew up with, strong men, men of the Army & Navy, firefighters, cops, broken, crying, sad. My Uncle in front of me weeps. My Aunt consoles him. I wish I could. She then turns and consoles me. I can’t stop crying. I can’t stop the guilt. That should be me up there.
As we make our way to the burial, we are in a 2 mile procession behind 2 hearses. We pull into the cemetery, it takes forever. The line to say one last good bye is tremendous. I am one of the last ones. I say good bye to John. I get to Gino. I can’t walk away. Again I am forced. I kiss his coffin and tell him good bye. I stand and watch. I watch my Aunt and Uncle tell their sons good bye. I stand beside their brother with my head on his arm. I watch them get lowered into the ground. Watch the layers get poured on one by one. My mom is telling me I have to leave. I can’t. I can not abandon them again. I can not leave them alone. That really should be me.
A few weeks later I am sitting in my room at my sister’s house and she brings me an envelope. It is from my Aunt. I immediately start crying. I can not read this. I can not open it. I finally do. Their picture falls out of it. The first line of the card, in my Aunt’s writing says, “It was so hard to see you in so much pain” I dropped the card and cried. My Aunt, who lives everyday without hearing her boys voices, doesn’t get to hug them, carried them for 9 months, watched them grow for 25 years was worried about me. I think about that every time that I think about my cousins. 2 years later she is still consoling me, in person, not in person. She has no idea how much her strength can get me through the worst of days. She is absolutely one of the strongest women I have ever came across. And although the guilt is still here everyday, like a knife in my throat, I just aim that one day I will have the peace that she has. She makes me believe that there are good people in this world. My Uncle, my family was lucky enough to be blessed with one.