Monday, August 22, 2011

A Brief Letter to a Wonderful Soul

To my beautiful cousin:

I'm not exactly sure I know how to this write this. After all, I'm sure you understand that the one thing my life experience growing up never taught me to be ready for was the death of my so-called "healthy" peers, friends, loved ones, and family members. If I had been asked at ten years old what I would say to you after your passing at 29, I would have thought they had the roles reversed. I would have been ready for the question the other way around -- would have probably been somewhat blase about it all and even curious to hear your answer -- but I would never have guessed that it would ever come down to this. To me sitting here, writing this, and you somewhere out there, hopefully receiving it. Which is why I have to be honest here: this is not something I planned on, and it is not something I know how to do well.

I'm not sure how to say goodbye to someone I hadn't seen in so long, for example, but who I thought about literally more often than some of the people I talk to on a regular basis. It doesn't seem fair that after all that time apart we should have denied at least some form of a reunion here on earth, especially when I consider the fact that I talked about you to so many people. Seriously, dude, you should have heard how much I bragged about you to people you had never even met. You would have laughed at me, I know it. Would have smiled at the thought of me strutting around the manicured quads of my southern university, stopping to tell pretty much anyone who would listen about how my awesome cousin back in California gave his class graduation speech in sign language. Would have thought it was amusing how the simple fact of knowing (and being related to) you made me interested in learning more about the deaf community. Would hopefully have been touched by the fact that I felt connected to you, even across so many miles and so many memories. Would certainly have enjoyed the fact that I could never again watch "Seinfeld" without thinking of you.

I don't like having to let you go, dude. I don't like thinking of you as not here. I know how much you were loved and how much you did with your short life, and I just wish it could have longer. But I guess in this sense, at least, I am prepared. Because one thing I do know, cousin, is that life is sometimes way too short, and that being a great person, having a lot to offer, making a huge impression on everyone you meet -- none of that is insurance against unfairness. So I know better, by now at least, than to spend too much time wishing that you were still here, or that I could simply hop a plane to reconnect and erase the lifetime's worth of experiences between us. I know instead that I have to wish you well on the next part of your journey, whatever that entails, and that I have to send my love with even more strength and energy now to reach you. But I also know that it is worth it. I know that where you are is peaceful, and I know that you deserve every single little bit of that, and so much more.

For what it's worth, my friend, I don't think I could ever go long without thinking of the laughs and the lessons and the light you gave to me. Like the fact that there is so much out there beyond CF that we have to fight -- that there are so many other things that can take a life too young, and that there is no such thing as competitive suffering. We are all in this together, regardless of circumstances, and I will never, ever forget that.

Most importantly, though, I want to thank you for helping to show me that there are many types of beauty in this world, just as there are many different ways to express it. Thanks for showing me that sometimes obstacles in the traditional sense are no obstacles at all, but simply the things that make us special. And thanks for proving time and time again that true communication between two people goes way deeper than just the words we speak or the way we choose to hear them. If I could do one for thing for you it would be this: that I will promise to stick it out down here for as long as I possibly can, and that I will carry your message with me for anyone who will listen, however they happen to do so.

And if I have to be at least a small part of your continued life down here for just a little while, well, then you can be my ears up there. Because it might not be the way that anyone would have imagined this picture looking 29 years out, but I promise you this, dear cousin:

It will be beautiful.

With all my love and gratitude,


  1. Prayers, Piper. Rest Easy to your cuz.

  2. i hope this does not sound strange, but did you by any chance go to perry mansfield summer camp in the earlyish 90's?

  3. I am so sorry for your loss.
    I lost my sister unexpectedly the day after boxing day last year, as a pwcf it was a shock that my sister who didn't have cf should go before me, I guess the one thing I never prepared for when I thought about death and such was that I might be the one left behind.
    Thinking of you at this awful time,


  4. piper this it beautifully written. it spoke to me as my brother inlaw was 26 passed away 2 weeks ago after battling pancreatic cancer for 9 months. it is important to remember that none of us are guaranteed anything in life. sorry to hear about your cousin. may you be filled with peace in the days to come.