Eight years ago today I woke up to my parents ringing the bell at my apartment on Carroll Street, my sophomore year in college, it was a Saturday. They had come to tell me that my cousin Ellen had been killed in a car accident the night before, where she lived about an hour outside of Madison.
She was 15, and was a passenger in a car with three schoolmates who were also killed.
She was a singer, she had an older sister by two years and a brother who is my age, five years older.
We called her Ellie and she was beautiful.
Some hours later, late morning I think, I was sitting with my roommates and some friends when we got a call from one of our best friends, who is still one of my closest. His voice was not steady when I answered, and he said, "It's Carlos. They don't think he's going to make it." Carlos was his younger brother, a freshman at our college, who had fallen from a balcony at a party late the night before, and was now in the ICU at the hospital.
They called Carlos "The Golden Child" and I think he set some sort of record for the amount of visitors in that room. Everyone who knew him loved him. He was his parents youngest child and Tommy's only sibling.
I came home from Ellen's funeral that Wednesday to find out that they had pronounced Carlos dead. His funeral was that following Saturday.
I think of Ellen and Carlos often. In fact, some weeks after Brendan died it was a moment of pure comfort when I realized how often I think of them... that means that they don't just disappear, which was my fear. I know it is a habit to accentuate the good of people who have passed on, but in these cases I don't think we did. I believe they all actually shined that bright.
I have no big insights to share with you even considering my new perspective on loss. Don't try to imagine it; it's worse than you can imagine and your imagining doesn't help you or anybody, so spend that energy maybe lighting a candle, saying a prayer if that's your thing, or just taking a deep peaceful breath and enjoying it.
And tell the ones you love that you do.