My cousin Peter died 12 years ago today. I've been thinking of him today and of my aunt too.
I was 25 when Peter died. I was shocked by his death, that he could go so suddenly, so young. One minute I was laughing in the hallway at work on the way to my desk to answer the phone. The next minute my brain repeatedly failed to comprehend that Peter, my cousin, was dead. When my mom said there had been an accident and Peter was gone, I ran through every Peter I knew, not understanding why she would call me at work about my landlord, their friends' son, a second cousin I did not know well . . . and then it hit.
I remember the silence in their driveway when we arrived. Silence in spite of the knots of kids that filled it. Silence where it was never quiet. It was a July, very much unlike this July. The heat and humidity were oppressive, the air heavy. To this day, I can't stand the smell of lilies, the thick smell that filled their house where they waked the body. I remember being with my cousins, but I don't remember much of my aunt at that early stage.
I remember though, years later, hearing her laugh, a real laugh that replaced the sometimes brittle sometimes overanimated laugh she had had since Peter died. I don't remember how long that was and it doesn't really matter. But that laugh stands out to me.
When Henry almost died in October 2007, when I really wasn't sure he was going to make it and my mom was calling our family and Brian's, I wanted my aunt to come to the hospital. Even as my mom was calling her to go be with my grandmother, I wanted her to come to me. At that moment, I wanted somebody there for me, somebody who would know.
I've been thinking about Peter's death from the perspective of a mother who has also lost a son, thinking of my aunt today on this day that will always bear a special weight. I'm thinking of her, holding her close in my heart.