Today is a day that I have been dreading for a while. May 29th is the first anniversary of the death of my cousin Chrissy. I’m so profoundly sad at such a tragic loss that I still struggle to find the right words to convey my grief. Last year I spent some time here writing about my anger and depression over Chrissy’s overdose and it really did help me deal with some of those emotions. So I thought writing about it again might help me deal with some of that sorrow. Because it is still more than I can handle sometimes.
While I am still deeply sad about Chrissy’s death, my anger is gone and has not returned. Chrissy was a victim, not a criminal. What happened to Chrissy is happening all over America right now, as cheap and powerful heroin invades our cities like the black plague. I am just sad that it managed to steal someone that I love. And while that sadness is no longer engulfing my life, it is still a constant presence. I’m not dwelling on her death in my mind anymore, but thoughts of her absence are still almost a daily occurrence.
The only way I’ve been able to cope with my sad thoughts is to combat them with happier memories. And luckily I have plenty of happy memories of Chrissy. My childhood and teenage years are full of happy memories of my loudmouth little cousin that I treated like a sister. So I thought I would dig out some old pictures and reminisce about my beautiful cousin that I loved so much.
Here is Chrissy playing dress up with her brother Jimmy in 1990.
Way too cool for you losers. I was always impressed with her ability to hide her insecurities. Everyone in my family seemed to struggle with a lack of confidence in our youth, but Chrissy usually masked hers well enough so no one knew it. Fake it till you make it. Never let them see you sweat.
Here she is with our Grandfather Harold in 1994.
As you can see here, Chrissy was always willing to do whatever if family was involved. She looks less than thrilled to be wearing that elephant trunk, but she knew it would make Harold happy so she agreed. She had a real love for her family and she wasn’t afraid to show it from a very young age. Our mutual family love is what really made us bond when we were kids. My blood is your blood, for better or for worse.
Here she is with my brother Paul at the Zoo in 1998.
Chrissy always had a way with kids, even from a young age. Children flocked to Chrissy her entire life. Her unassuming manor and her excitable nature made her a real magnet for kids. My little brothers were always thrilled when Chrissy was their babysitter. When I think of Paul and Charlie as little kids, I often picture them on Chrissy shoulders. She had an instinctual way with kids that I always admired.
Here’s Chrissy with our Grandma in 2002.
The love between these two was powerful. They could fight like cats and dogs, but they were fiercely loyal to each other. Chrissy loved to do funny impressions of my grandma, but she would not allow anyone to say a bad word about her grandma. The intensity of their love for each other was apparent to everyone that knew them, which made it extra difficult to lose both of them in such a short period of time. Their bond is something that I will never forget.
Finally here’s a picture from a family X-Mas party in 2008.
I didn’t really know Chrissy that well in her adult life. As I saw Chrissy less and less, I was determined to take lots of pictures every time the family got together. Having all my family in the same room was a rare delight and I treated it as such. I remember forcefully demanding that my sister come over and take a picture with our cousins, as you can see from the expression on Cathie’s face. Feeling that family connection between us was such an enjoyable sensation, and I’m grateful for the handful of times we shared over the past few years.
On a final positive note I can say that Chrissy’s death has really brought my family closer together. Losing a member of our clan made everyone realize the true importance of family. I’ve spent more time with my family and had more meaningful conversations with them in the past 12 months than I have in years. It was an important lesson that I wish I would have learned a few years earlier. Nothing can bring Chrissy back, but her memory will live on with me for the rest of my life. Rest in peace dear cousin.