Someone I Never Got To Know

The last time I remember seeing you alive we were all at our grandmother’s house, almost ten years ago. It was summer, I know, because we sat outside on wooden plastic chairs with red plastic cushions and ate hamburgers and potato salad and corn on the cob. There were plastic cups — blue on the outside, white on the inside — filled with ice, next to cans of pop and pitchers of iced tea and lemonade.

I know these details because they were always the same details. The only thing that changed was that we got older.

You were standing in the kitchen with a paper plate. Going back for strawberry angel food cake or more frog-eye salad. I was almost done with college and you were in the middle of high school. We were both tired of not being able to make our own choices.

I don’t remember what we talked about. I don’t think it was anything. Couldn’t have been. We didn’t know each other at all. I remember I might have asked you if you were having fun. You might have rolled your eyes. But I do remember you saying, “It’s a family thing,” with a shrug. Then, “It’s always like this. Boring.”

You were my mother’s niece and almost everything I know about you I know secondhand. Most of it from your older brother, who would come out to our family farm for a few weeks every summer when we were boys, all the way from North Carolina.

The night of your funeral your brother and I drank a bottle of whiskey I brought from Korea made from deer antlers. It was awful. He told me I would have really liked you. “She loved to have fun,” he said. “She was always so full of life.”

Gone at 21. Can anyone understand how terrible that is? You waited your whole life to have your freedom. You knew that you wanted to be left to make your own choices when your time came. Then to have that taken from you.

Those days before and after your funeral were too sad to ask anyone what you were really like. I brought flowers to your mom. I said I was sorry. I knew that an endless string of apologizing flower-givers for the rest of her life would not fill the hole. I felt it in the hollowness of my consolation. I heard it in the morning when I woke up at your house and watched music videos with your little brother before he went to middle school. I felt it in your mom’s sobs we pretended we couldn’t hear. I knew that feeling would come at unexpected moments throughout your family’s life. The feeling of missing you would come to them out of the darkness and silence and loneliness. There was nothing to be done about it, which made it worse.

There was a service for you at the school, and hundreds of your friends came. They all knew you better than I did and that made me feel even worse. Kids of all social classes and race, boys and girls — they were all in tears. We watched a slide show and a lot of the pictures were of you with groups of other kids. You seemed to be part of a lot of other people’s lives.

Our family is strong but this messed us up. It led to more tragedy, more of us dying, and even though it was years ago, we still aren’t the same. We never will be. We couldn’t help you. Couldn’t save you. We were powerless and now you are gone forever.

I wish I knew you better. I wish I had seen you get older. I wish I could have watched you get that time you had waited so long for.

You were the kind of girl that other guys kill for. The kind of girl that an ex-boyfriend, faced with losing you to someone else, murdered a day after you turned 21. You must have been something. I’m sorry I never got to know you. TC mark

image – Grey74


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  • dcdenise

    “Gone at 21, can anyone imagine how terrible that is?” I really don’t think anyone can. Even family & friends. It is just too devastating for the human mind to process. I am so sorry that you and your fanily had to go through something terrible.

  • Cs

    My best friend and housemate of two years passed away at 21. It is devastating, especially when there was no illness…people would say “she’s at peace now” like she had struggled through a terrible illness, but she hadn’t. She was happy, vibrant and very much alive and had a wonderful life ahead of her. Nothing can make that any better. My heart goes out to everyone who knew your cousin,

  • guest

    you win some and you loose some!

    • Sasha

      Go to hell.

    • Angela

      That is a disgusting thing to say, do you have no compassion? Obviously not. You should be ashamed of yourself. Apparently you don’t know what it’s like to lose a loved one.

      • dcdenise

        Notice that the totally uncalled for comment is not only written by someone who is obviously an ass, but a chicken too by logging in as “Guest”

  • ardra

    This was beautiful, it genuinely made me cry because it felt so real. She sounds wonderful

  • ag

    the ending killed me. I don’t know your cousin yet my heart still aches. wonderful writing

  • Alex G.

    Damn. That ending hits harder than a sledge hammer. Well written piece. Sorry for your family’s loss.

  • Maureen B

    Very moving. Sadly we all have similar situations and often, regrets at realizing what we missed in not knowing a person better. I hope your family finds some peace. As for the person who left the rude comment, you will go through something awful like this some day and will remember your unkind remark.

  • Rob T Firefly

    Thank you for sharing this.

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