When Everything Takes A Back Seat

Thursday, August 30, 2012

In this personal post, Andria pays tribute to her cousin.

I’m writing this post on July 23 although I’m not sure exactly when it will be posted. This is a personal post about a family tragedy that is presently occurring for me and has caused much of what was going on in my life last week to take a backseat.

My 38-year-old cousin committed suicide the other night and I still am in a state of disbelief about it. Michael has been the loving (and annoying) “thorn in my side” since I was a kid and although we were never overly close we were connected. We shared the “cousin” bond, the bond of understanding our families and the bond of unconditional love and support. Michael was the youngest child on this side of our family and, from my perspective, did many things throughout his life to seek attention from his family members. He’d been struggling to find himself in recent years and I noticed a downward trend since he lost his father to cancer three years ago. Although I could have felt sorry for him, I didn’t. That may sound harsh but I didn’t feel sorry for him because I knew he was smart enough to get himself together; if he could just focus on what he wanted instead of wallowing in the many “wrongdoings” that seemed to surround his life. Both my sister and I and Michael’s sister weren’t easy on him; we wanted him to toughen up and get it together. We knew he could do it if he wanted. Yes, he struggled in many areas of his life but he was witty, fun, and smart. If he only could have focused on those wonderful qualities he had.

Michael was a huge NY sports fan and would constantly give me a hard time about my love for my Philly sports teams. During football season, he would text me regularly as we battled out our rivalry between the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles. Outside of football season, he would text on and off, just to check in, and to poke at me but his texts lessened these past several months. I didn’t think twice about it and perhaps I should have. My sister was the one who broke the news to me last Friday, as I was driving home from an appointment in DC. I will never forget where I was on the capital beltway when she told me, “Michael committed suicide last night”. It didn’t quite register. My response was “What…? Is he dead?” (Because it didn’t make sense that he would be gone, despite the fact that she clearly said, “he committed suicide”). Yes, he was dead. . I was instantly flooded with emotional thoughts… I thought of his sister, and his mom, my dear aunt, who had only recently started to emerge from mourning the loss of her husband a few years ago. I was also immediately angry with Michael – there he goes again, looking for attention… and then I felt incredibly guilty. Why didn’t I check in with him more? Why didn’t I reach out to him? What kind of pain must he have been in to do this….? Obviously pain much deeper than anyone will ever understand, so much pain that he planned his death meticulously. He planned the details unlike anything he ever planned in his entire life and knowing that speaks volumes about the pain he must have felt.

Not an hour goes by that I do not think of him and wonder…how long did he know he was going to do this? What was he thinking the morning, noon, and night of that day? Why did he plan it so tragically? And, why oh why did he not just reach out to someone? He was 38 and had more than half his life left to live. How could he have thought that things weren’t going to get any better when there was so much life ahead of him? And why, why, why didn’t he just reach out? These are questions that will remain unanswered and what has happened over the past few days is that everything else in my life seems to have taken a back seat. He, his sister, and his mother are on my mind constantly. Last week’s annoyances do not register anymore. The big contract my company bid on and is waiting to hear about is suddenly not so critical. Yes, it’s important but, in comparison, it, and everything else has taken a back seat and that is okay. It has to be okay because it is the only way it can be right now and is the only way I can process what has happened. I realize that I have to allow last week’s important things to take a back seat so I have time to sort through this situation, one of life’s sudden curve balls.

What else has happened for me the past few days is an awareness about the fact that I knew so little about what Michael was experiencing. I thought I knew what was going on; I thought he was going through another “rough patch”, that he could and would find his way out of it. I will never again assume I know what is going on with someone or that I understand what his or her life is like because I now know it isn’t possible. Unless you are living their life, as them, you cannot understand what they feel or what they want. This has been a huge takeaway for me: Never assume you know what someone else is experiencing because as much as you think you do, you don’t.

Michael, you little nudge, I will miss your quick wit, sarcasm, and unconditional love. And, I will miss giving you crap when the Eagles win the Super Bowl one day. The Corso-Canapari cousins are one less today but are so much more than we ever would have been because of you. Rest in peace, my sweet cousin. I will miss you always.

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