As the year rolls rapidly towards its close, a life has ended. My cousin Peter who was only 37 years old passed away from a heart attack on Sunday.
I have mentioned before that I have lots of cousins. When I last counted there were 32 first cousins. Now there are 31. I had not spoken to Peter in years and years. All my memories of Peter are based in childhood. As one of the eldest in the clump of children on my father's side of the family, we bigger girls were called upon to take care of the youngest in the crowd. Younger siblings and younger cousins were a responsibility that we older kids were aways very keen to dump. As he was a number of years younger than me, I never really paid much attention to that quiet, blond boy with lovely blue eyes. Children can be so self-centred. I wish I could turn back time and be a bit more gracious to my younger cousins and not make them feel like a burden.
I would get second hand information from my dad about how the cousins are doing and Peter seldom popped up in that conversation. Occasionally he would tell me that Peter had received his PhD in some molecular science and I'd be impressed. Then dad told me that Peter was working in Rochester, Minnesota at the Mayo Clinics doing research. So, in my head Peter extremely bright and was doing well. Now I learn that in reality life was hard for Peter.
I didn't know about any of the struggles that Peter and consequently his family went through. I learned a bit about them through speaking to family yesterday. If I had known, I don't know if I would have been able to do anything practical. From over here, I would have only been able to make sympathetic noises and offer words of encouragement or comfort. Sometimes just being able to listen is a help and I wished that I had called more often.
What Peter's death has done for me is galvanize the resolve to speak to my aunts, uncles and cousins much more often. It is such a crime to let so much time slip away and only speak to family members when tragedy strikes. We have a really excellent long distance provider that allows very inexpensive calls to the United States.
Now Peter is gone and I feel bad that my cousin's life has slipped away. If he suffered in the last years of his life then I am pleased that his struggles are now over. Rest easy Peter.