It is amazing how many things we take for granted. We make plans for the day, and don’t think twice about how those plans can be taken away in the blink of an eye. I never thought much about it myself, until I was faced with the shock, and undeniable truth of my cousin’s death. I don’t think anyone really thinks about tragedy until they are actually faced with shocking news.
My mom had been going to school in Greeley and staying at my Aunt Margaret’s house . She had been away for two weeks and wanted to come home for the Fourth of July weekend. My mom had suggested that I go back with her and visit colleges, shop, go to movies and just spend time together. I had been feeling pretty sorry for myself since she had been gone. I had been working a lot as a maid and helping my dad run the house, I was getting very irritated with my siblings as I felt that I was the only family member doing my part to help my dad. I was really excited to have a week with my mom to myself. The whole ride over we were talking about what I wanted to do that week. Making plans and having “me time” seemed very important at the time.
I woke up Tuesday morning excited for the day I was going to spend with my mom. I was sitting at the kitchen table drinking fresh coffee listening to my mom and aunt tease and joke around about how paranoid my mom was about doing well in her classes, my aunt was telling her that maybe now that I was there, she would relax a little bit and have some fun. Our plan was to go to one of mom’s classes with her, and then on a tour of UNC and then we were going to go to dinner and a movie.
We were interrupted by a phone call from my dad. My mom was still joking and in a silly mood when she started talking to my dad. Suddenly the conversation turned from joking to dead silence and my mom started crying. She tearfully asked, “Is she ok? Was she alone?” I was thinking my sister went riding and fell off her horse or that something had happened to my grandma. She kept on saying ” OH MY GOD, NO”. Aunt Margaret asked “What happened? What is going on?”. And then Mom told us; Elizabeth, my cousin was in a car accident last night and she didn’t survive. I felt as if I was paralyzed, I felt that if I moved it would be real. I just had this blank look on my face. I had no reaction at first and I wanted to deny it, all of it. I kept saying to myself, no it isn’t true, they made a mistake. To my complete horror I was wrong.
My mom kept saying “I’ve got to go see Dawn. I need to be with my sister” My mom ran down stairs to get ready to go, I followed her and just stood there, still paralyzed. She hugged me and said that she loved me. I had never seen my mom so panicked. She went into the bathroom to take a shower and I could still hear her sobbing through the door. I was all by myself, now. I was standing in the middle of the family room as the words “She’s dead” pierced my heart like daggers of ice. I was screaming OH, GOD NO, NOT HER and started to cry uncontrollably. The realization that I would never see Elizabeth again struck me.
I come from a big family with many loving aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. As I was standing there all alone I thought back to the time when I got to spend a week with Liz. Almost a year ago to the date, most of the family was together for my other cousin’s wedding. All the cousins sat at the same table and we had such a good time together. Liz was twelve years older than I and we had never really spent much time together, but we really connected last summer. She was a busy person, she had so many things that she wanted to accomplish. She was an interpreter for the deaf and worked at a middle school, she was studying to become a minister for the deaf at her church, she worked with abused and neglected children as a volunteer and she was helping her brother Matthew raise his kids. She didn’t let me know about these things by bragging or even complaining, she was just sharing her life with me. I spent the rest of the week being with her and she was like a big sister to me. She helped me through some tough times when I was having a lot of doubt about my faith. I was so honored that I had the chance of getting to know her and now, I would never get the chance to tell her how I felt and how much she helped me. My chance was gone and she is gone.
We drove to my cousin Jamie’s house and as we saw my aunt Dawn. The look on her face was very unbearable. My aunt was in a daze and still in denial. My mom held her older sister like she was her child. My aunt is deaf and her speech isn’t very clear but at that moment ,she screamed “MY BABY” as if she had no speech problem.
Jamie and my mom and aunt had to call everyone and tell them the tragic news. They could hardly speak without breaking down. Jamie, called Liz’s fiancee and got more of the traumatic details and then filled us in, although none of us wanted to know: “Liz had just gotten back from New Jersey on a ministers retreat. Her fiancee, Steve, went to pick her up from the airport in Houston, Texas. They were on their way back home to Austin, TX where she lived. She had said that she was really tired and wanted to sleep. She was sitting in the front seat and had her seat belt on. She never got in the car without putting on her seat belt and always made sure that everyone else did the same. She was traveling all day and was very tired. She was in the front and had the seat reclined. Somehow, Steve lost control of the car and Liz was thrown out of the car through the back window. She was killed instantly”
We were all trying to figure out what to do for the funeral. We realized that the funeral would have to be held in Texas where Liz had lived for the past eight years. My Aunt Dawn had said that she and Liz were having a conversation a couple of years ago about what they would want if something happened to one of them. Liz had said that she would want to be cremated. The best and worst part of the day was when they got the pictures of her throughout her life. One minute we were laughing at the food on her face when she was a baby and the next we were crying about how beautiful she was.
Jamie, liz’s brother, decided that it would be easier if the kids stayed behind in Colorado. As Jamie was stuffing his kid’s clothes in a suitcase, the kids wanted to know why they were going to Paonia. Jamie wanted to make the situation as normal as possible for them. It was decided that I had to go back to Paonia. Deep down I was mad about it and ashamed of my self for feeling that way. The ride home was very quiet. The little kids were asleep and Kyle and Kayla just stared into space. That evening, Aunt Dawn and Jamie flew to Texas to make further arrangements. Everyone in my family had jobs. My mom supported my aunt, My Uncle Jeff who lives in Texas made arrangements with the coroner and the church and My dad had the job of caring for four children as well as the three of us. My Aunt Natalie came from New York to be with my grandma and grandpa.
A few days later when we where getting ready for the memorial service I managed to keep my cool until I realized why I was seeing these familiar faces. I remembered back to the last time I was seeing my family was at the wedding. I was thinking that we should be at Liz’s wedding, not her funeral. Once the service started I managed to keep my emotions in tack until I saw Liz’s brothers, niece, nephew and her parents go up to the front of the church to speak about Liz. I couldn’t even look up at them because I thought about how I would feel in the same situation. When they played the song “The Rose”. I couldn’t control myself because it was her She wasn’t afraid of taking chances and living life to the fullest
My mom told me about the memorial service that was held in Texas and about all the people that wanted to talk about how Liz had touched their lives and how special she was.I had no idea that so many other people felt the same way I did. was a My mom said that her pastor gave a incredible sermon that touched her heart. He said that she found herself, then her God and then her destiny. She worked her whole life to become the awesome person that she was. She lived with intention every single day.
Your life can change drastically at any moment. Don’t take life or the people that you love for granted, you’re only here once. Loosing Liz this summer taught me that living every day intentionally and purposefully is what I intend to strive for. I am sorry that I had to loose her to realize that.