It's been a rough week with the passing of my cousin Debby. Her death was not a surprise, she was fighting ovarian cancer for the last couple of years, but when it happened, it happened really fast - she went to the hospital with pain last Saturday, and died by Sunday morning.
I didn't speak to Debby often, but knowing that she was a faithful reader of this blog made me feel closer to her. I often thought of her as I wrote, hearing her laugh when I knew something I was writing would strike her. On occasion she would send me an email commenting on something I wrote, but she only publicly commented once, when I wrote about her and her husband Guy after he died.
In fact, as I re-read what I wrote about Guy, I realize I was just about to write the exact same thing now. So instead of retelling her great love story, I will tell you what her death has taught me:
1. If you don't have a will, make one now. Some people think that if they don't have children they don't need a will. That is when you especially need one. Otherwise, all the stuff and money and things you have saved will go directly into the garbage. If you love animals, leave your stuff to an animal shelter, etc. When you choose your lawyer to hold your will, find one who uses a computer and email. Here is a photo of Debby's lawyer's secretary, and that typewriter was not decoration, though I admit that the memories from the soft clacking of an IBM Selectric were pretty pleasant.
2. Please throw away your shit. That blouse you haven't worn in fifteen years, toss it. Four hundred towels in a closet? Donate them. Now please.
3. If you are wondering where to live in retirement, before you die, consider Maine. There are no inheritance taxes, it is very pretty, really nice houses are cheap beyond belief, nobody locks their doors, and the neighbors are incredible - the kind you only find in small towns. Debby's neighbors were her saviors after Guy died. New friends and old, they loved her even when they knew her for a short time. They brought her groceries and laughter. And, they were there after she died to help clean out her house, donate her loads of stuff to local organizations, return the cable box, take out the garbage, and brought us cookies.
4. Other people's memories are their memories, not mine. Throwing away beautiful 70 year old photographs of people I never knew and who weren't related to me was very difficult.
5. If you have stopped talking to someone and think there is time to make amends, beware, there may not be time. Someone you haven't spoken to in five years may have, in that time, become sick and die before you had a chance to get over yourself and pick up the phone.
6. Love can come at any time even when you think it won't. And if you are lucky like Debby, you will marry into a family that is as wonderful as Guy's and have a whole other life you never imagined. She was so lucky and fortunate to know it.