Unforgettable… by JoAnn

Two children holding hands in a field of grass

I’m pretty sure if you talk to anyone, they would be able to tell you about someone in their life that they consider unforgettable. People come in and out of our lives frequently, but only a rare few will truly leave imprints on our hearts. Making them truly unforgettable.

About a month ago, while scrolling through Facebook, I found out, quite by chance, that a cousin of mine had passed away the first week of December 2018. I was shocked and saddened to say the least, but not surprised. It was my cousin Laura.

Laura was about 8 years younger than I. We had once been very close. We had many things in common and loved each other like sisters. But Laura had a terrible problem with addictions. I once described her as an addict who is addicted to being addicted. It seemed she would try anything, and I mean anything, if she thought it would get her high. The older she got, the worse she seemed to struggle. I actually didn’t know about these addictions until much later in our adult lives. We had lived at least 500 miles apart since we were young children. We wrote letters to one another regularly and saw each other whenever I would visit back home. Somehow, she was able to hide her intense struggles from me.

When all my daughters had grown up, and I was facing an empty nest, Laura had a solution. She asked me to move in with her. She too was divorced and lonely. So, I gladly took her up on the offer and moved back to my hometown. It was at that time that I realized the ugly truth. It was obvious the moment I laid eyes on Laura that she was an addict. And that she had been lying to me for some time about many things. I was frightened, angry, and sad all at the same time. I wanted to turn around and go back, but I had no home to go back to, and everything I owned was packed tight in my car. So, I decided to stay and see if there was some way I could help my cousin.

I tried to be a good example to Laura. Tried to show her kindness and love without judgement. Tried to give her a reason to want to do better. I was either really dumb or just naïve. I had NO idea how to help Laura. I just couldn’t accept the fact that there was nothing I could do. I tried for 5 months. Every day I awoke with a knot in my stomach and went to bed with that same knot. Many tears were shed on both our parts. It became painfully clear that I could no longer live with my cousin.
So, I repacked my car and headed back to where I had come from.

I was left with so many heart wrenching questions. What had happened to the little blue-eyed girl, the one with the white blonde hair? The precious little girl, so gentle in her voice, that I had adored all of her life? Or the sweet young woman I had once admired? Having so many wonderful talents. The woman, the addict, that I just left behind was not my Laura. She was a loud, abusive stranger. Someone I didn’t know, or want to know. I was heartbroken.

Leaving my cousin behind 7 years ago, and choosing not to attempt staying in touch, you can surely imagine how I felt when I learned of her death. So many mixed emotions. I could understand however that her family didn’t find it necessary to inform me of her death. I did reach out to a family member though, and it was confirmed that Laura’s addictions did play a role in taking her life. Unfortunately, she had never gotten clean. That broke my heart into pieces. What a waste of a precious life. What could have been? No one but God himself will ever know.

I continue to think about my cousin. Knowing that I do need to grieve for her. In prayer I felt God nudging me to think of her the way I knew her best. The way I loved her. The little blonde, blue-eyed girl that adored me, and I her. My Laura. That relationship was so very precious to both of us. I need to believe that little girl was still there, somewhere deep inside the addict I had to walk away from. It gives me comfort to believe this and to think that wherever Laura is now; she is at peace and feeling loved once again. My heart pleads for that. One thing is for sure, I will never forget her!