I struggled with whether or not I wanted to write about this publicly, I'm not sure the internet needs to be filled with more pointless tragedy. But I guess I decided I will because here I go.
Yesterday I knew something weird was going on in my family due to some weird posts on Facebook. Then this morning I got a voicemail from my aunt saying she had some 'sad news' about my cousin Jenny. Before I called her back I was pretty sure I knew what that news was. Jenny struggled with drugs her whole adult life as far as I know and health problems and probably, almost certainly, depression and finally it was too much and she took her own life. She was 5-6 years or so younger than me, in her mid to late 40's. I babysat her a lot when I was 12-13 but as adults we rarely saw each other. The last I remember seeing her was at my cousin's wedding maybe 6-7 years ago. She was supposed to get married herself that fall but no family member I've talked to can confirm if that actually happened. She was notably absent from any significant family functions that I came home for after that - my grandfather's memorial service, my other cousin's wedding, etc. Oddly enough I was just thinking about her the other day and asked my aunt if she knew anything and eerily the thought crossed my mind that she could have OD'd or taken her life and I wouldn't know it. So weird to not have any news about her at all even though I often asked various family members about her.
I can't find the bright side of this, really, other than that she's finally free of her pain and demons. Rather than speculate about that, I'll remember how she was funny and witty and sarcastic. And yes you could argue that she was hiding behind all that, obviously she was, but still, she was fun to be around, at least at family functions.
I don't have many photos of her. We grew up in a time where adults didn't take a photo every time their kid farted so the ones I have are group photos from various holidays, grainy and cropped to respect the privacy of other family members.
I have fond memories of Jenny's mom, my aunt, doing stuff with us, or rather letting me tag along on their excursions. I felt a bond with her mom, she filled a hole that needed filled, and I think she hoped that my conscientiousness would rub off on Jenny. It didn't. And I certainly didn't care if it did, Jenny was her own person and I felt uncomfortable being the one held up to her, 'why can't you be like your cousin' type thing. But as kids you can't tell adults what to do or say and when we were adults Jenny cracked some joke about this and I assured her that I didn't enjoy or encourage that role at all. And now I'm tempted to feel worse about it except I know that it was all nothing to do with me, I was who I was and Jenny was who she was and the adults could twist it around all they wanted.
One spring I came home from college for Passover which is one of those holidays where lots of wine is flowing freely, at least in my family. It was the night of some big finale for the t.v. show Dallas and my family broke all traditions and decorum and went downstairs to the family room to watch it. I didn't like the show and had no interest so I went up to my room to catch up on some letter writing. Jenny came up to my room to join me. She was drunk off her ass and didn't want the family to notice (she was 15 or so at the time and I was 19-20). She laughed a lot and we had a chat about things so insignificant that I can't remember what they were. At the end of the night her dad thanked me for 'bonding' with her because she'd been having problems. I didn't tell him she was mostly up there to hide out from them and avoid looking drunk.
I can't imagine how devastated her parents must be. They tried so hard for her. I've reached out to my aunt, haven't had any contact with her in 25 years or so, at least maybe that one small thing can come of this.