I received a telephone call this past Thursday informing me my cousin passed away in his apartment. It’s unknown how long he laid prior to being discovered. An associate had not heard from him in several days, went to check and discovered Eddie Monday, October 16th.
Normally, such news would not impact me. However, I spent many summers raised by his family on their farm near Janesville, WI. There was no one in that period of time to which I had become closer. I remember many days jumping from barn loft beams onto piles of hay. We rode horses across wind swept fields of prairie grass watching grasshoppers, dragonflies and butterflies dart from our path. At night, we gather round the fire-pit to toast or burn marshmallows and gaze across the galaxy of stars never seen again.
The Eddie I knew, was a wonderful person. He was always interested others, became a lawyer and raised a family. Coming from a deeply religious and stern Catholic family, he was challenged by faith in life and love.
Yet Eddie was not without fault. For a long period of his life, he was a closeted gay. And I can only presume that torment finally caused a significant rift between family. He divorced, left the confines of the Midwest and moved to San Diego. Somewhere along his life, Eddie experienced some form of injury that rendered him in constant pain. He lost his job and became addicted opioids. One-day last week, he went to his closet to retrieve something. His heart stopped there, half-in, half-out. He died alone. His body half in, half out. Left for days until a concerned friend checked on him.
I never thought any family member would succumb to opioids. As Eddie drove helplessly into the abyss, I am not sure if his family knew. I didn’t. Then again, maybe some knew, but were unable or unwilling to help. In truth, I am unsure why Eddie’s death has such impact on me. Maybe there’s lessons we can learn – the lessons I missed.
- First, I hadn’t talked to Eddie in years and I knew neither of his life in San Diego nor struggles. And I should have.
- Secondly, shame can kill. Maybe Eddie’s death was cut from shame. As a family member, shame shouldn’t kill anyone, but it does. All LGBTQ members should be loved and accepted for the person they are … not the person we think they should be. We (you and I) should not stop being that caring father, husband, son, daughter, cousin or friend.
- Third, never live life halfway in nor halfway out. Try life in its purest form, believing love and living in peace.
Because of our fears and prejudices, many of us cannot seem to others with respect. I’m sure Eddie, may have, at times, felt no one would treat Eddie the same. Thus, we robbed Eddie of one crucial peace, how to help him live a very crucial part of life well—the end of it.
I was proud to know and be loved by him. Eddie, I will miss you. You are missed already. You will be missed forever. I will learn from your pain and live a better live.