11 years ago today my cousin, Joy, was murdered by her on-again-off-again fiancée (story detailed here.) Today, 11 years older and 1 husband and 3 kids richer, I am the same age she was when she was killed.
Fresh out of college, just beginning my career, not yet engaged to my now-husband, I was a very different person then. I was naive, shy, selfish, guarded, self-conscious, anxious, hopeful, lost. I looked at my three close-in-age older cousins as being notably more adult than I was. They were always bigger, more mature, more worldly than I. 34 seemed so far away.
Because of the decade+ age gap — and my own immaturity — between us, it was hard for me to comprehend just how much life my 34-year-old cousin had before her, just how much she would miss, just how young she really was. When I initially mourned her death, I felt the pain of her loss. I knew the act that took her was nonsensical, brutal, and callous. I knew she had been robbed from us — from the hoards of friends, colleagues, neighbors, acquaintances, and family who loved her — but my 23-year-old self didn’t yet compute all that had been robbed from her.
At 34, I have three young children — aged 5, 4, and nearly 2 — who need me deeply every day. I have a loving husband and dear friends. I have close family and cherished dreams. I have hopes for the future decades ahead. I have much left to live.
Knowing how much my cousin loved life, treasured friends, adored family, and aspired to accomplish, I know that she had an array of hopes for her future. She had expended great effort and love to help her fiancée’s young daughter settle into a stable life with the possibility of a positive future. To see her flourish and rise was Joy’s ultimate goal; she wished great things for the young girl. She wished great things for herself, as well. Decades of dreams were shattered by a single bullet.
Today, I feel a coldness within me, the shadowy chill of overdue realization. I am able to empathize with my murdered cousin better than I ever could before. My eyes have finally opened to her loss, not my own.
If I were to have all of my future dashed today, all of my loved ones ripped from my grasp, all of my hopes obliterated, the personal loss would be tragic. I would miss so much!
Today I mourn not my loss or the world’s, but Joy’s. I mourn her dreamed daughter, Maeve, who will never be. I mourn the experiences, the achievements, the trips, the love, the laughs, the tears, the sunny days and stormy nights, the future friends, and all that could’ve been but will never be.
The world is not the same without her. Her loss is still acutely felt 11 years later. The nature of her death haunts the recesses of my mind. But her laugh still rings true in my heart. Tales of her foibles still echo amidst guffaws at family gatherings, her name is spoken often with a broad smile and glittering eyes, her memory is still strong… alive. Her earthly presence may be 11 years gone but her spirit lives on, in this world without Joy.