Letter to my cousin on his birthday

So, D, today would have been your birthday. I think your mum and dad would have liked to celebrate it somehow, but seeing as it’s also your brother’s birthday this week, it was kind of awkward.

Does a dead guy even have a birthday? I hadn’t really thought about that before. M thinks it would be weird, but then he doesn’t rate birthdays much anyway, even his own. But I do, both see the point in birthdays and in keeping yours somehow, at least in the first year or two, while your parents are getting used to you being gone.

Did you see everyone at your funeral? The place was full. Your mum wanted it to be a celebration of you, but it was hard to impossible to make it a joyous occasion, on account of the whole you being dead thing. My brothers cried, dude. Even that daggy friend of your brother’s, weeping, when he’d only met you twice, because you were such a nice guy and he couldn’t believe someone so kind could have wanted so badly to leave. There were a lot of people who said that, did you know? By the way, what did you think of how they did your make-up? I thought it was a bit overdone, and wondered about the eyesight of the old undertaker, but then I got to thinking, maybe he did know what he was about. I bet you didn’t think about that in your calculations; how grotesque you would look just being dead, despite your choice of exit, and at a young and beautiful age.

But you didn’t see any of that, because you weren’t there, not at all. That coffin was a lead weight, but it was empty of you. Hopefully for your sake you’re off frolicking among the stars finding your bliss and the answers to all your questions, but we aren’t, you git.

Was it even your decision to make? Before, I would have said a person’s life is their own, one way or another, but now – We will never be the same. Your decision changed all of the people who loved you. When you’d first gone, I caught myself waiting for something to happen to shift the pain, and I realised – there was nothing to happen. Yes, we have indeed picked up and gone on, as I’m sure you knew we would, but not as wholly as I think you assumed. Even your mum goes on about her daily life, puts on her smile with her lipstick in the morning, but she’s not ok. How could a mother whose child slips out of her hands ever be ok again.

I know they say time heals all wounds and all that, but only imperfectly, only in the sense of growing skin over the hurt and leaving the scar. You may have escaped your pain, but you left it behind with us.

I’ll say goodbye now, D. There’s not much else to say without completely spilling my guts and telling you things like how we still had foolish hope, right until we couldn’t any more, how the pain of hearing you’d done it was physical, how we had thought if you could make it up here, maybe we could save you. This will probably be the last letter I write to you, because it doesn’t seem like there’s much point in writing to dead people. I just wanted to say I miss you, and I wish you could have held on.


DCO 1/6/86 – 14/1/14 RIP




Talking Death

Axolotls & Oxymorons

This post talks about death and suicide. If this is a painful topic, please do not read on.


“Why” is the question most commonly associated with premature death, but it’s not the one that sticks in me.

Four months ago, my cousin killed himself. He was young enough to have a whole life ahead of him, and for him, that was not reassuring. I know why he did it; it wasn’t completely out of the blue. Except death always seems unexpected, probably even when you are expecting it. So while he was missing, even though in some ways we had to know it wasn’t something that was going to end well, there was still something like hope, until there wasn’t any more. And then there was shock, as if there had been the possibility of another outcome, poor fools. And also grief. And the sense of being too late…

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