I found out yesterday that my younger cousin, Samantha, died from a heroin overdose. She was 22 years old. The funeral was last week.
It sure took my family long enough to tell me. Scratch that; they still didn’t. If my mother hadn’t found out and messaged me, I’d have gone even longer. I looked for any news stories about her death, and eventually concluded that the newspapers in my family’s area are all fucking useless. Stalking my uncle’s Facebook page led me to conclude that she probably died around January 23rd, based on when the sympathetic wall posts started.
I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised that I wasn’t told. Regular readers here might remember how I’ve mentioned that I haven’t spoken to most of my father’s family (aside from my father himself, who I’m still on good terms with) in a bit over five years now. Well, Sam was from that side. Granted, my father’s family sucked at telling me things even when I was still going to every damn family gathering. Back in high school, one of my aunts got pregnant, but later miscarried. I didn’t even find out she was pregnant until after she miscarried, and when I did get that news, the miscarriage part was neglected. It’s a damn good thing that on the next holiday I happened to say, “Oh, right, she’s pregnant, I should say congratulations, or something,” before my aunt showed up. It would have been an awkward Easter otherwise.
I don’t really know what to think about Sam’s passing. “Surreal” is the word that keeps coming to my mind to describe how it feels. Like just about everyone else in my father’s family, I haven’t seen her since the very beginning of 2010. The thing is: I never had any beef with Sam herself. There are a few people like her in my father’s family that I never came into any conflict with but have cut out also. They were sacrifices I knew I had to make when I decided to leave. If that sounds like a completely dickish thing to do… well maybe it is; I don’t know. I was desperate to be free of my family and to not drag my girlfriend (soon to be fiancé) into their bullshit.
Even before I left the family, I didn’t know Sam too well. She had lived in Alabama with her mother (who was just as nasty as some people in my family) for a bunch of the 2000s until the courts gave custody of her to my uncle. By the time she was back, she was a teenage girl with teenage girl interests that I wouldn’t have had a chance in hell of relating to, so we didn’t talk much other than the standard “hi, how’s it going” stuff at holidays. The thing is: we were buddies when she was younger. Ages 9 and 10 were a rather unique period in my life where my parents were actually together (for almost two whole years!), and we lived in the same rural region that most of my family never left. Sam’s father and mine were close growing up, so they hung out together all the time, and this means that I saw Samantha (who was a toddler then) way more than any of my other cousins. Back then, I was practically her older brother.
I hadn’t really thought much that portion of my childhood in a long time until yesterday. Remembering it, I do wish I could have found some way to have known Samantha better as an adult. It’s too late now, obviously, but I will fondly remember her, even if I can’t say that for most other people in my father’s family. I don’t hold the manner in which she died against her at all, nor do I think any less of her because of it. I’ve never personally felt the need to do drugs, but I’ve also never felt any sense of moral superiority over those that do. I know she was often unhappy and depressed in her later years, and if heroin is the only way she could find to get through it all, then I won’t judge.
One thing that I particularly remember from when we were kids is that she freaking loved popcorn, particularly watching it pop. That was the most amazing thing to her when she was 2. Well, I have a popper much like the one we used back then, and I’m going to have some goddamn memorial popcorn later. It might sound silly to you, but it feels right to me. Hopefully she didn’t end up not liking popcorn as an adult, and by honoring her in this way I’m only making her spin in her grave. (I know I would if people served cheese at my funeral.)
Either way, rest in peace, Sam. You don’t have to put up with any bullshit anymore.