Thursday, December 20, 2018


“God made us cousins because He knew our mothers could not handle us as siblings.”

Cousins are the collaborators in the petty crimes of our youth. They are the brothers and sisters that siblingless children didn’t get, the Confessors to our untold sins, bridesmaids and groomsmen at weddings, and bearers of the pall at funerals.

Cousins are who you call as a last-minute “second” to an event for which you have no legitimate date. Instead of friends with benefits, they are friends with no-strings-attached, no judgement with which to reckon, and little remorse when things blow up, because you, as cousins, are their entertainment.

Rebecca was my cousin.
She, of raven hair and fair skin that browned and freckled in the summer, was three years older, and always two-steps ahead. She spoke fluent Spanish, lived in Mexico, and was seen only once a year at family Christmas gatherings (we were convinced she was a CIA operative working the drug cartels.) She was a teacher to many, a mentor to most, and was forever posting corniness on the internet—the usual tripe about puppies and kittens, John Wayne and Jesus—but those were all a true reflection of the genuineness in her heart. She loved animals. She adored John Wayne. She loved Jesus—and that was the source of her eternal lightness when all around her was dark.

Becky would greet me on Instant Messenger, early on Saturday mornings, as I prepared for an airshift. No sane civilians were ever up at that hour—but Becky was—posting clever platitudes and encouraging words to her newsfeed. Always a source of positivity—that was my cousin Becky.

Despite setbacks that would overwhelm any of us—the early passing of our Aunt Shirley, a foundered marriage, the untimely death of her brother, Bill, battles with cancer, the death of a beloved brother-in-law, Russell, and most recently, the passing of her father—Rebecca’s faith kept her going. Her compass always pointed true north. Her Faith gave her traction when everything else seemed to be slipping away. And when that car swerved out of the fog and into her lane on Wednesday morning, Becky faced a final test—and passed—into the arms of Jesus, and Shirley, and Bill, and William, and Russell, and other of our cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents who have already gone on before us.

To the students Ms. Harlow touched, remember: Her kindnesses to you all, regardless of what was going on in her life. Remember how she treated you all, regardless of skin color, language, or social status. All were beloved by her. Emulate her example with everyone else that you touch. Honor the memory of Ms. Harlow by serving others as she served and taught you. The world will be a better place for generations if you do this simple thing.

Marion Garretty once wrote, “A cousin is a little bit of childhood that can never be lost.” Perhaps so. But a portion of my childhood has passed from this playground to the next.
I shall miss her.