Show up or miss out

Ryan, Amber, familyTwo weeks ago today, I walked into work determined to make it a better week than the previous one. It was “do over week.” That evening, as I was on a run after work, I got a phone call that stopped me in my tracks, and I knew do over week was over and the days that followed would be very different than I imagined.

Two weeks ago today, we lost a family member all too soon. My cousin Ryan and his wife Amber were in a car on the highway in Texas on one of his business trips, when a freak accident happened and took Amber’s life. She was 31 years old. As my mom relayed the news to me over the phone three thousand miles away, I knew that both of us wanted nothing more than to hop on a plane that second and head to Louisiana to be with our family.

Then and there, all I could do was head back to the office, get my bags, and head home. I knew then and there that if Mom couldn’t make the trip, that I would represent and go to our family. Family comes first. Work, friends, anything else…it was all a blur for the next three days until I was on an airplane back home.

I have a huge extended family. Ryan is one of my twenty-two cousins, and his father, my uncle Timmy, is one of my favorite people in the whole world. Although I had only met Amber a couple of times, and unfortunately was unable to make her and Ryan’s wedding several years ago, as a Roussel, I knew that just being there to hug my family and show my support was enough. In our family, no matter how big we get, no matter what is going on, we step up, and we show up. Mom ended up not going, because just a few days later she was headed to Houston to be with my aunt, who is being treated for cancer at a hospital there. She was showing up there, I was showing up for the rest of the family. That’s what we do.

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Another goodbye to another brother

Such a sweet boy

This post was supposed to be about my trip to Costa Rica. That changed when I talked to my mom yesterday morning and I learned that Harrison, my ailing 13-year-old dog, had been put to sleep while I was away.

For months I had been dreading the news. Maybe I had been dreading it ever since I received the phone call about Casey a year and a half ago, also on a Sunday, also when I wasn’t expecting it. Maybe I had a feeling as I got on the plane to Costa Rica that I would come back and hear that my little boy, not so much a boy anymore, had lived all he could live. Maybe I knew that by booking my trip only hours before I would have instead booked a flight to San Diego, that it was fate that I wouldn’t be there to say goodbye to my brother in his last days. Maybe it was best that the internet was spotty, and that I last talked to my mom via email the night before she and my dad took Harrison to the vet.

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Me & My Shadow

Always finding the crook

One year ago today, my sweet little Casey had to be put down because lung cancer had suddenly filled his chest, robbing him of breath and comfort. One year ago (and it was on a Sunday), I was milling around the arts booths at Adam’s Morgan Day with some friends, enjoying the weather, the sights, the sounds, the happiness — when life changed, and instead of being happy, I was devastated.

Yesterday was Adam’s Morgan Day. Every mention of the festival, every time I hear the words, I cringe inside. I think of that moment, that exact moment my mom’s voice on the other end of the line told me Casey was gone. Every time I hang out in Adam’s Morgan, which is not that often given I live and work near it, I get a funny feeling. I immediately remember that day, I remember the pain ripping through me, the world spinning away, numbly being put into a cab and sent home alone, to cradle my stuffed corgi instead of the real one who was like a brother.

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Through the bad…the good shines through

A week ago at this time I was sobbing on my bed, curled into a ball, hugging my stuffed Casey, after hearing from my mom that the real Casey, my corgi, was gone forever. This afternoon, football is on the TV and my boyfriend is laying on the bed while I type, his presence alone an immense comfort this past weekend.

The first couple of days of this past week were rough. But little by little, day by day, it became easier to continue on with life, as it always does. I went to a farewell happy hour for a colleague, and laughed and enjoyed bar food and beer. I talked to my dad night after night on the phone, reliving memories of Casey, sharing pictures we had collected over the years. I talked to my mom, assuring her that her trip to Miraval was the right thing to have done, that it will help her in the end, no matter how hard it was to leave my dad and Harrison at home again so soon. Friends and family had many words of kindness for me, as well as people I don’t know so well, and people I hadn’t seen in years. I went to another colleague’s farewell dinner, and laughed and bonded and ate some more, enjoying every moment of being with my team, loving what we do while at our desks during the day and knowing that any of us would do anything for the each other. And then on Friday, my boyfriend arrived for the weekend, the last bit of comfort I needed to make me realize that even with this loss, there is still life to live.

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Thanks for the memories

Older pictures 004On Sunday, I wrote about the passing of my dog, Casey, in the immediate aftermath of it. My emotions were raw, my denial firm, my tears spilling onto the keyboard as I tried to cram every possible memory of him into a post to show how I felt about this immense loss.

It’s two days later, and I’m still sad, still crying at times. Still choking up when someone, as so many people have, say kind words about him. “I’m sorry for your loss,” they say. “It must be tough,” they say. “At least he’s no longer in pain,” some say. “You gave him a happy life,” they all say.

I can’t believe it, is what my parents and I say. He can’t really be gone, we say. Where did we go wrong? we ask ourselves. Why so early, why Casey? we ask God, the vet, each other, anyone. You don’t get it, we think to ourselves. You didn’t know Casey. You didn’t see his big beautiful eyes pour into your soul, understand you, need you, love you with every ounce of his cuddly, little being. You didn’t hear his “Arf! Arf!” as you opened the garage door, or hear his click clack of nails on the floor as he came running to dinner, or looking for you as you played hide and seek.

Many people have read my first post. And yesterday and today, and tonight talking with my Dad, I remember so many more memories of Casey. I remember even more nicknames (is that possible?) that we had for him. I come across more pictures and love that he was most content lying on his back or cuddling with us in a chair or napping on the couch.

I remembered today that we also called him JB – Jealous Boy – because whenever Harrison was being touched, or given attention, Casey needed it, too. Oh, Harrison was the same way – you couldn’t play with Casey without Harrison coming over and barking or whining or rolling on the floor to get attention, but Casey had this special way – you couldn’t ignore it. He would nuzzle right up to you under your hand, so you HAD to pet him. And you couldn’t just pet him once and be done with it. You had to keep petting him, petting him, until he was satisfied. Sometimes it took awhile. If Harrison jumped on your lap, Casey had to jump on your lap. He was a JB, plain and simple. But we loved it.

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