Tuesday, September 1, 2020

The very sad, very tense funeral for my dear cousin Marie

 My cousin Marie had passed from NON SMALL CELL LUNG CANCER.  She was my oldest female cousin, and I loved her dearly.

Yesterday, we were to celebrate her life with her funeral. Marie planned out her funeral, picked out her casket, and had arranged plans when she was diagnosed, about six years ago. At that time, she told me she would be lucky to get 2 years of life--well she crushed that goal!  Marie was a nurse (and worked oncology for a long time).  When I was sick with APL, Marie had talked to me on the phone and even sent in her best friend, Robin, to come check on me (Robin was also a nurse who worked in the same hospital I was being treated).  Marie was someone the family thought was a bit snobby at times, when really, she wasn't snobby at all.  She was caring, concerned, and she had goals and acted on her wishes and dreams.  That was something most of our family didn't have...goals that they thought they could work towards or dreams.  I was a bit like Marie in that I was also the oldest of my siblings, and if I want to do something, I go and do it.  Guess what-- it was a somber, sad, and tense funeral and I felt ridiculously uncomfortable.

Marie sought experimental treatment, and her cancer had spread to her brain. She was in home hospice for over a month, and I'm sure it played a huge toll on the family. So much so, the funeral was one of the worst, most tense funerals I have ever been to.  It definitely was the worst family funeral, by far.  The priest opened by saying we were there to celebrate Marie's life, but I don't think we did.  Robin spoke a bit about being Marie's best friend.  That was the best part, and it painted a celebratory picture.  However, the tension between her parents, siblings, and her fiance' (and his family) was so thick you needed a carving knife.  Everyone had masks, there was plenty of sanitizer around, and the chairs were spaced out far apart.  The funeral was private, and I didn't see as many tears as I had anticipated.  I cried so much, it was very hard to see her there, not looking like herself.  It was hard to accept she was gone.  It was hard to not feel suffocated by the mood of the room. 

Marie had non small cell lung cancer.  I don't know which type/subtype she had, but I know that the obituary requested donations to the LUNGevity Foundation.  If my family knew about it, it means it meant something to Marie.  There is a lot of information about lung cancer on this website:


Non small cell lung cancer (the broad group) has a 5 year survival rate of 24%.  To me, that is low.  Marie was NOT a smoker but came from a family of smokers.  She did not eat red meat, and that stated probably in her late 20s if I remember correctly.  Marie was 52 years old.  

The picture of Marie was picked by her fiance.  Its not a picture I would have chose.  I think of her very long, brown ringlets with her tiny wispy bangs.  She had a bright smile, love of fashion, and big eyes (I never saw her in glasses until she was older.)  My memories of Marie were of her taking care or babysitting us as children (she is about 8 years older than me).  I remember Marie moving into her first condo in Lincoln Park.  I was in high school and wanted her green crockpot.  I got one just like it that year for christmas from my parents.  I remember her getting thrown into our pool one summer fourth of July Party.  I remember riding in the car with her at my aunt's funeral procession.  I also remember drinking with her and her sister (my other cousin) Lou Lou at a bar walking distance from my first apartment.  Marie had a daughter she loved very much. Her daughter was named after our grandmother, and is in college, but refused to talk to anyone at the funeral.  I feel awful, because that young adult will either always hide or never face up to things.  At some point, I hope she realizes hospice was Marie's wish as hard as it is to accept. 

Here's my thoughts for today:  Life is too short- take those trips and do what you want- make goals for yourself and don't let anyone stop you.  Spend time with your family and loved ones and create memories. Its okay to have a plan.  Celebrate Life in Death.  (I can't believe I'm saying that being so scared to die).  Don't let money get between people.

I love you forever, Marie. Thank you for being in my life, and please look after your family from above. 

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