Emily (not her real name) and I were the youngest of eleven cousins on my mother’s side and because of that I always felt a special bond with her. So it was a real shock when I happened to see her obituary on the internet two days ago. She had died four months ago, but due to some breakdown in communication I had not heard about it and did not have a chance to attend her funeral.
We had only seen each other occasionally throughout our lives, but some of my memories of her are very vivid. The first is of a time when we were about ten and our families were at a mountain resort in Virginia or West Virginia. After dinner the two of us were together outside and we both had wooden whistles from the gift shop, but hers did not work. She said, “It’s still nifty.” Only Emily would say something like that. She did not just see the bright side of things. She was the bright side of things.
My next memory is of the wedding of one of her sisters. Emily looked beautiful in her fancy white dress. I danced with her. A few years later, while we were both in high school, her family visited mine at our house. In the evening I could hardly keep my eyes off her. She looked so cute that I had to keep reminding myself emphatically that she was my cousin. A couple of years later, I visited her family on my way home from Virginia, where I had gone for my girlfriend’s senior prom. I told her that I had decided not to enter the priesthood, as I had been planning. She and her boyfriend drove me to the airport, and I can clearly visualize her, him, and his red sports car.
Emily’s own religious aspirations did not wane when mine did. Although I did not see her again for close to ten years, I heard about her joining an order of medical missionary nuns, about her leaving it, and about her marrying a former priest. The next time I did see her was for the wedding of another former priest, her brother, to another former nun. I too had married, but that marriage did not last. and the next time I heard from Emily she was calling to apologize that she could not attend my wedding to my current wife, because she was about to have a baby. I have fond memories of her and her husband and children three years later, at my parents’ fiftieth anniversary. We saw each other at some large family meetings and had good conversation. Then it happened only at funerals. The last time was for one of her sisters. I will always treasure the rather nostalgic conversation we had then. And now she is gone too.
I know I call myself Transcender Lee, but how am I supposed to transcend this? I mean, really, just how the hell am I supposed to transcend this?
Actually, I think I know how. I think I will transcend it by not believing it. Oh, I know Emily is dead, and no, I do not expect her to come back to life. But what I do believe is that life never really ends in the first place. I think life is some sort of energy that, like all energy, can never be destroyed. I believe that there was a link between Emily and myself that still exists and always will.
So goodbye, Emily, but not really.