Manyof you know that my cousin Bob has been missing and presumed dead in a helicopter crash for over a week now. Today we received confirmation of his death when his body was found in the lake about two miles from where the copter was last seen. No sign yet of the helicopter itself, but our relief at the discovery of the body is tremendous.
My father in law called this evening and I told him about finding Bob. His immediate reaction was one of sadness and sympathy. I may have shocked him a bit because my reaction is one of pure relief and yes, even some happiness. Unless you've had a close relative missing for an extended period, I don't think you can understand. It's the not knowing that drives you bonkers. You may realize in your heart that he's gone but unless you have a body, you just don't know. There's something about the material presence of the empty shell that gives a certain comfort--and dare I say it?--closure. It doesn't really matter how it happened at this point, but now we can go forward and grieve. Before we were hanging, unsure, always on edge.
A friend questioned me on the word "closure". She doesn't think it's an apt description and maybe it's not. But for lack of a better term, it does fit. When you don't know where your loved one is, your imagination continually plays scenarios. You imagine awful things (yes, there are things worse than death). When you know, really truly know, where your loved one is, there is some sense of closure. The life itself may be over, but you have a place you can go to grieve, and a sense that it really is only a body, and your loved one is now hopefully far beyond such trivialities we all face on a daily basis. It's hell, not knowing. Really, truly hell.
My cousin was almost exactly a year younger than me; his older brother is almost exactly one year older. The three of us often celebrated our birthdays together growing up (the November babies!) and while we had our disagreements (most notably his strong dislike of Obama), we stayed in touch via email and IM. From the annoying cousin I remembered as a teen, Bob and I developed a relatively close relationship in the past few years as we chatted frequently online. Sometimes he sent me truly idiotic emails and sometimes he'd surprise me with the depth of his feelings. I looked forward to his personal emails on every holiday wishing us all well, telling us to be safe, reminding us that he loved us. And whenever he IM'd me, I was "hey, cuzzo". I'm so sad I won't see that salutation on my screen from my favorite redneck cousin, sillyhillbillybob. Should I delete that email address? Or do I need to keep it so I can smile at the thought of my cuzzo who loved his very different cousin?
I'm sad but I'm relieved, and I hope his parents can receive some closure to these desperate hours. I hope his older brother, who walked the shores of the lake daily while Bob was missing, can fondly remember his goofy younger brother's laugh instead of the fear of the unknown he felt. I hope my brother who felt like Bob was a brother he didn't have can repeat the dumb jokes Bob told and remember with a smile how anal Bob was. I hope those who had issues with Bob can put those aside and realize that that redneck harbored a heart of gold which loved all of his family. I hope he's surrounded now by all his dear animal friends. And I hope I will get to see him again someday.