The Cooks and Cahills, at Todd's wake, May 9, 2008.
From left to right: Phil (Kerri's husband), Nancy (Jeff's daughter), Mom, David (Jeff's son), Kerri, me, Gloria, A, Jeff, C, and J
My cousin Todd died on May 2, 2008. He was 48 years old. Todd had Down Syndrome. Todd was a fantastic person.
When we were young, we spent every Sunday at my dad's dad's house. I have lots of memories from Granddaddy's, and Todd is part of every one of them. Granddaddy would have a box of chocolates underneath the newspaper, on the coffee table in front of him. We'd go in, kiss him hello, and help ourselves to a piece of chocolate (Whitman's, Russell Stover, don't remember which). No one knew about this but us! (At Todd's wake last week I asked my cousins if they remembered, and they didn't know what I was talking about!) Every Sunday we'd go to church, change our clothes and drive up to Granddaddy's, where Todd would say, "Krysia, why can't you do a one-handed cartwheel? It's easy!" And he'd just do one! And eventually they were no-handed cartwheels ("Krysia? Why can't you do a no-handed cartwheel? It's easy!"). And he and my Aunt Cookie would squat down, and sit on their elbows. These are such vivid memories for me... And Evelyn's sarsaparilla soda - mmm, good!
At the funeral Jeff gave a speech about Todd. Then Kerri got up and spoke about her baby brother. Then Jeff asked if anyone else wanted to speak.
I honestly don't remember walking up to the casket: the next thing I know I'm standing there, with my hand on Todd's shoulder. I turned around and tried to speak. And I couldn't. I was crying so hard I couldn't talk. I knew Todd's death would affect me; he was my cousin, after all. But I hadn't seen him since 1992, and before that, it was 1975 or 1976, when they moved to Colorado. I really didn't expect to lose it like I did. I wanted everyone to know how much I would miss him. How even though he wasn't part of my daily life, even though he wasn't even a part of my week anymore, he was a part of my life. My cousin. Who I will miss so very much.
I am proud to have been his cousin. He accomplished so much, with the help of my aunt and my cousin. Jeff really stepped up and took the place of my Aunt Cookie once she wasn't really able to be Todd's #1 advocate any more. Todd had a full and complete life, thanks to the two of them. And I will miss him forever.
Here are few stories, though, light-hearted ones, intended to make the tears subside...
1) When my aunt died 10 years ago, we had the funeral, then proceeded to the cemetery. They had dug her hole on the wrong plot!!! Jeff made them come back, dig the right hole, then we buried her!
2) When we went to the cemetery to bury Todd, he was supposed to be interred head to head with my aunt. They assured Jeff they'd do it the right way. When we got there, they almost dropped Todd putting his casket on the supports. Thankfully, the hole was in the right place! But then Jeff asked about Todd; was his head actually at this end of the hole? No. So we had to have him turned around. Boy, would my aunt have haunted Jeff!!!
3) Two weeks ago, Todd's trainer heard him get up in the middle of the night. She let him alone, assuming he would go to the bathroom and go back to bed, or get a drink and go back to bed... He didn't. She heard some strange noises from downstairs so she went down to find out what Todd was doing. He had a suitcase on the floor, open, and he was packing. "What are you doing, Todd?" she asked. "Mom came and told me she's coming for me in two weeks, I'm going to go on vacation with her, " he responded. There's not one person on the Cook or Cahill side that doubts that story!!! If anyone could come back and visit Todd, it was Aunt Cookie!!! (Well, no one at the repast doubts it!)