Tuesday, August 17, 2010
My cousin Cathy should be turning 50 Wednesday, but she won’t.
I should be calling to tease her about being so old, but I can’t.
Our dear Cathy is gone.
Cathy died Jan. 21. It was out-of-the blue, completely unexpected. We were totally unprepared. But who is ever prepared to lose someone you love? Someone who was busy at a work event one evening and found dead in her hotel room the next morning? How does anyone know what’s lurking inside them and what’s coming next?
Cathy was a rock to her family. She was our Boykin family planner. The cousin who remembered birthdays and sent cards. Her Christmas card was always one of the prettiest ones I displayed. She was still sending them years after I stopped the practice.
She was the cousin who bought special gifts. She gave my granddaughter, Sora, a dainty layette set when she was born. Sora wore it to my daddy’s funeral.
Cathy was so devoted to her family; I learned a lot from her. Once, she told me she’d been criticized for being too involved with her parents, who had numerous doctor visits and hospital stays. But she ignored the criticisms and stayed by their side whenever they needed her, keeping a close eye on the medical staff caring for them. She was a hawk and loved her parents with a intensity and a sense of devotion that few children have. She also knew how much we all cared about what was going when her parents were sick, and she’d send us wonderful e-mails to keep us in touch.
Her mother, my Aunt Nellie Rose, died about two years ago. It was so hard on Cathy, who had no children of her own, but was a tender and loving caregiver to her mom and dad. We talked about it a lot.
My own parents were very ill at the time, and she helped me cope. She’d call or e-mail to check on me and to ask about Aunt Helen and Uncle H. Her phone calls always began with, “This is your cousin Cathy!”
Cathy headed straight to Wilson when she heard Daddy had died, just a few months after her mama’s passing. She guided me through the process and made sure Susan and I were safely tucked in the kitchen and out of sight when the funeral home came to pick up my daddy. She didn’t want us to see him leaving the house for the last time.
A few days later, at the funeral, Cathy arrived at the church with N.C. State tissues, a thoughtful tribute to Daddy, who loved the Wolfpack.
After Daddy died, she shared her own troubles dealing with her mother’s loss and helped me realize what I was experiencing was normal.
Not only was Cathy devoted to her husband and immediate family of parents, sisters, nieces and a nephew, she also helped take care of our aging Aunt Alice, who now lives in an assisted care facility in Wilson. She and our cousin Nancy would often meet to take Aunt Alice shopping for clothes or to K&W Cafeteria for lunch. They also had a standing date twice a year to change out Aunt Alice’s clothes to prepare for the next season. It was all about responsibility and dedication for Cathy.
I try to dwell on our younger, carefree years when I think of Cathy and the fun times we had as adults.
I remember all the Boykin cousins playing at our grandparents’ home in Rock Ridge. I grin when I think how Cathy and I got a strange pleasure in leaving our younger siblings, Betsy and Susan, out of our playtimes. I know, it was mean, but we were kids.
I remember the Fridays Daddy dropped me off at the Lassiter household to play with Debbie, Cathy and Betsy all day while he worked in the office in Raleigh. It was such a treat to play with those girls.
And I fondly recall the dinners I shared with Cathy and Nancy at Beefmastor. Cathy insisted on paying every time we went out. She said we had expenses she didn’t have and to please let her treat us. She wouldn’t even let us pay the tip.
Cathy was special to all of our family, and the band of cousins will never be the same without her. But we’ll remember her as the cousin who loved N.C. State sports, who married sweet Bob Voron in a beautiful rose garden ceremony, who loved her family, who flew to cool destinations with her job, who helped me book my first airline flight in 25 years, who helped her grieving daddy, our Uncle Jimmy, deal with the loss of his beloved wife.
We’ll remember Cathy loved her dog Moocher, and she loved us. She was as good a cousin as any girl could ask for.
The last time I had communication with Cathy was just a few days before she died. Mama had fallen and fractured her pelvis and was moved to the palliative care unit at Wilson Medical Center. When Cathy returned from her business trip, she wanted to come see Aunt Alice and Aunt Helen.
I often read that email, dated Jan. 18, when I think of Cathy. Her compassion is summed up in this one correspondence:
How horrible for your Mom. I can't stand this — just when you think she might be turning the corner for the better, more catastrophe. How are you holding up — I know you are exhausted. Please let me know how you all are doing, and if I can help in anyway. I was planning to visit Aunt Alice on Saturday, so I could sit with your Mom if you need me.”
You don't know how much I wish she could have made that visit