I was quite young when my first cousin died. Ronnie was quite a bit older. Today I learned my cousin Diane no longer suffers in the clutches of cancer. It is bittersweet. Bitter that she was young, not yet 60, a new grandmother, and such a person rich in character and quality. Sweet that the disease that haunted her for about 13 years haunts no more. Even more, for those of us with hope in the Resurrection of Jesus, we find it helpful to think there is yet life where all is set right, even the wrong of terminal illness.
The range of ages among we Littleton cousins is broad. After all, we are the offspring of a clan of eight children born to my grandparents – Thad and Alma. Dad is the youngest of the eight so the three of us – me, Paul, Trent – are among the youngest. In fact, I think
Trent is the youngest at 43 Randall is the youngest. (UPDATE: The always youngest brother chalked up my mistake to, well, my age.) There were, at one time, thirteen of us cousins. Ten boys. Three girls.
Diane met Dale at Oklahoma Baptist University. She graduated from OBU about the year I entered high school. Dale pastored for quite a few years in the Kansas City area and then in Springfield, MO. They moved back to Oklahoma a number of years ago. We saw them at those (in)famous Littleton Christmas gatherings. Our bond was our family even if we lived hours away. We can almost pick up where we left off the year before.
I don’t know how my cousins more near my age felt, but I always thought my older cousins were the cool kids. Pam, David, Diane, and Lyndel. It is not that my other cousins weren’t cool kids. It is just that I always thought of them as you would an older brother or sister, albeit from a distance. Maybe that was the ethos of our family, or it could be an oddity.
Now that I am at an age where I tend to be more reflective than when my first cousin died, I think of Diane’s death as the loss of one of my cool cousins. Always smiling. Interested to include everyone. Ever instigating an enjoyable time. Strong, Faithful. Determined. We could always use more human beings like Diane.
I may need to pull out C.S. Lewis’, A Grief Observed, and read it again. It may be that I need to re-read the recent book, Cancer and Theology, edited by Jake Bouma and Erik Ullestad. What is certain that I need is to remain thankful for my cool cousins. And in this moment, to be as faithful in life and to life as Diane.
Image Credit: Faithful