The Cousin

I know that I don’t write often any more and that this space has been typically reserved for my mom but I’ve been up since 4:15 am this morning and I am writing.

Now that my mom is gone, I try to only share stories that have meaning for me or families/clients that have touched me in some way. I want to switch gears this morning and tell you a little bit about my cousin Tom.

Incredibly handsome, funny, athletic, smart, music lover, cook, charming and loving.

He was 10 years older than I was and he was my parents Godchild. He was the third child of my mom’s sister Gloria and my Uncle Kenny.

Growing up he introduced me to his immense love of the Doobie Brothers, his love of soccer and golf and his wisdom on boys treating me with respect. When I graduated and moved to Minneapolis, he got me my very first job at The Sunshine Factory, a restaurant close by my apartment. He looked out for me and never hesitated to listen to my younger woes. I know there were many.

He would call me and ask if I wanted to go to his soccer games. He’d pick me up, always smelling of Azzaro cologne and he’d explain his love of soccer. I’d sit on a blanket, trying to understand his love of this game but also just enjoying watching him play. Afterwards, he’d take me out for dinner and we would continue our talk of sports.

When I was in high school, he felt I needed better shoes for playing sports and bought me my first Nike cleats for softball and my Mizuno volleyball shoes. We debated between getting the white or black pair. I didn’t even know they made volleyball shoes. He was on top of it. I was not only proud of my new shoes, but even prouder that he attended many games and I was wearing the shoes that he bought. I loved Tom.

Tom took his life September 1st, 2003.

I was 8 months pregnant with Sophia and I was in the Dayton’s dressing room trying on maternity dresses when my cousin Nick called me to tell me Tom had died. At first, I thought he was talking about our family friend Tom Van Housen. I was immediately heartbroken but knew that he had lived a long, wonderful life. Nick realized I was thinking the wrong Tom and gently told me it was my cousin Tom.

I remember sitting down on the dressing room, sobbing. A woman next to me asked if I was ok. I wasn’t. No one was ok.

That time is a blur.  Questions, sadness, heartbreak, funeral. We will never see Tom again.

My mom cried. My dad asked me why. Our family now minus one.

I remember pulling out my cleats and volleyball shoes, still dusty, dirty, worn and broken. After all this time, I had kept them in the back of my closet. Surviving many moves, many games and a reminder of what Tom had given me. I still have them.

I asked Mike, his son, if I could write about him. I don’t want to be disrespectful. Fifteen years without him and it still feels like yesterday when he would call. “Hey, Jodi. I’ve got a game at 5 pm, I’ll pick you up.”

Before he died, he had invited Steve and I to a party. I know that I was incredibly tired with the pregnancy and I had declined. He was very sweet, upbeat and asking about me like he normally would. I talked to him for a long time on the phone, happy that we could connect. You really never know anything. It would be our last conversation.

In nursing, you deal with a lot of depression and mental health issues. It’s a darkness that you wish you could fix. It comes in all shapes and sizes, coming and going. Many times staying and won’t release. Looming, stifling, congested and dark.

A while ago, I had a hospice patient hide a gun under her mattress and when her family left, she shot herself. She knew that she had limited time left on this world. The bullet bounced off her sternum and she survived. Only to be shunned by her faith for trying to take her life. I still picture her and her comment to me, “I even failed at death.”

With nursing I’ve had may people ask that we just give them something. People have begged. Families ask if they can ease their pain. Pain means so many things to different people. We can’t, of course, but I understand.

In my mom’s last year, she stated more times that I can count, “I want to die”. Over and over and over.

Yesterday, a woman told me she would jump off a bridge if we moved her out of her home. She would be unable to get out of her home due to her illness but I heard clearly what she said. It’s hard to hear but yet you understand.

I wish there was something more we could do for depression and mental illness. That darkness that is present for so many.  I have said it before and I will say it again. There is nothing wrong with taking a medication to help you through your darkness. I’ve had this conversation with many families and if you only knew how many people take something for anxiety, depression or for any forms of mental illness. Maybe that stigma would go away and people would feel more comfortable treating their depression. That darkness.

It’s no different that the treatment of any specific disease. Parkinson’s, cancer, thyroid, cholesterol, blood pressure, gout, reflux, memory loss…

In conclusion, our family holds a golf tournament every year in the fall to benefit SAVE, Suicide Awareness Voices of Education. It is the Tom Boxell Memorial Golf tournament which brings education and awareness to the community. The mission of SAVE is to prevent suicide through public awareness and education, reduce stigma and serve as a resource to those touched by suicide. If you have interest in attending, I can send you the details of the upcoming golf, dinner and raffle.

If you are sad, reach out. I may not have the right words to say but I can listen. And I’m a good listener.

In memory of Tom Boxell. ❤️

Jodi

10 thoughts on “The Cousin

  1. What an inspiring article! You express yourself so well. Mental Health issues continue to surround us today. We must take the stigma away! NAMI is a wonderful support group & resource in informing the public about this difficult topic.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for this. Our family experienced the loss of my sister Jan in 2011 to suicide.
    This week with the high profile suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain l have been transported back to January 7th 2011. The more awareness there is regarding mental health and depression the better. Thank you Jody and I am sorry for your loss.
    Estelle

    Like

    • Estelle,
      Your dad and I talked about it once and it was something we shared without really talking about. I knew when he was sad.
      I was thinking a lot about Tom because of Kate and Anthony plus I saw my shoes this week in the back of my closet. Plus my clients comment about jumping off the Highland bridge.
      The more awareness the better. I hope your family is doing well. Your dad is missed very much.
      Jodi

      Like

  3. Thank you for the post Jodi. I remember your mom saying that a lot. Mental illness is very difficult to deal with on all ends.

    Like

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