Friday, December 19, 2008

For Cousin Courtney

I'm stuck. There are so many things to blog about lately, but I just can't seem to get anything from my head to the keyboard in a coherent sentence. But sometimes you just have to say exactly what comes to mind, and hope that those that matter will look beyond the imperfection of words and phrases.

My husband's first cousin, Courtney Harbaugh, passed away on November 28th at the age of 24. This was an unexpected tragedy. To read about her accident, you can click here.

This photo of us was taken the night before our wedding in March 2004. Courtney looks just gorgeous, radiant, while I'm hamming it up being silly. I have so many other more recent photos of her, but most are from the side or back or in motion, which is true to form given all of her energy.

Courtney, there is so much more that I want to say to you. I'm sure that Johnny would have something far more eloquent to say, but unfortunately I am the more emotional half of this duo, and I'm writing the blog. But you loved that about us, right? The fact that we were so different and still trying to make our marriage work for us.

I can honestly say that I have never met anyone that was so intent on enjoying life, or had such a positive outlook. You wrung every single drop out of the 24 years that you were given on Earth. Court, did you ever have an acquaintance that didn't become a true friend? Seriously? What is this affect that you had on people? You took a lot of chances and made sure that you explored all of your options. How many of us can say the same? Did you have any clue how worried Johnny was when you went to live in the Virgin Islands last summer? Girl... (; I tried to convince him that you were a big girl and would be okay, but I was secretly relieved when we had our convo about how damn lucky we both were to not to end up like Natalie Holloway, given the somewhat irresponsible behavior we'd each had during our college years. It showed me that you knew life was fragile, to be cherished, and I didn't worry so much for you.

Somehow you managed to keep all of us young with your contagious enthusiasm. Just popping in to your grandparent's house to tell us about your most recent adventure, always keeping them in the loop of your exciting life, reassuring them by your presence that they were still needed by the baby of the family. I absolutely fell in love with you early on when you were explaining who Jack Johnson was... you said "you know, he's for MY generation what Dave Matthew's was to YOUR generation". I about fell off my chair! Since when is 7-8 years a generation apart? We laughed about that one for a long time.

On the other hand, you were also wise beyond your years. Always walking a line between family members that were having difficulty, attempting to build a bridge between those that you loved most, and continuing your efforts even when it seemed that they were in vain after so many years. I promise you that I will always try. You know what I mean. It isn't my fight (I'm an "out-law" after all, according to Uncle Bobby!) but I will always extend my heart to both sides because that is what you would want me to do.

Your trust in God was just phenomenal. You didn't banter around His name lightly, you held tightly in your beliefs and I wondered how someone so young had come to have such conviction. I want to have faith like that. Really. But as a Girl Raised in the South would say, HON, this whole taking you to Heaven prematurely thing just isn't helping the cause, okay? So I'm praying for understanding and peace. I'm not sure what the morale of this story would be... a lot of "whys" are stuck in my head, even though I realize that they are not particularly helpful. I'll keep working on that.

Do you know what makes my heart ache the most? The fact that you never had your own family like you'd hoped for. Make no mistake, you mothered everyone and everything - your family members, your dog Paisley, your ever-expanding group of friends, each of your little students. Everyone at Little School seemed to know what a gem they had in you as a teacher AND a friend. It is obvious that teaching was your gift. Watching you interact with a child so patiently was amazing to watch, and the joy in your expression was obvious. When we were texting the week of your accident, you said that you wanted to be there when Hania saw the ocean for the first time. You were there. Maybe not holding her hand, but obviously you told her to be fearless just like you, because she ran straight into that darn water as if she had done it a million times!

Thank you for being a part of our lives here on Earth, cousin Courtney. Johnny and I talked about the best way to honor your beautiful spirit; we decided that being more positive and taking advantage of every opportunity that we're given would be things that you would have done (and things we both need to work on). Personally, I have been looking at Hania and feel even more responsibility to be a patient and kind parent, just as you would have been.
We miss you and love you sweet girl. Talk to you later.


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