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January 29, 2024

“Ease His Pain”: What my Cousin’s Death Taught Me about Carrying On.

My cousin Scotty and I were only a year apart and grew up together singing show tunes, hunting for Easter eggs, cooking at Thanksgiving, and blasting movie scores at Christmas.

He jumped off the Throgs Neck Bridge in September of 2022.

On the day of his death, I had returned to work three months postpartum. I was drowning in overwhelm from sleepless nights, never-ending, new responsibilities, and my own battle with postpartum depression and anxiety.

As I felt my emotions spin on my first day back to work, I started to lose clarity on the important aspects of my life. Day one, back in the saddle, and I had prioritized a meeting over a feeding. Was the love for my work greater than the love for my child? No, but I didn’t have the clarity or capacity to realize that my loves were out of order. As the to-do list lengthened and my calendar booked up, I was blessed with a sudden, random computer crash. My work computer turned off. It refused to be revived. Instead of placing a panic call to IT, I drove to the store for diapers to take a breath. On that drive, I received the call about Scotty.

With the news, an enormous wave of grief crashed into my heart. What a blessing it was to cry. After months of pent-up emotions, this tidal wave of grief allowed it all to release. As the tears flowed, my body let go of this gripping tension that had held it for months. I softened into admitting I was tired.

I was brutally honest with myself: I was unwell.

Mentally unfit to work. I could see myself standing on the Throgs Neck Bridge ready to fall. I understood Scotty’s pain.

Scotty’s jump replayed in my head on loop. As the details came out in the news, I saw the dark, cold night he was in. I saw his car with the door open and the key in the ignition just sitting there alone and vacant amongst the buzz of NY bridge traffic. I could see the tears in his eyes and hear the despair and helplessness in his voice as he called my Aunt Marion before the jump. I see Scotty’s tall frame jumping feet first 142 feet in the air. I imagined while plunging to his death that his body released all the pain this earth had caused him. 

“Ease his pain” entered my consciousness. My favorite movie is “Field of Dreams.” I’ve always had a mystical connection to it—its score and any mention of Moonlight Graham sends instant chills to my body. Its famous line “Ease his pain” was now replaying in my mind. It was a soft whisper that followed my vision of his jump. 

I didn’t return to work that day, as I realized that it wouldn’t be able to fix a divine intervention from the heavens. And that’s what it was. I believe that Scotty struck my computer down as a sign from above to stop. “Ease his pain” was a heavenly message sent to me to not give up, to somehow ease Scotty’s pain by drumming up my own strength. Scotty was sensitive and sweet; no doubt he saw me spinning and reached out a steady heavenly hand to say “Hold on. Be still. I will carry you.”

Scotty carried me through the months ahead. I told my job I needed more time before returning to work and they ended up letting me go within that grace period. Initially, I was devastated, but magically I was able to claim benefits from the State that awarded me more time at home postpartum, and it helped us financially stay afloat.

The relationship with my husband strengthened as we admitted to ourselves that this was our village—him, me, and baby. The need to have anything outside of our one-bedroom walls shrank. The vivid image of Scotty jumping off the Throgs Neck Bridge streamed into my consciousness anytime I wished away my reality or when my own emotions would spin off their rails. And then “ease his pain” would whisper and I’d ground myself in presence and tether myself to the earth in memory of him.

I wish every day that I could’ve extended my hand to Scotty to pull him back into his life, freeing him of the temporary pain and discomfort that held him prisoner at that time. Rumor has it he was unhappy at work. I have no way of knowing his truth or why he did what he did. I’ve accepted that it’s none of my business. We all battle our demons. We all hurt. We all make choices that reflect where we are. This messy, beautiful life…it’s uniquely ours. Whatever his truth was, it was his to own. I have to accept that his soul’s journey on Earth completed as he jumped to his death, wishing to be freed from his pain.

And I trust that he is free. I envision him singing and dancing with the angels, loving freely without worry or judgement, and I know that he blesses us here on Earth by sending signs. I trust that I am held, loved, and carried through by the guardians watching over me. I trust that when in despair, hibernating in the dark, this bright love finds its way to seep in through the cracks.

I honor his life by reflecting on our memories—the holiday traditions, the walks to the duck pond, the songs we would sing, the stories we would share. I honor his life by taking care of my own. I will never forget him. I wish I could’ve saved him, but all I can do now is thank him for saving me.

~

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