(originally written 3/12/08)
It was this past Monday, March 3.
I was living life just as usual, and with my grandma’s health stabilized, my biggest worry at this particular time was why Randy Winn was only hitting .224 in my MLB 07 video game...if you can even call that a worry.
Next thing I knew, I’m on the phone. My mom is SOBBING.
It didn’t register at first.
I waited for her to finish the sentence. "...tired" or "...if she doesn’t start eating better" or "...that’s what I’d be saying to you if I were in the mood to tell a morbidly unfunny joke".
This was no joke.
And it wasn’t long before I was sobbing too.
Ashanti Davis was my first cousin, the daughter of my mom’s sister. She was almost exactly three years older than me (3/26/77 to my 3/23/80), which made her just shy of 31 at the time of her passing.
When we were kids, we’d been more like brother and sister. I can still remember vividly us picking apples off the trees in my backyard as eight-and-five-year-olds. I cannot remember a time when we did not share a silly, fun rapport, the kind cousins should share.
Even as we got older and saw less and less of each other, that rapport never changed. I went to college, and moved 55, then 80 miles away. She had a son, then a daughter, and developed almost every kind of health problem short of having three heads that somebody could have.
But that rapport, like I said, stayed the same.
She was the ONLY member of my family who I could go weeks, and in this most recent case, five MONTHS without seeing, and pick up right where we left off without a hint of awkwardness.
And I took it for granted.
That Monday, I sobbed like I’d been scalped. If any fires needed to be put out, I could have just cried over them. The flames woulda had no chance.
I cried not just because she was dead. I cried because just TWO days before, I had the perfect opportunity to drop in and say hello—something I hadn’t done in five freaking months. Including the holidays.
But I was too busy, too tired, and I’d do it next time I went to Vallejo.
The next time I went to Vallejo, it was only after she was carried away in a bodybag, having been found dead by my aunt and other cousin (her mom and brother) dead in her home.
At age 30. With two children left behind.
I cried because the last time I spoke with her, she asked me to bring my girlfriend to visit—Ashanti liked her but they’d only met a couple of times. I said sure. I did nothing.
And now I never can.
Ashanti had diabetes, a multiple-operated-on knee, constant exzcema woes, and even had all her teeth pulled. All this by the age of 30. Not once in my presence—not that I was present very often near the end—did she ever complain unless she threw a joke in there. Such as "If they cut me up again, they might have to serve me". As if she were a rack of ribs.
The ONLY consolation I had that I wasn’t a totally selfish ass towards her, was the fact I did go visit her the last two times she was hospitalized, including last summer. Who would have guessed she’d be gone less than a year later.
It still hasn’t really sunk in. Shoot, just last night something funny happened on South Park, one of Ashanti’s fave shows, and I thought "Wonder if ’Shanti saw tha—"
She is the first close relative, first close anybody, I’ve lost to death. I have no idea how I’m supposed to act, feel....you almost feel guilty doing the most mundane day-to-day stuff in the wake of somebody losing their life so young, so soon.
I made a tough choice not to attend her viewing, in part because I don’t want to cry anymore, which is what would have happened; in part because I really had no clue what to say to her (our) family that wouldn’t have made it worse.
The main reason I didn’t go was I don’t want to remember my cousin, who before her health eroded was as pretty as they came, lying in a box coated in make-up and who knows what else.
I’ll remember her picking apples with me, trick-or-treating with me, joking, laughing, acting crazy.
I’ll remember her finding out I was moving to Hayward back in 2003, and going out of her way to find things to give to me (such as silverware), just because she wanted to.
I’ll remember her seeing me walk (with her daughter) into a store she was in just last summer, and staring me down because she did not recognize me with a beard and thought I was some child predator.
I’ll remember the last time I saw her, in October, when she asked when I got my tattoo, and her embarrassment when I said "2002".
I love you, Ashanti, and I am glad you are now pain-free.
I’ll see you one day.
We’ll watch South Park, I promise.