A Death in the Family

A Death in the Family:

Alas! I have heard that one of our own has passed on. It is a tragic tale, one of the harshest I have known. It should never have been like this.

Her name was Leslie, and she entered the family by marriage to one of my cousins. She was smarter than he was, by far, and more disciplined besides. They met at the University of Tennessee, and he often credited her that he ever managed to finish his degree at all. She went on to Mercer, a private university in Georgia, where she got a graduate degree in pharmacology.

I remember their wedding, a grand affair at a Baptist church in Rocky Hill, Tennessee. Their feast, on the green lawn of my Uncle Gene's back yard, was as joyous a time as I can recall. Everyone was happy. My cousin, the firstborn of our kin in his generation, was married to a woman of strength and character, brilliant and beautiful. Everyone was happy.

When Leslie graduated from Mercer, I went to the ceremony. It was both majestic and Medieval. The faculty wore hooded robes in the heraldic colors of their departments. The President of the college bore a mace as a symbol of authority. When Leslie got her degree, my cousin let out a "Yee-ha!" whoop, a Rebel Yell, such as earned him many scowls from others of my family for showing low class in a gathering of such ceremony. We had dinner, after, at one of Atlanta's finest restaurants.

I saw them rarely after that, but Leslie was mother to one of my favorite cousins, Jennifer, born like me in the Year of the Tiger. She also bore another son, Zack, and they moved into what had been my grandfather's house. Everything should have gone well.

It did not. A pharmacist, Leslie gave in to temptation--as do we all, at times--and found herself addicted to her own concoctions. Her needs grew, and divorce followed. She tried, and failed, to win custody of the children. She fell back in to her mother's house, banned from practicing her profession, and never won free. She died yesterday, having lost all her teeth, grown from a beauty to a creature of two hundred pounds. It was her liver, which failed her at last.

In a way it makes sense, but I finally fail to understand. It is a tragedy that something which began so well should end so badly. I trust that kindness follows in another place. For those who read this, guard yourselves with strength and ready blades. Even for the shining, death and ruin await.

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