She had just turned 47. Feeling horrible from a headache, Tammy drove herself to the emergency room. Entering, she collapsed and died. It turns out that she had a heart defect that she was probably born with. The doctor said there would have been no symptoms. She left behind a husband, son, daughter, and granddaughter. And lots and lots of aunts, uncles, and cousins.
We grew up in the same small East Texas town. The kind where everyone knows everybody. The funeral home was packed beyond capacity. Every possible space was used for overflow. My father's parents had 29 grandchildren. We have gone on to produce a huge number. Tammy was my oldest first cousin's first child. She beat her twin, Tim, by a few minutes. So the family took its fair share of the seats, but many classmates and townspeople filled the place. I saw people that I thought were old when I was a child.
This is the first time I have lost a cousin so close to my age. Maybe that is why it has been so hard. It has hung with me almost every minute since my sister called last Wednesday afternoon with the news. Tammy was a spitfire. She was more than happy to tell you exactly what she thought. She and her siblings were extremely close. Knowing that they were hurting and then witnessing it was horrific. My dad conducted the service. It wasn't his first time to bury a niece or nephew, but that doesn't make it any easier. He did a great job while displaying the sense of humor that keeps our huge family semi-sane.
At the viewing on Saturday night, my youngest son saw a boy and made the comment, "That boy in the green shirt looks suspiciously like me." I asked my mom who it was because he had walked further on and I couldn't see him well in the street light. The funeral home had been packed for the viewing and I hadn't noticed a kid in a green shirt. Mom said it was Tricia's (Tammy's sister) son. I told Clay that the reason they looked suspiciously alike was because they were cousins and it must be the Sapp genes flowing through them. What is weird is that they are fourth cousins and they do look alike.
So, our family will continue on. We will have more painful days. Many of us recognize Who is in control and that keeps us going. That makes our crazy family strong. That is why we can go for a long time and not see each other and yet take up where we left off as if we saw each other every day. Of course, many do still live in the small East Texas town or have found their way back over the years. They let us come back to visit from time to time and don't hold our desertion against us.
My cousin is gone, but she is remembered with love by a huge mess of people.