My cousin has cancer. We grew up together, went to school together, played wiffle ball in the back yard together. Shot basketball at the city park. Marched drum line together.
And now he has cancer. And it sucks. And I’m sad and I admit I don’t really know what to say to him and I’m sure I’ve said the wrong things, but at least I’ve said something.
See, Trip, he’s a big reason I survived high school. Just being his cousin was enough to boost my cool factor but he went beyond that. I remember standing with my lunch tray in the cafeteria, panic bubbling inside as my eyes searched for a seat in the crowded room. Then I’d hear my name and look around. There’d be Trip, grinning at me and motioning me to his already crowded table. He’d pull a chair up right beside him, defiantly squeezing one more chair at a table that was only supposed to seat six. He liked to see how many people he could get around one table and I’m pretty sure he holds the FCHS record. I wasn’t brave enough to sit by myself yet. Did he know that? And he laughed and included me and scratched his ear with his middle finger in my direction. Yeah, it was high school. And his friends followed his lead and I was allowed to join in for a while. To be a part of a laughing group of teenagers cutting up in the lunchroom.
He had my back. And now it’s time for me to have his back.
But I don’t know how.
All I have to give him from 300 miles away is words. So here are my words to you, Trippy.
Thank you. For sharing your candy cane at Christmas. For childhood memories of cheese dogs and soap operas at Mamaw’s and wiffle ball home runs over the old water plant. For games of horse and bike rides around the city park. For always keeping the “kids’ table” interesting (long live Ozzie and the Oysters!). For letting me wear your small fry football jersey to a high school game. For Ale-8s at drum line practice. For always making room for me at the table. For seeing me when I felt invisible. For always laughing that crazy laugh.
And this afternoon I lit some candles and said a prayer—to the God of hopeless causes, the Father of mercies, the God who sees and the God who heals, the God of brilliant lights and the God of all comfort. The one who is always near and who has our back.
If you get there before I do, save me a seat.
edited to say: rest easy, Trippy Gooding, rest easy. 1974-2013