I come from a very large family. My grandfather instilled the importance of family into my bones. I grew up in the presence of his incredible, inspiring, and many siblings as well as their spouses. They blessed me with wisdom, laughter, stories of their childhood, and endless love. I learned a lot. And, for that, I am grateful. I am so lucky. I also learned about death and grief, as each passed on. With each passing, my mind became a jumble, a spiral of thoughts. I couldn’t piece all of these thoughts together. I couldn’t process the then and the now. Then, my family members were here. Now, they are not. Still, these blessings in the form of people would become my guardian angels. But, at the time, this did not bring me comfort.
My grief was debilitating. My tears were endless. I loved sleep because I could conjure my lost loved ones in my mind. In my mind, my Aunt Mary gave me cookies and told stories. My Aunt Franny hugged me and held my hand as she talked. My Uncle Kenny, the ladies man, made me laugh until my stomach ached. His was the last death I experienced, at the beginning of the pandemic. No one knew how to comfort one another. Should we hug? Touch? Was it safe? He was my grandfather’s twin brother. My grandfather walked away a lot. He wanted to be alone. Although, I knew he was never truly alone during those times. His brother was next to him, as he’s always been. I wanted to be with my aunts and uncle, so I closed my eyes. Maybe this is where I’ll stay.
When I had to say my final goodbyes to each of these amazing forces in my life, I became angry. I was angry at God for taking them from me. I was angry at the world. I was angry at myself. I was angry at my grief. How do I go on? How do I experience life and love without them? Now, I know that I can go on amid my grief. I can experience life, and love, and grief simultaneously. I am no longer angry. I am lucky, still. I have Cecily Strong to thank for this.
And so, this isn’t about me. This is about Cecily Strong, the comedic powerhouse on SNL. The woman I always admired. I remember telling Cecily, “you’re fabulous.” She responded with, “you are!” But all this time, she has been fabulous, honest, funny, loving, beautifully human, and tremendously strong. I thank her for her strength and her help.
Cecily recently penned a personal piece for Vulture. In it, she describes the grief she experiences and feels after losing her cousin Owen to glioblastoma; aggressive brain cancer. She admits she’s not quite sure how to tell the story; or perhaps, there’s more than one way to tell it. Cecily illustrates the love she possesses for Owen. She explains her belief that Owen will beat brain cancer. She documents the months surrounding and leading up to her grief. The passing of Owen. Cecily does this with such grace, and honesty, and vulnerability. I sobbed.
Cecily, through her beautiful, heartbreaking, honest, and raw piece shows readers that grief exists during the quarantine. This grief is human. This grief comes in many forms and can be explained in many ways. This grief can bring uncertainty. But, this grief is okay.
Cecily has helped me with my grief, as I still grieve during the quarantine. I know that her piece has helped others, too. And, because of Cecily, I know that although this grief is present, we can still be really lucky.
As Cecily writes, “Here’s a thing I know for sure: I had a cousin named Owen who had red hair as a little boy and he was a serious kid and he loved birds. He taught me about love during his life and he’s teaching me about love after. And I’m really lucky.”
You can read Cecily Strong’s piece, “I Don’t Know How to Tell This Story.” here