Last July my family thought we were going to lose my grandmother. To make sure I could go home to Indiana and see her, my cousin Rich paid for my airfare. The only questions he asked were, "Which airline do you prefer and when do you want to land?" Grandma is still with us. Rich, however, is not. I got word this morning that my cousin passed away. While he's had his issues, this is not something that was expected, not any time soon anyway, ya know?

Rich married my cousin Cindy when I was little more than a peanut-sized mass of shapes in my mom's bits. His riotous laugh is a fixture in my memory. Seeing him, my cousin and their daughter was always a special treat because while I lived in Indiana, they lived in Minnesota. He's an unrepentant geek, heavily into tech and with the scraggly long hair, it's hard not to think of him as an older version of my own husband. (Which is hilarious because everyone in my family calls me Cindy instead of Jamie half the time. And our daughter reminds me of their daughter, my cousin Jenybeth.)

I don't know what to say about him other than this: Rich was, is, and always will be one of the most spectacular men I've ever met. he was a genuinely good person. I'm thankful for the times he welcomed me into his home, took me to the Minneapolis/St.Paul Zoo, helped me get home, geeked out with me, for the stuffed lion he sent my daughter 2 years ago (that I've barely stopped hugging today), for surprising us by coming to our wedding in 2010... but most of all I'm thankful that he was here at all and that he shared is life with our family. That he was one of us for a time and always will be. He brought some sanity to the clan and also so much needed levity.

Thank you, Rich. Thank you for being family.

Aloha oe.

Hug your family. All of you. When you can't (due to distance or circumstance) hug a stuffed lion. Dreadlocks are optional.