Two years ago today my cousin Raven died after a car accident. She was 23. I want to take a moment to share some of my favorite memories I have of her. (TW death of a loved one.)

It's difficult not to focus on the circumstances of her death โ€” the initial phone call from my younger brother, the updates from my mom through the rest of the week and into the weekend. I was half a country away and felt helpless; I made sure to mute my phone so my mom couldn't hear my crying because I could tell by her voice that if she heard she would break down and she needed my support.

It was my dad who told me that the doctors said Raven wasn't going to make it. I spent the weekend crying, drinking and smoking, wishing I had the means to go home, but refusing to believe she was going to die because doctors say that all the time, don't they? And people still live.

Finally I heard from my dad again, via text message (I don't think he could talk on the phone at the time): Raven is gone. I love you. Don't call your mom.

That was two years ago today, and it still hurts. My whole family is hurting but I want to share will you all some of my favorite memories I have of Raven. These are all from when we were preteens to late teens, when we used to hang out incessantly before our families broke apart.

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I used to stay at my aunt and uncle's house for weeks at a time. We were all obsessed with Lord of the Rings. Once, Raven, her older sister and I had a LotR marathon and spent a weekend learning to play our favorite songs from the Two Towers โ€” me on my violin, Raven on her cello, and Raven's sister on her viola. We recorded them (and it sounded damn good, too). We also tried to recreate and record the first half of the Fellowship of the Ring. I was Gandalf and it took the rest of the weekend to get the flour out of my hair.

Another time, in the summer, Raven, her sister, her other cousin and I wanted to use the theater in the park to put on a play. We decided to write and act out our own episode of the X-Files. Raven played Scully, her other cousin played Mulder, and Raven's sister was the director and producer. I (of course) played the cracked-out alien guy.

We spent hours and hours perfecting the script and on opening afternoon, when all the family had gathered to watch our production, everything was going splendidly until one scene with Mulder and Scully: they were supposed to be riding in a car, discussing serious, scary alien business when Scully (Raven) turned on the radio. She insisted on playing the radio during this scene because that's what people do in cars, and she also insisted that the radio should be blasting Britney Spears. The audience made it through about thirty seconds before everyone started laughing and we almost couldn't finish the play because we were all laughing, too.

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The last memory I'll share is a smaller one, but it always makes me laugh when I remember it. One of the last times I saw Raven, we went to the mall with her sister. Raven picked out a pair of jeans and went to try them on. We heard her shout from the dressing room, YOU GUYS. She unlocked the door and ushered us inside before shouting, THESE MAKE MY BUTT LOOK AWESOME. Her sister agreed but then shouted back, "Raven! Mom is never going to let you wear those, you look like a HOOCHIE!"

And they got in a (verbal) fight, in a stall inside a dressing room at the mall, and the whole time I was standing there laughing and laughing because what else could I do? In the end, Raven's sister wouldn't let her buy the jeans. But I still have some sweatpants I bought that day (about 11 years ago, now) and I wear them often. We got some odd looks when we left the stall, but that was nothing unusual.

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Raven's daughter is three, now. I still have never met her, but I hope to, someday. Whenever I get sad about it my mom reminds me that things change, and even though our family is broken apart now, it might be repaired. She encourages me to be hopeful, even now, when our whole family is mourning Raven's loss, but apart from each other because of shunning.

Thank you for reading, and for helping me preserve my cousin's memory.