When I saw my cousin Trent this summer, it was the first time I’d seen him in 5 years.

The last time I saw him, in the summer of 2008, he was 11. He kept drumming on every single surface in my grandmother/his great-grandmother’s house with his hands like he was preparing to be a world-class percussionist. He picked blackberries and baked blackberry pie with Juma. When I was at work at the Renaissance fair, he would take my camera and take goofy pictures of himself. He wore my aunt Brenda’s (his grandmother) wigs around the house and at one point wore a wig, a pair of sunglasses, and a throw around his neck, walked outside and to Juma’s front door, and tried to convince his Granny that he was someone selling Girl Scout cookies. And he helped me pull a prank on our cousin Michael.

This summer of 2013, he was 16. He had grown immeasurably and it freaked me out that he was now taller than me. We kept trying to fight each other on the beach (with his height and strength, I was easily defeated). During a nightly family walk on the beach, as my boyfriend and I stood hand in hand, he came up to us and asked if we were going to get married. He gave everyone big hugs. He rode the waves with our cousins. He poured Mountain Dew on top of an alligator’s head to see how it would react.

I figured I’d see him again the next time I went to the beach, maybe in a year or two. I could not have possibly known that it would be the last time I’d ever see him.

My mom called me on New Year’s Eve with the news. A car accident. Trent didn’t make it. The goofy cousin with the contagious smile was gone. I heard the words but I didn’t believe they were true. I still don’t believe it.

What I do know is that my heart is broken. For my family. For his brother Trevor and his sister Savannah. For his mom, my cousin Erin, who shouldn’t have to bury her youngest son. For his grandmother, my aunt Brenda, who shouldn’t have to bury her grandson. For my Gammy, his great-grandmother, who shouldn’t have to bury her great-grandson.

None of this is fair. None of this is ok. None of this is the way it should be.

I have no inspirational words. And I refuse to say this is part of God’s plan, because I refuse to believe in a God who plans horrible things like this. I refuse to believe it is God’s plan for a mother to bury her son, and grandparents to bury their grandbabies.

All I have to say to my family is this: I am so sorry. I loved Trent and wished I could have had more time with him. I hate that we are going through this. And I will love and hold and support you as well as I can. We’re family, and distance doesn’t change that. Because one thing I do believe, is that love is stronger than death and fear.

To my family, I offer you my love, support, prayers, and strength. To Trent, I will miss you dearly. To my community, please hold us in your thoughts and prayers as we navigate these rough waters.