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The Good Part
I didn’t mean to die, it wasn’t on purpose. I wouldn’t even call it an accident though. To say it was an accident makes it seem like it could have been prevented. I don’t think it could have been. It just happened. I wasn’t doing anything wrong or illegal; I was even going the speed limit. It was dark because it was night, but I had my headlights on. The radio was on that’s true, but the volume was low. My cell phone was sitting in between my knee’s (a habit), although it was on silent. I hadn’t looked at it the whole drive. But I still died.
My car’s tires went off the road. When I swerved to get back on I lost control of the car. It flipped once, twice, and then it hit a fence. I didn’t die right away, but I died before anyone got there. It was terrible at the time, but the funny thing is…when you’re dead it seems insignificant. I don’t really care that it hurt to die, now that I’m actually dead.
It wasn’t my fault. I know now that there is a recommended speed sign for the curve I was on. Because I died the county put it up. I guess someone had to have an accident there before long, so everyone would know you had to go slower. I’m not self-sacrificing enough to say I’m glad it was me and not someone else. I don’t want it to be anybody else, but I can’t say that I’m happy it was me who died. I was only 16.
I thought you would go right to heaven when you died. Like you would close your eyes, and when you opened them you would be in this perfect place. You know, with a bunch of flowers, butterflies, golden fields and all that. But I’m not. Don’t get me wrong I’m not down below. I think I will go to heaven, but I don’t think it’s right away like everyone who’s alive just assumes.
When you’re dead you just know stuff, like you do in dreams. Without any real reason you have knowledge just come into your head. And so I knew what was going on, I wasn’t afraid or scared. I had heard the expression enough when I was alive. People say it a lot to make themselves feel better. “They live on in our memories” they say. To you that might just be a comforting tool. But to me, and who knows maybe everyone who dies, it’s actually true. That’s how I live now, when people remember me I get to visit them.
I don’t know how many memories it’ll take before I can be done. Before I can stop reliving them. Maybe I have to go through them all. See my whole life play out again before my eyes before I’m allowed move on. Maybe I have to examine everything I ever did.
When no one’s thinking of me, I just kinda exist in nothingness. But I don’t think I’ve been dead very long because people still think about me a lot. It’s strange because I can see them thinking about me, see them cry because they miss me, and then I actually get to experience the memory of me. See how they saw me and what I said and did. The longer they think of me, the more I start to believe I might actually be alive. And that this was all just a weird dream. But then the memory always fades away as something distracts them, then I go back into just existing by myself.
The distant relatives stopped thinking about me first. They thought about me a lot in the beginning of course. I would watch from a distance as they remembered seeing me baptized or random birthday parties that I don’t remember. I’m usually pretty young. Sometimes I look slightly different because they all remembered me a different way. They cried when they thought about me. And they were sad, and they missed me. But they were mostly sad because of my parents, they didn’t really know me. And they have their own families and problems to think about. I don’t get to see them very much anymore, as my death became more a part of the past than the present.
The next group of people who gradually thought about me less and less were the people in the community. Kids in my school. People who would think of the strangest things about me. A lot of my peers would remember seeing me in the hallway, and I would watch their memories of me walking with my friends. Sometimes by myself. One boy even remembers me picking up his pencil. The teachers remember me more. Papers I wrote or tests me had bombed. People in my church cried a lot. Grownups I never really cared about cried because it’s sad. It’s sad whenever a young person dies. It’s true. It’s not sad because it was me.
But I feel like my death was kinda just a popularity thing after a while. These people don’t really have their lives affected by it, so after the shock of it wore off soon my school stopped thinking about me that much too. I don’t get to see myself through stranger’s eyes that all that often now. I don’t mind. I never met them and seeing how people viewed me no longer interests me now that I’m dead. It seems petty, and it amounted to nothing anyway.
Then comes my friends. Not my best friends, not the ones who I told secrets to. But all the same, they were the ones who I talked to on a regular basis and hung out with outside of school. They still think about me occasionally. It really hurt them…that I was gone. Most of them were really confused. I got to see a lot of fun things about myself when I was allowed to visit their memories. Sleep overs, parties, McDonald runs, being goofy in general.
But my favorite is when they thought about sledding with me. Because then I could almost pretend I could feel. The cold, the ice, the biting wind. The soft gentle touch of slow flakes on any exposed skin and how it would sting, the tiny designs getting caught in your eye lashes. But I can only pretend now. I can’t feel warmth or cold, I can’t cry or speak, and I can only watch my life through their eyes. When they remember me.
Then there are those people who still think about me every day. My family, my best friend, and my boyfriend. At least they were all those things before I died. Now maybe they’re just people.
My poor parents. Every memory is laced with pain still. It radiates from them.
My mom thinks about me most when she washes the dishes. She always ends up crying, her tears fall in the water and mix in with the soap. She thinks about everything. About how I was baby and I learned to talk and walk. How I learned to ride a bike. How I would never eat green food. My face on Christmas morning. Thanksgiving, Easter, my birthday. Every holiday under the sun she can remember my role I played in them. All my mother’s memories are the kind that breaks my heart, because all they say is I miss you. She says that a lot. I miss you so much baby. All the time. It breaks my heart. Not being able to tell her I’m right here. Right behind her. Living through it all with her. I can almost imagine that I can feel the breeze coming through the window when she cries. But I always fade away. I can’t stay.
My dad thinks about me on the drive home from work. He cries sometimes, but not as much as mom. He doesn’t think about everything, usually it is one thing at a time. Like a specific conversation, or playing catch in the yard. When he’d take me out for ice cream. Or argue with me for hours just to get me to clean my room. He wonders what he could have done better. If he did everything right. I wish could just sit in the car with him, so he’d know I’m okay. But I can’t. And he won’t. He’ll always wonder if I’m okay.
My sibling’s memories are overwhelming. They think about me all the time. With no pattern or line of thought. I suppose once they grow up, I’ll begin to fade a lot more with them. But who knows really. They think about everything like mom. About games I’d play with them, how much we’d fight, movies we’d watch together, just everything. You do everything with your siblings. I wish I could help. They just want me back. They don’t understand why I left. They get angry sometimes. Not at me, they just get angry. They want me to come home.
My best friend…she thinks about me. That was kind of a relief. I didn’t think she would every day, but I think she does. She even deleted her Facebook because she couldn’t take all the posts about my death. Or the people who pretended that they knew me when they didn’t.
One time I was allowed in her room, she was crying. She had opened a book with a flower pressed into it, and for some reason that reminded her of me. And she was crying. It made me so sad. She hadn’t cried like that since my funeral, which of course I got to see. She just wants to talk to me. She misses telling me everything, and everything I would say about it.
So she just sat there, holding the little flower in her hand. If I was alive I would be hugging her, but I wasn’t alive so I couldn’t. But I sat next to her until the sun went down, and the orange colors filled the room and made it look like the inside of a pumpkin. I know it probably felt warm. Gradually her sobs faded to hiccups and she even started to do a weird laugh. I got to see the memories of us sitting in her room not that long ago, laughing because it was late and we were tired. And happy. I can tell she feels guilty being happy with others when I’m not around. I would tell her not to feel guilty, but I can’t talk anymore. I hope she doesn’t stop talking to me though. Because I can still hear.
My boyfriend was the hardest to watch sometimes…I didn’t always understand him much when I was alive. Now that I’ve died I know he’s much more complicated then I realized. He cried when he found out that I had died, he cried the next two days, he cried at my funeral. And then he stopped. I think his parents were worried. He acted…really normal. That almost hurt my feelings…except I’m dead so I just know things remember? And I knew he wasn’t normal. After all he still thought about me or I wouldn’t be able to see him. He didn’t cry though. And he thought about weird things, like seeing me in the hallway at school at a certain time every day. Or when I would laugh at something. He thought a lot about how I looked when I fell asleep on his arm. But he didn’t cry. And I couldn’t tell how he felt. I didn’t think he would ever cry about me again.
Then one night…late at night I saw him. He had his face down, his arms spread out over his desk. He has big shoulders, they were all slumped forward. I sat on his bed, waiting for the memory to come. And it was the worst memory of all.
Because I didn’t die right away…and I was stuck in the car. And I could reach my phone; it had been on the ceiling because my car was upside down. And I grabbed it; the blood left a hand print on the screen. And I called him…he didn’t answer. So…I left a voice mail. I was terrible and I didn’t think about what I was doing, and I left him a voice mail.
In his memory I can hear my voice. It’s scratchy, and I sound scared. And in pain. This is weird to think about because I don’t care about the dying process now that I’m dead. And the words are hard to understand, but Im talking as he presses the phone to his ear moments after someone told him about the accident “hey…I, I need you ….please pick up…please!...I….god…I need you kid…please pick up…I” and then it cuts out and the memory is over.
I watched him with his hunched over shoulders. And suddenly he slams his hand on the table. Even though I’m dead I jump. Then he’s throwing papers, and books and clothes. And he’s yelling. And crying. He’s angry at me. He says I shouldn’t have called him, what had I expected him to do? He couldn’t have done anything. He’s yelling that he had told me before that I shouldn’t have expected him to be there all the time, that I hadn’t listened when he said he wasn't good enough. That I left him when I said I wouldn’t, that he wasn’t there when I needed him. And when he yells “I tried to be” he crumples to the ground and makes this terrible chocking sound. And he just says I’m sorry over and over again.
It was that moment I knew for sure that being in pain wasn’t a sin. Because I was in pain. And I was trying to tell him to stop, because he was hurting me. But I couldn’t because I’m dead. And I stayed with him as he cried, until he cried himself to sleep, and I faded away with the silver light outside his window.
That was months ago. My family, my best friend, the boy. They still think about me. During the day. If their awake at night. Some of the memories are beautiful. Some mean nothing. Some are sad. But they think about them all the same. And I visit them when they do think about them. And I watch the memories with them, and desperately wish I could let them know I’m here.
But now I’m confused. Because I’m with the boy again, but he’s asleep. And I’ve always faded after people have fallen asleep. But I’m not fading, I’m just watching and waiting. And then it dawns on me. I can see my face vaguely, surrounded by a blur of colors that swirl around my head. Sometimes I can hear my voice. Sometimes I can smell me even. And I figure it out. He’s dreaming of me. Clutched in his hand is my scarf, which he must have found before he fell asleep. And now he’s dreaming of me.
This revelation is more then I can handle. All the tears, the heart breaking memories, the questions, the confusion, the pain. They’ve all been hard to watch, hard to see. But this hits me square in the chest where my heart use to beat. And I, the dead 16 year old who is 6 feet under, cries.
I didn’t think I could ever feel anything again. But I can. Because I’m crying. I can feel the tears on my skin. I can feel the warmth cascading down my face and I can taste the salt on my tongue because my mouth is open. Im gasping. The last time I remember feeling anything was when I dropped my phone into shards of glass right before blacking out.
I fall to the ground and cry. And I know. It’s not the people who are alive that aren’t letting me go. It’s me who isn’t letting them go. These memories are for me. They don’t know I can see them. They don’t know I’m here. I have to let them go…I can’t move on to a new life if I’m stuck in the old one. And I know its time.
As reality sinks in the numbness goes away, and a title wave of emotions wash over me. I can feel everything again. And I’m crying still. My hands are shaking. The idea that I won’t be able to visit them anymore breaks my heart. I won’t be able to hear what they want me to know, I won’t be able to see their lives go on, see what happens to them. I won’t be able to relive all those precious moments, and be reminded that they love me. I know so much more of their love now that I’m dead then I ever did when I could breathe. They won’t know the difference, they’ll still think about me. They’ll still love me and miss me. But I’ll know the difference.
A calmness settles over me and I reside myself to saying goodbye. I watch my boy sleep, because I will always call him mine. I say one last pray that I can be allowed to feel for just a while longer. I climb up on his bed like a child, my tears still falling silently. I slowly lower my face to his chest and wait.
A thrill goes through me because I can feel his heartbeat. It throbs against my cheek just like it did months ago. It still sends a tingle down my spine and I swear goose bumps raise on my arms I know aren’t actually there.
Then I go through the list. Of my friends and family, and I promise myself I’ll preserve all the best memories in my head. I don’t say any sappy goodbyes or last words; I know they’ll never hear them. This is for me. I memorize my moms laugh and the way it felt to hug her, how my dad smelled and how he’d pat my head, my siblings laying on me, my best friends smile and her words.
I don’t have to memorize anything about the boy underneath me; I had had him memorized years ago. I smile as I think about something he said a few months after my passing, of course he didn’t know I could hear his words.
Being the slightly bitter teenaged boy that he is had said one day “Knowing you, I suppose if you were here you’d tell me to find the good in this. Which makes no sense to me” And I smile because there is good in this. I’ll forever be frozen in my love for the people I’m leaving. The boy doesn’t know he’ll always have someone who never gave up on him. Because I’ll forever feel this.
Tears tremble on my eye lashes as tiny needles stab at me. Its goodbye. I know a girl who once tearfully told me that there is no good in goodbyes. But being dead I know there is now. Because that’s just it I suppose. The good part. There is no ending. I died and I haven’t ended. There’s never actually a forever goodbye. Endings are something we use to try to feel like we can control something, but even that is wrong. Life is too big and complicated to have endings. I guess I’ll have to just wait; maybe the separation from these won’t seem long.
And I close my eyes. I feel my boy’s heart beat against my cheek and my thoughts fade into nothingness. Death isn’t so bad. Really it’s worse for the person who dies. The people who live only have to let one person go, but the person who dies has to let go of everyone.
I open my eyes. It’s very bright where I am.