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Mary, My Angel
I had always been sickly, since I was a small boy, just on the brink of new life.
I don’t know why, and neither does the doctor, though his best guess is that it has something to do with my premature birth.
It turns out, being early isn’t always best.
I was not as fortunate as my siblings, who had the smarts to stay in safety until it was their time to come.
But it was not like that for me, and I was birthed into the world on a cold January night, when I was least expected.
Since then, anything can put me on my back, even such a small thing as a cold.
I spent most of my time in bed, staring out the window wistfully, or listening to the shrill sounds of my brothers and sisters running about outside.
I was alone mostly, for who wanted to waste their time on something so boring as just talking to a sick boy?
But there was one, and she was my life saver.
Even her name brings a smile to my lips.
She was my sisters best friend, and often when she came over to visit, she would come into my room and sit awhile on my bed.
She would describe the sky outside, and she always made it sound magical , even if it was the most dreary day.
She had a way of sprinkling things with beauty, Mary did.
And sometimes she would just sit there and look at me with her gray eyes, like she understood me, and that helped the most.
She was my best friend. My only friend.
Sometimes when the sickness was worse then ever, and I was racked with fever for days, the pain would wake me up in the middle of the night, sweaty and delirious from the fever, and I would call out her name.
Of course, I would never admit that to her.
She was the most beautiful creature on the planet, I decided.
I longed for the times that she would visit, and found myself living for her smile.
Because I had nothing else to live for.
On those rare occasions when I was free from sickness, I was allowed to go to school.
The children often made fun of me, calling me horrible names like “Pale Face” and “Stick Boy”
For my skin was white from being inside so much, and I was thinner then a twig.
The other students avoided me like the plague, whispering to each other that they would not be near me, or else they too might catch my sickness.
Of course, it was not true, the sickness was mine alone, and could not be caught I was sure.
But all the same, they would have nothing to do with me.
Except for Mary.
She would sit by me when the other ran away, and share her lunch with me.
And when I struggled with my sums, because I was so far behind, she was always there to tutor me along.
I loved her.
She was the only thing in my life I cared for, the only thing to hold unto.
And then one day, when I was well and at school, she did not show up.
And she was not there the next day either.
My sister was in a horribly gloomy mood, and I caught on that there must be something wrong with Mary.
I panicked at this thought, and it wasn’t long before I was back in my bed, suffering from a mild cold.
Even the slightest disease could kill me if it got worse, so I was not allowed to go and visit Mary when the rest of the family brought over some soup.
I was restless the whole time they where gone, and my cold turned into a fever.
When at last I heard the door open, I strained my ears so as to catch some news.
My mother came into the room to fetch my bed sheets.
Her face was gray and sad.
My voice was only a squeak.
“Mother… How… -How is she?
My mother looked at me for the first time in my life with compassion in her eyes.
“Oh, my son” She said, holding back tears
”She is…. Not well.”
Then she left me to ponder just how bad ‘Not well’ Was.
It was torture to me, to not see Mary and to know that she was suffering.
Each day my sister face fell farther, until one day she came home crying.
“It’s no use mother” I heard her sobbing “She’s going to die”
I felt like a bucket of ice cold water had been dumped on my head.
I started shivering, and my eyesight flashed black.
It must be all my fault, I decided, she must have caught the sickness from me!
I hated myself then, more then I had hated anything else.
Even more then I hated the school children that picked on me, and even more then I hated the illness that chained me.
My body suddenly grew dreadfully hot, and it became hard for me to breath.
My mother came into the room, then ran back out, shouting for someone to fetch the doctor.
The next few hours where a haze fro me.
I remembered little, only the searing heat and the pressure on my chest, making it almost impossible to breath.
Each breath I took required every once of strength I had.
And then, in my fever induced coma, I remembered Mary’s face.
And I woke up.
The room was dark, with only a small candle shining feebly.
But by it’s light I could look out the window and see a terrible storm flying past the glass.
“I have to see her” I croaked.
I tried to lift my legs, but they seemed to be made of metal.
Trying again, I managed to get out of bed and throw on some clothes.
It was so hard to walk, so hard to breath.
But the though of Mary kept me going. I crept out through the kitchen, to the back door.
I had never been to Mary’s house, but she had told me about it often, and had once described the way there.
Stepping out into the cold, with nothing on my feet but thin slippers, I was hit with a blast of snow.
It was the coldest thing I had ever felt, and I almost turned back.
But I had to see her, had to apologize for killing her.
So I kept on.
The road to Mary’s house was slick and covered in snow. The blizzard around me made it hard to see where I was going.
And even though I felt the cold, it still seemed to me that my head was very hot.
I trudged on, footstep by footstep, until I could no longer feel my feet.
But still I walked.
And at last, when my feet where blue and I felt so tired I though I was going to fall asleep standing up, I saw a light up ahead.
It was Mary’s house, I had made it!
Running the last few feet, I collapsed into the door and knocked as hard as my frozen fists would let me.
The door swung open, and I was pulled inside by strong hands.
Babbling voices and concerned faces swirled around me, in one big dizzying mess.
“Why, its Jonathan, Miranda’s sickly boy! What on earth is he doing here in this kind of weather?!”
Somehow I managed to get out reply from my frozen lips “I have to see Mary. Please, I have to see her”
“Now now boy, you must get those clothes off first, or you’ll die quick enough”
I didn’t have the strength the protest.
But all I wanted was to see Mary.
Finally, when I was dressed in dry clothes and given a cup of broth, I could speak.
“Please. Please. Please… Let me see her. Please”
I looked up pleadingly to see three pairs of eyes directed at me, each one full to the brim with pity.
And then I saw something else reflected in those eyes.
I saw it there and it scared me.
I was going to die.
It was clear form the way they smiled, and patted my shoulder, and led me to Mary’s room.
At least I would get to see her one last time.
I walked up to the small four-poster bed.
There she was, sound asleep, her face ashen white.
Guilt swept over me.
I had done this to her.
I leaned on her bed and wept.
I wept more then I had any other time.
I wept because I was going to lose my angel,
And I wept because it was my fault.
Then I felt a hand, soft as linen, on my head.
“Jon? Jon, is that you? Please don’t cry”
This was fallowed by a small but very course cough.
I lifted my head to see Mary looking at me, her beautiful gray eyes filled with compassion.
Compassion, for me, when she was the one that was so sick, and when I was the one that had made her so!
I quickly removed her hand fm my head and backed away.
“Stop it!” I shouted, feeling helpless as a thousand emotions swept over me.
“Don’t you see? Its my fault, my fault, that your dieing!”
At that I began to weep all over again.
Her voice was barley above a whisper, and it sounded strangled.
I obeyed her, kneeling as close to her pillow as I could.
“It’s not your fault, these things just happen”
“No!” I whimpered. “It’s my fault, I gave the sickness to you”
She didn’t say anything right away, just wiped away my tears with her palm.
When she did speak, it was in a soft voice, like rose petals
“Please don’t cry Jon. It really isn’t your fault. It’s mine. I stayed out too late one night in the snow.”
“No” I said, my tears starting again, this time soft and silent “You are too perfect”
She laughed at that, a soft sound like the tinkling of bells” I am no more perfect then you are”
I looked into her eyes. How could I believe her? I could not.
She was perfect, and I was just a little boy with an illness.
But somehow, in that moment, her eyes took that all away, and for a moment in time, it seemed like I was free of the sickness. Then she closed her eyes, and the moment was gone, and I was clinging to her hand, begging her to hold on to life.
She just smiled softly, and squeezed my hand back, and passed into eternity.
Then I could not cry, for there where not enough tears to describe the passing of Mary.
I just knelt there, looking at her peaceful face, and feeling the emptiness inside me grow.
And then when I could not stand it any longer, I stood up and lay on the bed next to her.
And then I closed my eyes, and whispered “I’m coming with you”
And at last, the pain was gone, and it was over, and I understood the meaning of life.
But more importantly I understood the meaning of death.
For as I went to join Mary, I could almost hear her already there, singing like the angel that she was.
And in death, I started living.