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The Sharp Knife
I was born at 12:00 noon on September 22, 1996. I was a big baby and even when dressed in pink and with my ears pierced, people thought I was a boy. I grew up to be a girl although I was not afraid to play with the boys, but always aware of the fact that I was a girl.
I had a happy childhood, my brother is a good five years older than I am, making our relationship that of two only children, or so Mom always said, but we managed to get along and find things we both like. He was more into sports than I was, and I was more into the arts than he was, but we always managed to appreciate and understand each other.
Mom and my father got divorced when I was 11, sure it was tough, but it was coming. He always was so distant, and now how he’s gone, it’s as if it was just Mom Aiden and I the entire time. It seemed just perfect.
It was just a few months ago that I really noticed it, the turning point was at one night, around, oh it was maybe one or two A.M. I woke up and was unable to use my left arm and leg. I felt helpless as I sat there. I didn’t know what to do, so I counted from one hundred, hoping it was just something that had to do with the fact that I had just woken up. I fell back asleep and in the morning I didn’t mention it, truth be told I couldn’t really remember it. I didn’t want to remember it.
After my breakfast of pancakes, I started to feel nauseous, and then I started to throw up. I don’t mean just throw up, I mean violently and a lot. I stayed home from school that day, Mom thinking that it was just a stomach bug. She didn’t have much patience for me lately, proclaiming that I was becoming a bratty teenager, ignoring her and being a spoiled princess. She also complained about me mumbling and being lazy. I guess she wasn’t home enough to realize that it wasn’t my fault.
When my being sick didn’t let up and I stopped eating she called the doctor. He told her to come in right away and as soon as he saw me, he called the ambulance. There was nothing he could do in his little office. This was bigger than a family doctor.
They spent six hours trying to figure out what was wrong with me, putting me through multiple tests until they finally did a CAT scan.
When they came back with the news, they told me I had five months to live, and that treatment was pointless. I had stage four brain cancer in my brain stem.
It’s one of those things that just throw you for a loop. They start talking about how they’re surprised that I’ve managed to go this long without showing more critical symptoms. As they started to rattle them off, Mom just got paler and paler. All of the changes in my attitude and behavior, the laziness, the mumbling, and even to my surprise, the paralysis were symptoms. She started crying right there, and I had to comfort her. My brother who was there with me just walked out. He was like that, an introvert that couldn’t always show his feelings.
Mom blubbered about how sorry she was. For some reason, the news was shocking but it wasn’t the first thing in my mind. I was more afraid of the fact that I had barely lived.
Death is something that I’ve never been afraid of. It comes, it’s something you can put off, but eventually Death wins. I have to say this, I’ve never been afraid of death. I was afraid of not living the life I wanted to live.
Mom sat there, crying and petting my head. The doctors explained all of this stuff to her, but I didn’t listen, I just sat back and wondered if I’d get to go home. This went about for about an hour, until her just sad there, mumbling and muttering about her ‘baby girl’.
Aiden came back then, with a pretty spiral with a rose on the cover. He dropped it on my lap and said to me,
“Write, Arella, write for me, write about your life.” His eyes were red as he told me this, and I felt tears trickle down my face. Of course, of course he’d be the one, the one that everyone would not expect to be sentimental, and the one that everyone would expect to be introverted. But by giving me this, he was being sentimental; he was finding a way to keep me, even after I was gone.
He knew my writing was the way to find my soul, and I gave it to him.
I gave him poems, I gave him stories, thoughts about how he should treat his wife, what he should name his children, how he should have them be multilingual because we weren’t able to be. He wouldn’t want to, but I told him it would be useful for them and for their futures.
I wrote letters to my future nephews and nieces I wouldn’t be able to meet, I wrote a letter to his future wife, I wrote a letter for him to read at his wedding, his children’s weddings, and finally one for his children to read for me at his funeral.
I called for a nurse, I asked her if she could find me lined paper, (they wouldn’t let me leave for a few more days, so they could see how bad it really was). I used that paper for the more important letters.
I wrote a letter to my mom, a letter to each of my cousins, my aunts, uncles, the family that isn’t family but you call it family anyway, my best friends, I wrote letters to my favorite teachers. I gave a giant envelope to my brother and told him that he couldn’t give these out until the day after I died.
I couldn’t bring myself to think about my funeral. For two months I avoided the idea, but as I got sicker and sicker, weaker and weaker I finally wrote, in the last few pages of my journal what I wanted, I went off of the song ‘If I Die Young’ by The Band Perry, I had just heard it and had fallen in love with because the song became me.
‘When I die young, bury me in satin, lay me down on a bed of roses sink me in the river at dawn, send me away with the words of a love song…’Instead I wanted to be sunk at dusk, under the stars I held so close to my heart. I had two songs written down, Take Me Home by Celtic Thunder (which wasn’t really a love song but it seemed appropriate) , and the other was Your Love by Logan sand the song that my friend Eric used to ask out my other friend, Irela, who is now his girlfriend. He had been so nervous and had me actually pick the song. I was better friends with her than him, but for some reason it was special to me. I hoped that they would become even closer due to my death. I hoped that even if they broke up they’d stay friends, for me.
My friends know about my dying, and come to visit me at home every day. One, his name is Calvin and he’s really been acting strangely. He holds my hand as we sit outside, Irela would come and sit with me until sundown, and then would leave, Calvin would leave after her. He was always there and we’d always talk, just always talk. Irela was horrible, she was blubbering more than my mom. Eric sat there with her, I smiled at him, he just comforted her, made stupid jokes.
My other friends came, but they weren’t as emotional and they didn’t come as much. Bella tried to come, but there was just so much she could handle with these kinds of things.
My family, oh my family, my mass amounts of cousins spent every last moment they could with me. We talked about the times we had, and we steered clear of thoughts of the future they knew I wouldn’t see. We made new memories, ones that even in death I won’t forget. I have a bond with my cousins that it that of siblings, because we’ve just grown up together we’ve been through it all. As we’ve watched each other grow up it has been strange, seeing how different we are in the end, how different I was from that little girl with blonde curls and blue eyes. The one that couldn’t take a joke and read too much, the one that found music more interesting than movies and sports, I was the one that looked up to them in more ways than possible They smiled for me, I knew it was killing them inside, as the few tears that came out killed me.
My aunts and uncles spent more time with my mom and my brother, comforting them. I couldn’t comfort them, and I found Mom asleep with my baby pictures in her hands and tears dried onto her face.
Life went on in a strange way, Mom stayed home, Aiden worked, and Aiden’s friends actually came over to sit with me, which was strange. His girlfriend didn’t, surprise, surprise, unless Aiden was there. I didn’t go to school, although school work did come to me. Teachers sent books some came to visit every now and then. There was nothing we could really do, mostly because I was dying and we didn’t have much money. I was happy with my mass amounts of books and music. I made Mom and Aiden promise that they were going to find good homes for my books and not keep them. They wouldn’t read them.
I wanted to be sunk with Stellaluna by Janell Cannon though, it had been my favorite book as a kid and held a special place in my heart. It was a very difficult thing to chose, but I had chosen.
Slowly my legs became paralyzed and I was stuck in bed, I was losing control, It was hard to hear, it was becoming hard to speak. I could do very little and it hurt, it hurt, and it killed me inside.
As I came closer to where I wouldn’t be able to move my arms anymore, I wrote a poem, this is it.
“I’m going to tell you this now
Don’t mourn me
Don’t bury me under a sycamore tree
Let me sail with the waves off of Galway bay
And let them sing me to sleep into history
Save your tears for when you’ll need them most
Save your breath
Don’t talk of the sad
Remember me for all the good I had
Even towards the end my mother was my friend
My brother was my brother who wouldn’t give in
My family was there beside me through thick and thin
My friends were always there as I faded off in the end.
As I die young
Come on inside
I’ll let you in for a little while
See my thoughts and my memories
See how happy I was to be
The person I am
The person you know
The person who loves all the falling snow
Who’s not afraid to laugh
When you think you could cry
The one who stands up for what’s right
The dreamer who writes
Of what could be
The imaginative one who falls free
Into the lands I don’t know
Hands I’m unsure of
They guide you as you fall
So don’t be afraid
To come see me
After you join me in history.
Don’t cry for me
Just don’t give in
For sadness isn’t your friend
Don’t mourn me
Just always believe
That even though I’ve died
I’m still here
Watching over you knowing that you’ve cared
Now it’s my turn
Through the thick and thin I’ll be by your side
Until you give into death itself
Then you’ll be free
To ride the waves
Ride the waves with me.
For all the good I had
Be there for my mother the best friend I had
She going to need my blood
My family so much
To get through these times that are rough
You can’t fill the hole
Just help it heal
Bit by bit because it’ll be real
You’ll need each other
Family until the end
Just stick together, be friends
Don’t lie don’t cheat
Have your fun
Be honest be truthful
‘til it’s done, ’ til you join me.
As for my friends
Don’t forget about me
Keep a picture around your family tree
So you’ll be able to tell who I was
To your grand kids
They’ll be inspired to be the best they can be.
For all of you who may not know me
I’m not afraid of Death
It chose me
Now it’s my turn
To sail upon the breeze
I can wait for the day you join me
So take your time
Live for me
Do what I couldn’t
Do what you can
To change this world
Into a better land
As I die
I write for you
Keep me close
And always remember
Even in death
I love you.”
Now I’m being sliced by a sharp knife, the knife of a short life as I drift to sleep in the night.