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May 13th comes around every year, the day my family never acknowledges anymore. Grief suffocates the house, words are not spoken, and smiles are constricted. My little sister and dad as well as myself, grieve internally for the day my mother died.
Rewinding up to the point to where it all happened, it all started in 2002 when my little sister Shiloh was born. Her unexpected pregnancy took a toll on my mother’s body while in the midst of harsh drug use. My mother began drugs at a young age, due to the fact her parents didn’t care for her. Heroine was her best friend; it seemed like, until I finally had enough of seeing her syringe and the usual nod she was in. Getting help for her was a fact I needed to face before it became too late and an accident occurred. Stepping up to the plate and telling my mom, or anyone, what they needed to do wasn’t my forte. My instincts kicked in a little late, leaving myself to drown in guilt…
I’ve learned to become as independent as her when she was a young adult, minus the drugs that aided her. When she was not “at Mars,” as people reference being in a drunken or high state, she knew the words of comfort, and acted like the mom I was supposed to have. The mom that doesn’t do hardcore drugs. The mom that saves her money instead of buying ”dope” from the streets. I wanted a mom that knew where she was all the time, and someone who CARED.
My dad was a different story, usually reading the newspaper on the back lawn, or working his full time job in which he worked overtime whenever he could. Mom didn’t make her own money so dad brought in the cash we needed. Barely being able to pay the bills, we still managed to stay in our house that we grew up in. He knew of my mom's situation, but he never scolded her or mentioned it. He almost acted like…he didn’t mind.
Since Shiloh was only eight years of age, I couldn’t help the household with the money aspect. My job was to watch out for Shiloh, which was easy considering she was always under my arm. Shiloh and I were best friends, even with the occasional arguments. After our mom’s accident, most of our bonds were ceased, thinking it was our entire fault for not halting it.
With our crooked generation, stepping away from the wrong things and choosing the right paths is hard as implied in my favorite poem “The Road Not Taken.” It expresses the separate paths you are offered, one being the bandwagon route, and one being the road less traveled. I travel on the narrow path, although no influence comes from my mother. Sarah had difficulty and fought with her conscious, knowing it was only going to get more intense. I wondered if she asked herself “Why? Why am I hurting myself?” I guess she just swatted the thought away and told herself it feels good so why not?
Teenagers like me are being introduced to gateway drugs all the time. Peer pressure and the pleasurable side effects persuade a lot of folks towards the route of drugs. Knowing some of my friends do the same abuse as my mom, it irks me. Faith, her name describing her in one, was a friend that didn’t follow the crowd.
Faith Miller was one of a kind. Attaining a lung condition called cystic fibrosis, trouble seemed to follow her. Multiple visits to the emergency room, Faith had a hard life. She was always telling me, “God has a plan for me, and I have CF for a reason!” I kept questioning her on why she believed all that mumbo jumbo. I was so clueless about the whole “God” thing. Faith always said her church was her happy place and the only place people accepted her and felt visible, unlike at school. She was one crazy girl who knew how to make me laugh, but talking about my mom with her was out of the question. I knew she was far from judgmental, but confiding in someone was scary. Always putting on a fake face so people don’t ask why I’m not happy, Faith was one person that saw through me.
Coming home from a cruddy day at school, I walked straight to the couch aching for sleep considering it was a Monday morning. Shiloh and I looked at each other because we heard nothing. Quiet swept the house leaving the stench of suspicion between us. We knew dad was at work, and our mom was supposed to be home, but didn’t seem to present herself. Searching the master bedroom first, we stepped into the half bathroom seeing my mother laying on the floor, out cold. A sight never to be seen by children, it was my mother dead. With the syringe in hand and a gray tint to her skin, we knew what had happened. It was all too much to take in as it looked like a crime scene in our own bathroom. I wasn’t sure whether to break down or just hold it in for my sister sake. I didn’t want to believe my mom died. I didn’t want to believe what inanimate objects could do to a person. It was unreal and made me feel sick to my stomach. Ralphing at a moment like this was out of the question it seemed like. My stomach seemed to have a mind of its own, as I re-eat the school lunch I had consumed earlier. Shiloh bounces back with disgust and horror according to her facial expressions. Just like me, Shiloh bottles her emotions about my mom…. dead. We both decide to simply dig a grave in the backyard and have a funeral of our own. We were afraid they’d blame the death upon us if we got the police involved. Shovels retrieved and Shiloh and I went off to dig my mother’s grave. Never thought I’d say that one…
Once we thought it would have sufficed, we both retrieved the dead, but still warm, body of my mothers. Delicately laying down my mother into the dirt, we said a couple of prayers and threw the dirt delicately on top. Thinking back, I should’ve checked her pulse. I didn’t want any zombie movie to come to life, that’s for sure. I scolded myself for thinking such silly things, and decided to make a cross out of my father’s spare wood. My mother would think I was cheap considering it wasn’t even a real funeral with plywood for her gravestone, but at this point, she would’ve been grateful. Not like she loved us anyhow, or just didn’t show it. The thoughts cramped my mind about everything that happened all at once and I was still in shock. Faith was my only chance to free my mind of all the stress, even though that would mean sharing my whole life’s story.
Continuing with my life was hard, having no one to turn to. Faith was my last chance before I kept thinking how worthless I really was. Suicide continuously popped up in my mind unwillingly, but it was hard to keep out. The unloved life that I lived was painful, and I was tired of having to deal with everything on my own. I looked around and saw other kids with the almost perfect family, new clothes, and glowing with happiness. I filled with jealousy every time I compared myself to others. School became depressing each and everyday I went, feeling invisible to the perfect lives people lived in.
Wishing away my life wasn’t helping, so pain was the closest to it. Cutting my skin, letting my blood seep out, somehow made the world disappear. For once I was happy for my cat Sam so I could blame the scratches on him. No one thought of me as the emo kid, only because I was good at putting on an act. No one expected me to put harm upon myself, so they didn’t question me. After I had enough of the hardships I was going through, as it had only been a month after the death of my mother, I asked Faith to meet up with me at the park to hang out. I was planning to pour out my emotions, but when the opportunity came up, I got cold feet. Fear enveloped me, even though I knew Faith is the best listener, ironically being because she wears hearing aids.
I was afraid of being judged, even though she tells me her church preaches to not be judgmental, as she told me previously. Instead of telling her my story, she invited me to her local church she always talks about.
The upcoming Wednesday soon arrived, and so did Faith at my front door. I decided to bring along Shiloh so she wouldn't be stuck at home alone in the nothingness of our house. Car rides were always soothing, but my nerves seemed on end the entire time. Meeting new faces and finally learning something about God was a bit intimidating, but I knew Faith had my back the entire night. Youth group kicked off with a few unknown Jesus featuring songs, and I instantly felt uncomfortable. People expressed their selves by holding up their arms with their eyes closed, holding their friends close, something I never had. About to escape to the bathroom, Faith grabbed my hand, and it startled me. I didn’t know what I was feeling… Was it comfort, was it friendship, was it…endearment? All of which I have never felt, I was still. Faith pulled me a little closer, guessing she sensed my loneliness or awkward self in the middle of the anonymous crowd of Jesus freaks. Every teenager looked like they belonged and was happy and I couldn’t help but wonder what goes on in their life that makes them present themselves to be undisturbed or felicitous with such ease. I needed the answer.
As the night progressed, I was still confused about the talks about Jesus and His Father God. They talked about how Jesus was put on a cross and was sacrificed for all of the world’s wrong doings, which were called sins. I didn’t actually know how clueless I was until I was slapped in the face with all the new information being shared by our youth leader. After hearing all these insane stories, or parables, about what Jesus did for us and how lucky we really are, I was in a daze. The feeling inside me was like after eating chocolate pie. I just wanted more and more of it. I wanted to know more about Jesus, and for once, I felt a little less lonely knowing there was one person that actually truly cared. It was freaky how only a couple of hours could practically start a new beginning for myself and I had only heard a few among many parables throughout the Bible. Interrupting my thoughts were visuals of my past… not necessarily reminiscing but simply remembering. Not only the abominable memories including my mother and her foolish addictions, but the times when I was a toddler when I didn’t know half the things that were happening. Regretting that I was oblivious to all the extraordinary ways God can offer, I could only make it up by learning now. Although I long for the days where nothing was as confusing, I felt invincible knowing God and Jesus would stand by my side through thick and thin.
Saying our goodbyes, Faith tells me about how she goes to a group heal session called “Life Hurts, God Heals” and she begged me to join in on the emotional get-together. Dealing with my problems with other people definitely wasn’t my forte, but I wanted to get more involved in church. Before I even agreed, Faith read me like a book and yelped with happiness. I wasn’t too sure what I just agreed to…
Continuing with my school week, I completed the bible verses I was assigned to read each night and to memorize from the new bible I was given Wednesday. Excited to head back to church and learn more, I still had that resistant feeling. It was just so sudden yet I still didn’t know half about what I now loved. ?
Wednesday swooped around faster than expected, leaving my house; the “hole of doom” as me and my sister nicknamed it. I hadn’t really asked her about her experiences at church, but she usually always kept to herself anyways. She didn’t seem too dreadful heading to church, so I was pretty sure she looked forward to it just like me. Faith led me through the unknown hallways of her church and up the stairs to the youth fellowship hall where Life Hurts God Heals took place before the main worship hours. Groups were in circles speckled around the room. I was led to one group with about six people. We first introduced ourselves with our names, and a little background information to get to know each other. I could literately feel the awkward in the air because a lot of the people didn’t know one other, so it was going to be a long session of LHGH. Minutes passed as I listened to all the personal stories of all the kids, and it soon came around to my turn. My palms were sweating and my heart was jumping out of my chest at what people would think about my depressing mother and how sucky my lifestyle was. Although some of them could relate, half of their stories weren’t as ghastly as mine. Through the hour, I never did express how I really felt. I practically presented myself as a carefree kid, with only a few family problems, but that wasn’t half the story obviously. They didn’t, Faith didn’t, nobody knew my story. My messed up life-style was too much for the people in my group to handle. Again, talking about my problems didn’t seem to help the situation, just make me more stressed out.
The main worshiping session started and I felt warmer already. The hole in my heart healed a little bit every time I thought about the wonders of God, cheesy enough to say. I reached up during the middle of the songs, touching my face…. and it was wet. Tears were streaming down my cheeks, but I wasn’t sad. I had never experienced the pure bliss of crying of happiness. As always, Faith was there for me, holding my hand from the start to the end of the emotional roller coaster. As I think of the past, the indefinite sins, the sadness from earlier years in my life, balled up and escaped during worship times. I had no idea how much was bottled up until I let it all out. Faith and I both ran off to the bathroom to clean up, because she was crying as well. Once we got tissues, cried a little more, and then finally freshened up, I asked her why she was crying. Faith said that God flows through her every time she worshiped and just the power makes her bones tremble. She practically took the words out of my mouth. This was when I finally shared my story.
When I finish, I was once again a wet face, but with a lighter heart. It felt wondrous to say what had been on my mind for a long time. Not only to a person that I know, but my best friend that I could trust. Once I spill my life story, she starts hers. It seems to not be the fairytale I thought she lived. She told me about how she strives to be perfect even though it’s impossible. She tells me she has emotional breakdowns because she was and still is uncomfortable with herself. Faith? Self-conscious? No way. I couldn’t believe what my ears heard because Faith never acted like an insecure being. Not one bit! Faith even told me she had almost committed suicide from all the pressures of the world trying to conform her. The weight was just too heavy, but she accepted Christ and everything went uphill for her. Story sound familiar?
We both had the talent of wearing a mask disguising our real inner thoughts. I almost felt self-absorbed since I never asked her how life was, but then again, neither did she. I think we both knew something was wrong, but we were just too scared to ask. We definitely had the connection and it felt phenomenal to relate to a friend. Thinking about the world and other kids struggling just like me, I didn’t feel that lonely. Even though people don’t experience burying their own mother in their back yard without an “official” funeral, people can still relate to the heavy heart I had. Jesus on my side as I joined the Christian family, everything seemed to feel all right from that point on. My Bible in one arm and my best friend in the other, life proved itself worthy.