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At night I would lie in bed and watch the show, how bees squeezed through the cracks of my bedroom wall and flew circles around the room, making that propeller sound, a high pitched zzzzzz that hummed along my skin. I watched their shining like bits of chrome in the dark and felt the longing build in my chest. It was Marlee that taught me to love even the smallest things in life. We would sit in the lush, green grass, basking in the warm summer sun. Her hands would gently run through my gentle curls, as she would softly talk to me.
“Ya know Kami,” she would almost whisper “bees are a lot like people, you can’t judge them. While bees seem small and almost harmless, they can cause pain and panic. However, they can be beautiful. Just look at the work they can accomplish. They buzz from flower to flower to make sweet honey, not thinking twice about it. Remember that Kami, there is good in everyone.”
I was small then, it was my first grade year. I had come home from the school that day swearing I was never going to return again. I ran straight off the bus with tears racing each other down my cheek, landing safely into Marlee's arms.
“Its okay Kami," she said as she grabbed my hand and led me home. Marlee was the one I credit for raising me. My Parents were never home much, at least not until Marlee got sick. I remember when the sickness started happening. Even though I was little, I could tell something was wrong. Marlee would make me dinner on the nights my parents had to work late; usually it was our favorite pasta. I started to eat, but she never did.
“Do you not like it?” I’d ask in between bites.
“No, it’s very good, I’m just not that hungry,” she respond as she would dump the untouched dish into the garbage “but you, young lady, need to finish your food if you want dessert.” I’d smile back at her, forgetting whatever fearful premonitions swam around my mind and returning to my plate. Over the next few weeks, I watched Marlee deteriorate into a skeleton like figure.
For as long as I can remember, Marlee and I shared a room. There was a ten year difference between us, and I being the younger looked for her as a solace to my frequent nightmares. I’d wake up in a cool sweat, frantic from battle with a devious monster. Marlee would always climb in bed with me and hold me until my tears stopped. There was one specific night, where our roles changed. I woke up to Marlee coughing deeply, intermixed with sobs. I sluggishly walked over to her bed side. It took a while for my eyes to focus shapes from the inky darkness of night.
Her shirt and hand were covered in splatters of crimson, spewing out of her mouth. Her eyes were wild with pain and fright. I felt tears welling up in my eyes as I ran to wake up my parents. Within the next hour, our driveway was lit up from the flashing glow of an ambulance and my sister was being pulled from my room and I was left alone.
Mom and Dad were home more often after that night. It took a few short weeks till we found out more about the sickness that was afflicting Marlee. The news sucked the air from my small seven year old body. Leukemia. Marlee was plagued with Leukemia. Leukemia would take Marlee away from me.
She fought her battle valiantly for three long years. It was painful to watch her turn from a lively seventeen year old, to a small sick twenty year old. The one thing that never changed about Marlee was her large, round eyes. They always seemed to sparkle. We never lost sight of our close relationship, if anything, we become closer.
The day Marlee was lowered into the ground, I was beside myself. I hated the leukemia. I hated the world. I hated life. I secluded myself from everyone and everything, locking myself inside my head and my own thoughts. I dreamed of Marlee constantly, finding my reality a nightmare.
I’d visit Marlee daily, leaning against her headstone, remembering what the protection of her arms felt like. I thought back to the afternoon we sat in the warm summer air, with the soft green grass swaying softly. I brushed the tears off my face. Somewhere in the distance my mind registered a ‘zzzzzzz’ from a small bumble bee flying around the flowers I had brought for Marlee. The hum of Marlee’s voice echoed in my head, remember Kami, there is good in everyone. I watched the bee, thinking of the vibrant sting it could inflict upon any victim it choose. It was like Marlee’s leukemia. The leukemia had chosen Marlee and my family to wound.
That isn’t how Marlee looked at it. She recognized the good, the honey, the leukemia brought. It brought my parents’ home, pulling them away from the mundane matters of life. It brought a community together, rallying for her recovery. It brought sisters together, forming a bond that lasted far beyond the barrier of death.
Marlee became hope, an inspiration. Leukemia did not take her down, it brought her up. Through her story, people saw the fragility of life. Marlee showed me that life is the greatest gift we’ve been given. You don’t have forever to do the things you want, so make the most of what’s in front of you. She taught me to live for the hope of making the world a happier place. The world can bare its ugly face, bringing pain and sadness. But, at the same time, can’t it be beautiful?