“I am going to miss you so much, but Uncle William will take such great care of you, like he did for me when I was young.” I’ve never seen my mom like this before. She seems vulnerable, and her usual big, round eyes are welled up with tears. She seems to be in shock, trying to find the bright side in this awful situation, like she always does. My younger sister, Lily is crying in mom’s lap. She doesn't really understand, but of course she can't help but cry when everyone else is crying. My mom lost her job, and can't afford to keep us at home right now. We will be living with our Uncle William, and when our mom earns enough money, we can move back to California. My Uncle is very wealthy, and lives on his own. He was an engineer but hadn't worked since his wife (who my mom said had more money than we can imagine) passed away about 2 years ago. Moving across the country will be very hard, but I try not to think about it. Everyone tells me that it will be okay, we have social media to keep in touch, but I know it won’t be the same. Soon everyone will forget me and the memories we share together.
“Lester! Wake up!” Sharing a room with my little sister doesn’t allow me to get much sleep. There are 10 extra bedrooms in this house, but Lily insisted we share a room like at home. Lily pokes me over and over until I give up on pretending to be asleep. I rub my eyes to see my sister hovering by my bed, like always. I see that Lily has tried to get dressed, her favorite pink dress is on inside out and backwards and her sparkly silver shoes are on the wrong feet. Her long, blonde hair is all over her face, but she still has a huge grin. Lily has her own dollhouse in the corner, and she has redecorated it every week. My Uncle got me everything I could ever want: video games, baseballs, basketballs, soccer balls but that isn’t even half of it. We play catch in the backyard almost everyday. It feels like I have known him my whole life.
“Lester!” Says Lily sounding agitated. I look over to see what she is so excited about. The room seems brighter than usual, so I look to the window. Snow. I grab my glasses off of the bedside table and run to the window. We stand staring at the snow and gaze at it in amazement. I have never seen snow before, the coldest it has ever gotten at home is 40 degrees, and even then, the only cool thing we get is hail. I need to get outside!
I quickly throw on the snow gear Uncle William bought us and help Lily into hers and we run down stairs. “Woah, woah, woah. Slow down,” says my Uncle with a huge grin on his face. He has kind, round face, and warm, inviting eyes but his past stress through the years make him appear older than he really is. He’s wearing what he wears everyday, a suit, although he really has nowhere to go. I think that it makes him feel more put together. He is holding 2 tall glasses of orange juice in crystal cups and has made Lily’s favorite breakfast, chocolate chip pancakes. Lily and I eat breakfast as fast as possible in hopes to get into the snow quickly, but Uncle William tells us to wait for him to get on warmer clothes. It feels like we are waiting forever, but finally we run to the hill down the street.
The closer we get to the hill, the bigger it looks. The hill towers over us like a winter giant and I start to feel my hands sweat. I feel like the hill is tormenting me, and I lose all of the courage I had already mustered up.
Uncle William notices my immediate mood change and crouches down next to me. “Lester, don’t be afraid!” He chuckles, “Trust me, we will have so much fun!” We slowly walk up the hill and reach the top after what feels like an eternity. Still feeling a little unsure, I ask Uncle William to go down with me the first time. Lily sits in his lap and he slides down next to me. I speed down the hill, snow shooting up at my face, resting on my eyelashes. With my eyes closed, it feels like I'm flying down the hill. The ride gives me a sense of freedom, like I'm one with the wind. The cool breeze touches my face as I feel my sled slow down. I reach the bottom of the hill, and I look over to see my Uncle and Lily laughing. “You see! There’s nothing scary about sledding!”
I wake up to Lily poking me as always, expecting to open my eyes and it be morning, but it is pitch black outside.
“What do you need, Lily,” I say groggily.
“Listen!” I hear groans coming from down the hall, where my Uncle's room is. “Lily, wait here,” I say. I grab my glasses and put them on as I rush down the hall to knock on my uncle’s door. I knock, but no answer. I knock again, a little louder this time. Still no answer. I slowly crack the door open and see my uncle on the floor.
“Uncle William? Are you okay?” He doesn’t show any sign of recognition towards me and I start to really worry. They tell us in school to call the police first in case of emergency so I grab Lily, go to the phone and call the ambulance.
They tell me to sit by my Uncle until they get there, and to stay calm. California is 3 hours behind, so my mom would still be asleep, but I know mom will answer when she sees that it is me calling. My mom answers quickly, and I explain what is happening to Uncle William. My mom stays on the phone with me until the ambulance arrives so I feel safe, and I put the phone on speaker so Lily can talk too. When the paramedics arrive, I give the phone to one of the doctors, and they talk to Mom for a while. The doctor comes up to me and Lily and tells us that my Uncle will be taken to the hospital, and my mom is flying to New York first thing in the morning. In the meantime, a paramedic is going to stay in the house while Lily and I sleep. I feel afraid, and alone.
I wake up and see my mom for the first time in almost a year. She couldn’t afford to come visit, and we had to stay in New York for school. I look over to Lily’s bed and see her fast asleep. My mom’s face is swollen and red, I can tell she has been crying. She looks like she hasn’t slept in days. She notices that I’m awake and sits next to me in my bed. She pulls me in for a hug, and doesn’t let go for a while. “Honey, Uncle William has passed away.” I feel the world crush me from every direction. The only thing keeping me from completely breaking down is the comforting presence of my mom. I never knew that I could get so close to someone in less than a year. He was my Uncle, he always knew how to make me happy. I immediately start to cry and I put my head in my mom’s shoulder. I don’t want to ever open my eyes, I can’t imagine a world without my Uncle.
My mom doesn’t have to worry about money anymore. Uncle William left everything he owned to my family, including the house. Lily finally let me have my own room, and my mom works from home. I get to see them right when I get home from school, and it feels like we are making up the time from the year we had apart. Mom started a foundation called Wishes for William, and she puts everything she can into it. When Uncle William died, my mother didn't know how she could ever pay for the hospital expenses or the cost of the funeral, because she had spent all of her savings on the plane ticket to New York, but the generosity of my Uncle saved us. The foundation she created helps families who can't afford to pay the cost of medical bills, or the cost of funerals. My mom has never loved any of her jobs, but Wishes for William has become her passion, and it makes her happy. She says that this is what William would have wanted, to help people that need our money more than we do, and I agree.