My whole body was overcome with goose bumps and my eyes began to fill with tears. My hands shook uncontrollably as I tried to understand. I was lost in the words I was being told. The world was spinning and I could not breathe; I could not speak.
It was another one of those almost-Friday, frantic Thursdays. Every period I stared at the clock, waiting for the day to end. Finally it was seventh period. One of my best friends, Ivy, and I sat next to each other, causing a ruckus as usual. When Miss Van, our orchestra teacher, called Ivy into the hall, we looked at each other and wondered, Now what? I watched through the window and became worried at Ivy’s frightened expression. Miss Van opened the door and stared at me, eyes wide. I shot out of my chair and ran to Ivy. She fell into my arms, crying as she managed to tell me that her father had collapsed at work. I tried to calm her, suggesting he probably had low blood sugar.
At six o’clock that evening, Ivy called. “Candace, could you please come to the hospital?” These were the only words I needed to hear to know where I belonged. I decided to buy Ivy something to hold onto while she was there so I purchased a unicorn (she loves horses) in hopes that it would work its magic.
When I arrived at the hospital, the waiting room was full of family and close friends and completely silent. Tissues were crumpled in the hands of many. I was confused and shocked. I was not expecting such a serious scene. When I turned and saw Ivy, we collided, holding each other close. The whole world stopped as we stood in the middle of that silent room, wailing. We did not care, or notice, how loud we were. I was not sure what had happened to Mr. P., but I cried because I knew it had to be something horrible if Ivy, one of my emotionally stronger friends, had eyes as red as blood.
After calming down, Ivy explained that her father had experienced a brain aneurysm and his chances of survival were extremely slim. I could not picture any of this as reality until she escorted me down the blank, white halls to his room. She held his hand, wanting never to let go, but knowing that eventually, maybe even that night, she would have to. The voices in my head were screaming for God to hear what I was saying. I prayed for Mr. P. to wake up, for God to give him strength, and to let there be a miracle! He looked like he was at peace, but I did not want him to be at peace, I wanted him to wake up and carry on with his life.
Much later, when I got home, Ivy called to tell me that they had decided to make her father an organ donor. They chose to end his life because they did not want him to suffer. I realized I would never see Mr. P. again; he was really gone. That was one of the most difficult situations I had ever experienced.
Who would have known a person could cry so much? The morning of calling hours was hectic. With hundreds of people, the line extended out the building and halfway down the road. My friends and I waited two hours just to get in. When we finally made it to the room, its coldness sent chills through my body. Ivy came to meet us. We ran to her and had a group hug. I stayed outside the circle because I did not want Ivy to see how weak I was feeling. She saw me and smiled, telling me to come hug her and stop crying. I held her tight, telling her it wasn’t fair and that I loved her. All our tears became a loud roar that filled the room. We went to another room where we watched a slide show her brother had put together, some parts of which made us smile while others left us crying again. After calming down, I stepped back into line to give my condolences to Mrs. P. and Ivy’s brother. The moment I saw Mr. P. in the casket, I experienced reality in a life-changing way.
The next step was the funeral. The right wall of the church was filled with Ivy’s closest friends. When she walked down the aisle with her mother and brother, I remember she looked absolutely gorgeous. The longer the ceremony went, the worse I felt. I took loud, rapid breaths and tears leaked from my eyes, drowning the tissues I held. Ivy turned toward us and her eyes met mine. I mouthed, “I love you” and her lips trembled and she faced the front again, crying. After the funeral, our crying was still uncontrollable, but we all told each other we had to be strong for Ivy. My heart was shattered and my eyes were swollen, but I knew we could make it through this somehow.
Ever since Mr. P.’s death, my life has changed dramatically. He was an amazing father and husband who gave tremendously and took little. He helped others because he wanted to, not because he wanted recognition. I learned that the people in my life should be valued and not taken for granted. I also discovered that it is not about what one has in life; it’s about whom time is spent with. I have been blessed with friends and a loving family I can count on and recognize now that they deserve more “I love yous” and “Thank yous.”
I take a breath, close my eyes, and realize all that I take for granted. It is never too late to change.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.