I Fear Nothing

August 7, 2008
By Jennifer Gilbert, West Chester, PA

I fear nothing. By now, you've probably met some braggart who swaggered down the hall boasting the same line. But I'm not lying. I barely break a sweat when I speak from a podium, nor when I pluck wriggly worms from mud pools. I fear nothing. But that's just it, you see--not only do I fear nothing, but nothing is my worst fear. That's right. I'm terrified of absence from life.
This summer marked my first experiences with death. To be honest, I'm lucky no one I knew well passed away before then. Sometimes I'm not even sure it's fair to say I knew them well. I'd only met my cousin Sarah twice since she was adopted. The second time just happened to be two weeks before she drowned. I try to think of it as lucky, because I saw her one last time. From that day until the end of her funeral, I wrote over twenty pages in my journal. I was so afraid I'd forget. Now I'm too afraid to reread them.

But it was all a blur back then, and I tried to make sense of it. I talked to my parents and wrote to upperclassmen, searching for anyone older who would understand. The truth is, not one ever really could. And that's okay, because I just wanted them to listen and try. The response I most remember came when I wrote that all my thoughts cliche, but still felt them nonetheless, and Taylor replied "Sincere cliche is an oxymoron. No words can be cliche if they are truly meant. No feelings can be cliche if they are truly felt." Then he made me promise to write him a letter while he was in Mexico. I forgot, and he died ten days later.

I haven't written about this since last summer. It's one of my other worst fears. The most terrifying part is upholding memories I'm constantly unsure I deserve. Yet if I let those memories go, a piece of a person is lost. I'm surrendering it to nothingness--my worst fear of all. Which means I need to force myself to reread those twenty pages and letters from Taylor, whether they make me shiver or not. And we have a responsibility to everyone who leaves: to keep them from nothingness.

I promised myself I'd never write this piece, yet knew I'd print it all the same. It's not bubbly or witty like my others, and probably won't make you giggle on your way to class. Typing it petrified me. But I had to do it, simply and sincerely, because I fear nothing, and I don't want you to let anyone become nobody. I don't. As the seniors head off to colleges, I joke "Remember to write! Bring me souvenirs," barely keeping myself from crying "Don't forget me! I would never forget you!"

Yet much as I try, through distance, death, and time, I can't force people to remember each other. I can only hope, and offer to never let you go. And then you will exist forever.

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This article has 1 comment.

Megannnn said...
on Aug. 15 2008 at 12:49 am
This is absolutely breathtaking. I too expierenced my first hit of death this year, and I write and I write, but I am terrified of the words I wrote down. They do not seem like me, and you have shown me that I am not alone. You write wonderfully, and whomever you knew that passed would be happy to know they will forever exist through your words, both to yourself and the ones you share with others. Thank you.

Parkland Book