Defining Moment

April 25, 2011
Being only 18 it is difficult to look back on my short life and create a story out of it. 18, my life is just beginning. I have another 60 to 70 years if I am lucky. I believe that it is our earliest years that make us who we are, that mold us into the adult we will eventually become. Up till now most of us have been children and now the class of 2011 is graduating, taking that rite of passage into adulthood. Many of my classmates might not make it very far into adulthood and many of us have already had adulthood thrust upon us; our childhoods untimely taken from us, for whatever reason. Walking through the halls you can see it; that little something behind a person’s eyes. The eyes are the gateway to the souls after all and only your most intimate friends know what is behind those eyes, what makes up you, the reason you are the way you are. I am welcoming you to read what makes up me; to unlock the joys and pains of me, to know what is behind my eyes.

Graduation, the most important day of my young adult life and the person that I love the more than almost anything can’t be there. When it is quiet and I am alone my mind wanders back to that night almost ten years ago, just a little eight year old girl, sweaty and covered in dirt from soccer practice. Why would tonight be any different than any other night? How was I to know that my life was about to be flipped upside down and turned inside out?

I had finished my shower my Aunt took my younger sister, Julie, and myself to Roswell. Walking into the room I saw my family, Grandma, Aunts and Uncles and my mom, worn out and sleep deprived sitting in a chair. She took mine and my sister’s hands and we walked down to his room.
“You don’t have to go if you don’t want to.” My mom said to us. All I could do was nod and I followed her into his room. It was a huge contrast to the blinding white walls of the hospital. His room was filled with pictures we drew, books, and games stacked in the corner. In the middle of all that color was my hero, pale and weak. My father lay beaten by the disease he had been fighting now for three months. The cancer had finally gotten him. As an eight year old it is difficult to see him laying there with green mucus flowing out of the tubes in his nose. I remember my mom telling us that we could talk to him, that he could hear us but couldn’t say anything back. Looking back now I realize that my mom only said this to protect my sister and I from the inevitable pain.

“I love you Daddy.” I whispered. After a few minutes my mom ushered us away to that waiting room, the special room the hospital keeps the people who came to say goodbye to the ones they loved. The rest of that night is a blur. I don’t even remember waking up the next day, but the week of the funeral I remember falling asleep curled up beside my mom and sister, us three there for each other.

There is a defining moment in a person’s life and that was mine. When a tragedy happens there are two things a person can do, they can either rise above or let the pain and fear take you over and pull you under. I did a little of both and that is what made me into who I am, a strong, passionate, no-nonsense girl about o become a woman. It is difficult to measure how losing a parent affects you. The loss shakes you to your core. It changes the essence of you. After that moment, seeing him white, frail, laying in the hospital, I lost who I was. To be honest I don’t even remember that little eight year old girl. She left and never came back. My body was inhabited by a completely different creature. My childhood was untimely taken from me and I was about to become an adult at eight. I believe you can’t go through that and come out still being a kid. The world was no longer and innocent place; I was not able to see the sadness and evils in the world. The picture of my mom’s face in that hospital waiting room, full of strength and courage and I decided that as how I was going to be. She is my rock that held me down to Earth, the glue that keeps me together when I thought I was going to explode. It was my mother that kept our little family together.

At eight I didn’t know how well loved my father was until the funeral. There was three whole days for people to pay their respects to him. It was amazing that my dad had touched so many people’s lives. All his students came, the kids that he coached, his coworkers, friends, and all our family came. Everyone was not there just for him, but for us, my sister, mom, and myself, to let us know we weren’t alone. The feeling of seeing all those people overflowing out of the room will never leave me.

The days of the funeral were beautiful summer days. My sister and I were dressed in our Easter outfits. Mine was pink with big dark pink roses printed on it. The younger children waited in the lounge outside the viewing room because there was a half hour of open casket viewing and my mom didn’t want us to be frightened. So we waited with our coloring books not really grasping the full gravity of what was going on around us. We brought our dog to the funeral too, and chained him up on the enormous oak tree just outside the funeral parlor. Whenever I got bored I would go out and play with him. My cousins even brought a game on the second day and we played it out in the garden. I remember seeing my uncle listening to a sports game on his walkman. I really don’t think my dad would have minded though. It was the third and final day that sticks in my mind the most.

On that day my mom asked my sister and I if we wanted the casket to be open the whole time.

“Yes.” We both said immediately. The fear of death wasn’t there for us. In the back of my mind I couldn’t help but to think that maybe the doctors had got it wrong. Maybe he would wake up and we would continue on with our lives. We approached the casket and the scent of flowers crept into my nose. My mom showed us the flowers she bought that we suppose to be from us. Mine had a little purple butterfly poking into the dirt that held the flowers. My eyes floated across the room and locked on the casket. There he was. In the white fabric lined coffin was my father and along side him we placed a few personal items, an old turquoise convertible matchbox car, and beanie babies. One from each of us, I put the dog beanie baby in there to remind him of our dog. After all week my tears finally slipped out. This was the first time I remember crying about his death. In my mind I had a crazy thought that if my tears fell on him he would wake up just like in the fairytales, but my wish didn’t come true.

We took our seats and the deacon began to speak and said some prayers. Then music began to play, “The Long and Winding Road” by the Beatles. My mom and I got up and danced to that song, trying to make a happy moment out of our tragedy. It only made us cry more. As we took our seats I saw all the people overflowing out of the room. It was then that it hit me how truly special my father was.

Every day of my life I wonder if I will ever be as loved as he was. If my funeral will be as filled as his was. I would like to say why I know all those people loved him so much but I couldn’t tell you. My father is just a faint memory in my head, like a dream. When you wake up you know you had dreamt about something but for the life of you, you just can’t remember a thing. Even though I can barley remember my dad I do know one thing; that he loved me with all his heart. I was his little girl, his angel, and I hope that one day when I have children I will give them as much love as my father had given me in those eight years we had together.

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