Life has a way of throwing things at you, things you never think you will move on from. These things thrown at me have made me into a hard to love person. They have made me build up my walls so high they are almost impossible to break down. They have taught me to always say “I love you” because you never know when it's the last time. Life has taught me to never end seeing someone with an argument or holding a grudge. Most importantly it has taught me to hold on to the ones I love and never let them go.
The night started out perfectly. A Friday night, my sister would be at a friend’s house. I would be home with just my mom and dad. My parents would go out to the shop and play Yahtzee and I would get to watch all the movies I wanted and eat as much popcorn as I possibly could. My parents would come in and check on me. I would beg my mom for candy and eventually she would give in. This is the night I had pictured in my head when I heard my dad was bringing Abbey to a friend’s house. Instead that’s not how my night went at all.
I didn't know that this would be the night where one of the people I loved the most would be ripped away from me. I didn't know that goodbye would be my last, or that smile would be the last time I saw it.
“Mom, there's someone at the door.” I shouted from the kitchen
It was a man; he was wearing beat up jeans and a red Carhartt t-shirt. My mom seemed to know who he was, but I had no clue who this man was at all. He had a blank stare on his face and a tear rolled down his cheek. He couldn't get out what he was going to say. He knew something we didn't know, he knew he was about to rip our lives apart but we did not. The news he would bring to us would change my family forever and cause millions of tears to roll down my face. He looked at me as I stared innocently at him and then looked at my mom.
“There was an accident, it was John.” he said.
My mom got a puzzled look on her face, and told me to go in the the kitchen. I went to the kitchen as I was told. I felt my stomach drop, I had a feeling I had never felt before. It was as if my body knew what was going on, but I hadn't been told yet. My house suddenly felt cold and dark, a feeling that wouldn't go away for a few weeks. % The air felt thick as if it could have drowned me. I had all these emotions going through my body, and I didn't even know the news. I knew my dad had been in an accident but not the extent of it. it was probably just a small accident, a broken bone or a concussion.. I had all these scenarios in my head but none as bad as the truth. I never imagined the news I was about to hear. The news that would change me forever.
“Grace, I have to go. Stay with Kelsey, it's going to be okay. I will be home and let you know what's going on.” My mom said to me as she and Alex ran out the door. Little did I know that they were going to see the accident site. The place where my life was torn into a million little pieces, pieces I was left to glue back together. I sat on the steps in our garage with my soft Teletubie blanket and my head buried in my lap. I sat there for what felt like forever. Kelsey was sitting right next to me, she told me repeatedly “It's going to be okay, whatever happens always know you have a wonderful family that loves you.” She tried to act strong and like everything was okay, but I wasn't stupid, I knew in fact nothing was okay.
My mom returned shortly, her eyes had tears running out of them. My brother was pacing back and forth with tears running down his face. I could tell my mom didn't know how to tell me. How do you tell a 9 year old that her father was just killed in a car accident? How do you tell a 9 year old the hardest news she has ever heard? She sat me down and told me everything. My dad had been killed half a mile away from home in a motorcycle accident. He had died on the scene, and she went on to tell me that even if he would have made it, he would have never been the same. I remember thinking I was dreaming, that this doesn't happen to families like mine.
I sat there crying in my mom’s arms, and she cried with me. She had a picture of him and her in the shape of a heart that she was clenching with one hand. She sat on the couch for what felt like hours clenching the photo. I sat there, tears streaming down my face. My sister was dropped off by her friend’s parents and came into the room and joined us. We sat there in complete silence, nothing but the picture and the tears.
I walked to the backyard where my brother was. For a few moments, I stood there watching him. “Alex, are you okay?’ I remember asking my brother as he paced back and forth with tears running down his face. He looked at me and said “No Grace, I'm not okay.” and then hugged me. I stood there crying in my brother’s arms for what felt like forever. I know it wasn't long because Kayla walked into the backyard holding Ella. She gave my brother a big hug and then hugged me. I left them in the backyard and went to my mom.* I could hear her sobbing as I walked into the front door of my house. Her right hand clenching the photo, her left hand reached out to me.
I sat next to her and stared at the picture with her. My dad had the biggest smile on his face, a smile we often saw. My dad had a smile that could infect an entire room, a smile that would never be forgotten. My mom in the picture smiled from ear to ear. My parents had a kind of love that I will never forget. My dad had chased after my mom for years and once he finally got her, he was never going to let her go. As I looked at my mom I could feel her heart broken. Her smile no longer from ear to ear, a smile I would come to miss. A smile that would not return for a while. A smile that when it did return would never be the same.
The following days were filled with visitor after visitor. The family soon poured in, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and friends filled my house. There was California family I didn't even know existed. My house was filled with people, the fridge with lasagna, and the table with bars. The smell of flowers would linger in my house for weeks.
The funeral was held on a gloomy Wednesday morning. A day I will always remember as cold and dark. The viewing started an hour before the funeral. I walked up to my dad’s casket alone and remember him looking cold and white. “Normally dead people look peaceful, but that is not a look my dad had.” I thought to myself. He looked as if he died 25 years too early, he looked not ready. The funeral service was large; over four hundred people showed up. People often tell me that they remember it being a beautiful service, but that is not the way I remember it. I remember it as the day I said goodbye to my dad forever. After the service, immediate family was invited to the cemetery where he would be laid to rest.
I stood there with a small silver plaque by my feet. The plaque read “John Harley Jr. May 1st 1966- April 17th 2009.” We were invited to put letters, or personal items onto the casket to go with him. I bring up a letter I wrote to him and a pack of cigarettes. I go back to where my mom is standing and go numb. The air is cold making my fingers stiff, turning my nose red.* I could feel the tears running down my face but my hands were too cold to take them out of my pocket and wipe them away.
On the way home from the funeral, I looked out the window as we passed the spot of the accident, I see flowers. The day is dark and gloomy, but there are yellow and white flowers shining in the darkness. I see them and think of my dad’s smile. I smile a little for the first time in a week and look up to thank him for the reminder that he is still here. My house soon empties of family, the lasagna is soon eaten, and the bars gone. The smell of flowers that lingered throughout my house soon dies away. My life continues on as I learn how to move on without my father.