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The Fifteenth of January

January 15, 2010: fifteen days after an unforgettable night; fifteen days after a day I called one of the best in my life; fifteen days that only felt like fifteen minutes; fifteen days that I can never revisit.

My grandfather treated me differently from others. Everyone knew I was his favorite grandchild and he was my favorite grandparent. When I was wrong, I was still right from his perspective. I was treated like royalty. He would kiss my forehead every night before returning to his home. He called me his butterfly and said that I was different from the rest.

I still feel it: the hole in my heart never seems to heal. It has been twelve months and I still feel the agonizing pain. It’s hard to live through the tragedies of life. It’s hard to ignore the feeling that reminds me things will never be the same. That feeling that hurts a little more inside when you wake up in the morning to find out it wasn’t all a dream. I felt like things would never be the same after that Friday.

My heart stopped. I felt hot air enter and exit through my body as I sat in class with a need for my inhaler. As the class bell chimed, my eyes went blank. I began to walk out and realized what had happened. The first tear I shed spilled down my cheek, while I slammed myself against the brick wall outside the classroom door. I couldn’t stop the tears from drowning my face. I began to weep, sitting on the cold concrete ground, waiting for my heart to stop hurting.

My brother picked me up early from school that day. I felt stark emptiness conquering my body, leaving me hopeless and despondent. I felt like a chunk of my heart had been viciously ripped out. Why do things fall apart when you have the most hope?

My parents needed to go to the cemetery to discuss what I did not, under any circumstances, want to hear. I walked across the street to my grandmother’s house, planning to comfort her when I arrived. When I opened the door, I shed tears that burned through my cheeks. I wrapped my grandmother in my arms and slowly walked to his room. I began to haphazardly shuffle through his clothes, wiping the tears off of my face. When I found the navy sweater he would always wear, I pulled it over myself, hoping to somehow feel connected to him. It smelled like his signature scent, and somehow that made me feel safe. I sat on his bed, my knees bent with my face resting on his pillow. I curled up into a ball, closed my eyes, and stayed there for what felt like an eternity.

I patiently waited for his viewing. Although I knew it would hurt to see him lying in the casket, I wanted to see him. Even if it meant that was going to be the last time I ever saw him, I wanted to see him. When I saw my mother and grandmother kiss his frigid forehead, I wondered if I should mimic their actions. I vacillated between this tremendously emotional decision. As I thought to myself silently, my uncle reminded me, “That’s only his body, Anna, his soul is already in heaven.” With that said, I backed away from my grandfather’s body and sat down.

The next few insipid weeks passed by painfully slow. My pillowcase was constantly damp and the deafening silence was my best friend. I felt nothing. The few times I tried to forget about this misfortune, I felt I had somehow betrayed him. My stomach was tied into a knot and my heart was shattered into a million pieces.

It took a while for me to accept his death. Every morning I woke up, it felt as if the day before was just like any other day. However, when I saw his picture surrounded by lit candles in my living room, I came to my senses. I don’t quite remember how long it took for me to adapt to the truth, but it was not easy. I eventually built up enough strength and realized that if I don’t let him go, I will always be stuck in the past. With the help of my family, I learned to accept life’s tragedies and hope for a better day.

I always wanted to feel some kind of pain and sorrow, to know that I’m still alive. Now that it had happened, I wished to never have had such a wonderment. I wanted to take back that day in December when I found out he was in the hospital so I could do things differently. I wanted to go back and relive it all, so I could spend every second I had with him. I wanted to feel the unconditional love every time he would see me. I wanted to know that things would be okay, even though my heart fought against it. I wanted to be there. I should have been there when he needed me. Subconsciously, I believed he would be back home soon.

This experience changed my life. I learned that the impediments one may face only make them stronger. I learned that life kicks you around sometimes, but you have to show life that you are strong enough to fight back. I learned to enjoy the simple pleasures of life and to not take anything for granted, appreciating the people that sacrifice things for me daily. I learned that the hole in my heart will eventually heal, and I will only be left with memories that I was blessed enough to experience. I learned that life is full of tragedies. They have happened, they are happening, and they will happen in the future. However, does this mean you are going to lose everything you’ve been fighting for and give up? No. I am now aware that when your heart breaks, you have to fight until the end to make sure you’re still living; because you are, and the agony you feel, that’s life. The confusion and fear you experience is there to remind you that there is something better in the world, and that “something” is worth fighting for.

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