In My Heart, Now and Forever

January 27, 2011
Those Friday night lights are glistening down on the high school cheerleaders who are anticipating the start of the music. The girls begin their half-time performance with cheesy smiles and exaggerated arm movements. Front and center is a young sixteen year old who, to the eye, appears to be just another girl shaking pom-poms. But hidden underneath that blue and white uniform is something different than all the other girls dancing beside her. She’s not on the field because she has a passion for performing. She doesn’t participate in this sport solely because she wants to support the boys in shoulder pads. Oh no, her reason for being out on that fifty yard line runs much deeper that. Soon, the routine comes to an end and all the cheerleaders flash their pearly whites, including that peculiar sixteen year old. All around her, the girls are chanting and the crowd is clapping. But oddly, the girl hears none of this. Instead, she is busy gazing off into the incredible night sky and there, she sees the face of her niece that passed away nearly eight months ago. That face is the reason the girl calls herself a cheerleader. That face made Ann strive to be the best and give everything a shot, including cheerleading.


A twinkle shines so brightly in the cheerleader’s eye that it almost seems to rival the brilliant stars hanging above her. She can finally picture her niece without struggling to blink away the tears. But it had not always been that way.


Many months ago, Ann’s life was the complete opposite of easy. The death of her young niece, Angelina, left her feeling like she dry-swallowed a gigantic pill. When Angelina died, a piece of Ann died with her. For weeks, Ann’s life lacked any color of sign of beauty. Hopelessness was the only feeling left beating inside her. Sleep was the only time she found comfort. The rest of the time, she walked around like a zombie: numb and lifeless. She didn’t want to go on. She couldn’t find the strength to do so. Ann would awake hoping this was all a dream, only to find her life was a nightmare. Plastering a fake smile on her emotionless face seemed to be the only way to get through the endless days. But behind that smile was a broken heart. A broken, black heart that shattered into a million pieces the moment Angelina walked towards the light. And it was as if no one could piece it back together. Not the counselor who tried every session to reach a break-through, not the preacher who offered so many words of wisdom, not even her family that surrounded her with unconditional love. All Ann knew was it was heaven when Angelina was alive. And now, Ann was forced to walk through hell without her.


A few more weeks slugged on by and Ann was still drowning in an ocean of tears. She spent most of her days curled in a ball, tucked away in the shadows of her bedroom. Life began to have no meaning for her. Life was just a terminal illness. Her life all seemed to be a shade of gray. There was no happiness to be found in the hollowness of her heart. Sadness washed over Ann day in and day out. She bathed in regrets and sorrow. She slept with emptiness and despair. Ann was stuck in such a dark place, the light could not find her. Mourning took place 24/7. Believing there couldn’t possibly be any happiness left in the world after such a tragedy, Ann convinced herself that her life should consist of simply mourning the loss of her mini-me. She wished she could be happy like everyone else but the heaviness in her heart just wouldn’t let her. She wore the pain and sadness like a heavy coat. Ann was confined to the four walls of her bedroom that seemed to close in on her every day. Slipping away into complete isolation, Ann struggled to find any sign of life left in her. She just slumped back down on the floor and her eyes continued to water.


The pitter-pattering of the rain drops on Ann’s window woke her from her dreamless sleep. Instinct tugged at Ann’s heart to dash outside and dance in the rain the way she and Angelina has done so many times before. Before the dark voice inside her head could speak, Ann raced out the front door and into the road. Twirling around and around barefooted, Ann felt liberated. She felt the wet drops rolling down her face. Although most of them were rain drops, one single drop was a tear. But for once it was not a sad tear. Rather this lone tear was a happy one. Ann was finally happy. She was happy God let her witness this rainstorm. Because above her head, a rainbow spread across the cold sky and it made her realize that although it rains, there’s always a rainbow afterwards. Ann was sick of her life being a rainstorm. She was more than ready to ride the rainbow. As she skipped back towards her house, she caught a glimpse of herself in her car window. There, on her face, was something she hadn’t seen in so long: a genuine smile. She felt the presence of her niece all around her and instantly, the darkness that once was Ann’s life was replaced with every vibrant color of the rainbow.


As Ann turned away from her reflection, she realized her life needed a serious change. Life is not supposed to be the way Ann had been living it. Angelina would not have wanted her aunt to live in sadness. Ann realized that Angelina would want her to live life to the fullest and with absolutely no regrets. After all, each day of a person’s life is as gift and not a given and guaranteed right. Ann realized that she wasn’t going to waste any time and that Angelina would live in her, joining along side Ann for the ride. There’s no good in goodbye but when Ann finally had the strength to really say goodbye to Angelina, she realized that goodbye brought along a second chance. Ann had a second chance at life. She had the chance to try things she’d never done before and become who she wanted to be. Angelina’s death opened Ann’s eyes up to life and the possibilities inside of it. Angelina was a five-year-old little girl but she was more than just that. She was an angel in disguise. But more importantly, Angelina was a healer. She healed Ann’s heart by showing her that life is an hourglass glued to the table. She instilled inside Ann that life is not a game and when it flashes before a person’s eyes, it should be worth watching.


She healed that way Ann saw life. She healed the way Ann lived life.


“Ann, come on!,” shouts one of the other cheerleaders.


Ann does one more high-kick and then races off that high school football field. As soon as Ann reaches her place on the sidelines, she glances up to the sky. Angelina is no longer looking down on her, but Ann knows exactly where Angelina has gone. The emptiness inside Ann’s heart is overflowing with love. Angelina is in Ann’s heart. Now and forever.





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