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Tomorrow's a New Day
“You don’t know what you got ‘till it’s gone.” Everyone knows this phrase and everyone understands it because we’ve all lost something important to us. This phrase has never meant more to me than the day I found out my friend had passed away.
March 23: a boringly normal day. Everything seemed to be as it should; my little dog with her tousled black hair still greeted me anxiously when I came home and the sun was still beating down on my head as I walked outside. Little did I know that something huge had changed. I was on Facebook after school with Myles just like almost every other day. I strolled down to see if there was anything interesting and several people wrote, “RIP MITCH.” At first I was confused and didn’t know whom they were talking about until my sister came upstairs and said, “Mitch is dead!” Her face was a ghostly white as she muttered those hallow words. Right as she said them I knew whom they were talking about. To verify my thoughts I shakily uttered, “Our table buddy?” She reluctantly nodded and slowly walked back down the stairs. The room suddenly felt colder as the news sunk in. Those few words my sister spoke dwelled in my mind as I blankly stared at the computer screen. I resent crying in front of anyone so I put on my best happy face the rest of the day until I reached my shower. The warm water and vacant room were welcoming. The second I placed my feet on the smooth bottom of the shower, I broke down. The pain and tears seemed endless at that point. I was a river dam and the blockade was removed. For quite some time I sat curled up in a ball; head down and arms wrapped around my legs. The once refreshing water became a cold wakeup call that I needed to collect myself. Sleep was the next thing on my mind; it was the one thing that could take me to a different world than the one I was living in.
The next day all I could think about were the memories I had with him. Mitch had sat with my sister and I and a couple other people in our over-sized lunchroom. He wasn’t very loud but his voice was one to be remembered; it had a quiet elegance to it. He was the kind of guy that everybody got along with, and Mitch wasn’t the kind of guy to judge anyone. I was a freshman when I met him, and we didn’t really talk at first, but eventually we would sit at our circular table and have long discussions about music. All Time Low has been one of my favorite bands before, but like most things they were forgotten. Mitch loved the band and he offered me an earphone to listen, and I was in love with the band once again. I listened to them and Green Day all day after I found out what had happened. I now have an overwhelming feeling of regret that we didn’t talk much after he transferred schools. We could’ve shared more music and exchanged more pointless stories.
I don’t know why his death affected me so strongly. I always thought of myself as a strong person, but I guess we all surprise ourselves. Now looking back, I contemplate why I couldn’t just get over this death like I had others. Maybe I don’t handle death as well as I thought. Maybe it was because he was so young. Maybe it was because he chose to die. Maybe it was because I had wished so desperately that I could have gotten to know him better. Truth of the matter is, it doesn’t matter now because nothing I do will ever bring him back, and people might say that’s a very pessimistic way of thinking but that’s how it is. People find that we seem to miss the things that are right in front of us. Most people, myself included, have stories about how they were looking for things that end up to be right in their hand or sitting on their dresser; that’s how I feel. Mitch was always there right in front of me, but I never tried as hard as I think I should’ve to get to know him better. In his situation, you always wonder if there was something you could’ve done to stop it in anyway.
The next few days were…well in short; depressing. Maybe smiling would help. I heard a couple times that if someone smiles, even a fake one, the brain can’t tell the difference and naturally enlightens the person’s mood. This might’ve worked because after a couple days, salt water wasn’t my main beverage.
The day I had been dreading finally arrived; Mitch’s funeral. I went home with my best friend Sarah on that seemingly endless day. She is almost exactly like me, except for her dirty blond hair and blue eyes that look like the waves on a pool. Contrasting her lime green bedroom walls, she has a red vinyl Marines sign on her wall that Mitch gave her about a year ago. An orange candy wrapper was also a gift from him and he told her to keep it forever, and for some reason, she did. We were both unsure of what to wear because Mitch wasn’t one to wear fancy clothes. We both ended up wearing skirts to show respect to him and his family.
The car ride to the funeral home was a deafening silence. We knew what was coming our way the second we pulled up. There were two girls sitting on the stairs: one was in tears and the other had her arms wrapped around her, trying to comfort the frantic girl. That was soon to be us. Sarah and I walked in with Sarah’s sister, Ashley. To be honest I was almost sobbing before I reached the double doors. Something happened that I didn’t expect in a million years-it was open casket. I wasn’t ready for that and neither were the Jamrose’s. Instead we walked around and look at memories flash across a screen. One particularly caught Sarah’s eyes and mine; it was his 2nd or 3rd grade picture. He looked so young and happy with his big-toothed smile, orange shirt, and dark blond hair. On our phones, we snapped a quick picture for later. In my opinion, his smile is what intrigued me most about the picture because I knew at one point in his life he was happy.
Walking into the place there was what felt like a think layer of something heavy that was sitting on everyone’s shoulders and the room seemed very dark. There were beautiful flowers strategically placed around the rooms to cover up the putrid smell of death and nervous, sweaty people. His death was an unspoken tale; everyone knew how it happened but no one wanted to talk about it. Nick, Mitch’s stepbrother, came up to us and asked if we wanted to see him, but he warned us that his brother looked a little different. That was expected because he was, after all, not with us anymore. Some people say ignorance is bliss, but I think I would want to know this little thing before being so stunned that I’m too shocked to move. Mitch donated his skin and eyes. I have never even heard of anyone doing that before. Marbles for eyes, and a rubberlike material for skin. My body became as cold and stiff as his was at the moment and I felt like someone traveled through my body into my lungs and took out all of the air. This wasn’t the guy I knew, the guy who would dye his hair however he wanted, the guy who was completely in love with music, the guy who didn’t care about what anyone else thought. That wasn’t him; it couldn’t be. I was stuck in my own mind and my brain seemed to be having a civil war with itself. How could this have all happened in a year? Something inside me wanted to leap out and extend my arms towards him and shake his shoulders till he told me where the real Mitch went. Seeing him there made things real. Even after a couple days I couldn’t quiet wrap my head around things. He looked so peaceful, his eyes closed and arms crossed over his chest. How could any of this have happened? After staring at him for a while, family wanted to see him before the service began so I moved out of the way and talked with old friends. Looking around, there were many different people. Some had purple hair with baggie jeans and chains, while other people had pristine perfect hair with dress clothes. This proves that Mitch talked to every kind of person and not judging people was just a portion of his inspiring personality.
The funeral was just like any other: prayers, songs, memories and tissue boxes were passed along the rows. By this dreadful hour everyone was shedding tears like rain. I didn’t even care about crying in front of the adults and teenagers there because they were crying right alongside me. Walking up to the casket to say my final goodbye was perhaps the worst part. My brain avoided thinking of it like it would be the death of me. No one wants to say goodbye in any situation. People walked up, one by one, to say something in their heads or out loud then solemnly walked away to the background music playing in the next room. The close relatives waited to go last, so my turn came sooner than I thought. It was as if I was walking up to receive the Eucharist in mass; everyone was in a straight line with our hands folded in front or latched onto a tissue.
Some people had placed personal items in the casket with Mitch that had a purpose or memory attached to them to be with him forever. I admired the little gifts and studied his face for as long as I could. A bracelet stopped my gaze, but it wasn’t just any bracelet. This little thing would send me into a whirl of distress. This bracelet would cause me to cry so hard it was difficult to stand up straight. All Time Low was written on the white circle in bold black letters. All Time Low- the band Mitch had been listening to when we first started talking, the band I would be listening to for the next week on repeat, the band that we had in common. I walked away from the foreign body and ran into Sarah’s arms crying so hard little squeals and screams escaped my lips. I missed him so much in that moment as bitter thoughts embellished my mind. I could only think of how I will never listen to another song with him or talk about which band is better. I will never see him smile or laugh or hear his musical voice. What scared me the most was the thought of not remembering any of these things. Please, I begged with my mind, please don’t let me forget his laugh or smile or voice. Please.
The next emotion that coursed through my veins took me by surprise. I felt angry. How could he not give things another chance? Why couldn’t he just give it time and talk to someone? Why did he leave this world and leave the rest of us here to fend for ourselves? If I took anything away from that night it was the question, “why?” and unfortunately, that question will probably never be answered.
Nick. I felt so horrible for him. I couldn’t even imagine the pain and sorrow he must have felt. He walked over to one of the picture boards and took one of him and Mitch from when he was in 3rd grade. It was Christmas time and they were sitting on Santa’s lap. Nick took the precious memory and laid it ever so slightly in the casket with his brother. On his way back, I tried my best to comfort him with a hug. We stood there crying and holding each other for support. One of the most crushing things was the second our arms closed around each other, he cried. He cried harder than he did the whole service. I said goodbye to some other friends and walked outside. Ensley, another friend, came home with us and the second we walked out the doors, we were free to do anything we wanted. Ensley took full advantage of the freedom and belted out cries and yells that she was holding in. She sounded kind of ridiculous, but she needed the release so we let her go.
When Sarah’s mom came, she was taken back by how upset we were, but none of us were about to stop crying because letting it all go felt good. Sarah and I looked at the grade school picture all the way home as my tears clouded my view. I felt drastically better when I came home. My parents tried to make conversation and asked how the funeral was. I obviously didn’t want to talk about it so I shrugged my shoulders and simply left them with a “sad.” That was the only thing I was able to say.
The next school day, all I could do was give blank stares. I felt miserable. My eyes were swollen and red along with a pounding headache. I was very proud of myself as I only broke down once that day when I was explaining the funeral to my friends next to me at lunch. I’m not raging with anger that I was in that state in front of everyone at lunch because I needed someone to talk to and to free my mind.
After a couple weeks, things and emotions seemed to get back to normal, although there will always be that little twinge of pain. The pain and hurt is only brought back when people mention the name Mitch or when people jokingly use the phrase, “Just kill me now!” or “I’m going to shoot myself” then gesture a gun to their temple. The gestures hurt the most because all I can see is Mitch’s head and face, as clear as a picture, right over the person’s face that is making the gesture. I hate that because to him it wasn’t a joke or gesture, it was reality.
I’m not writing this to get sympathy or anything of that nature; I’m just seizing an opportunity to finally tell what I’ve been holding in and to teach a lesson. Lesson being not to take life and friends for granted because one day you might wake up without them. Everyone has heard something relatively close to that before including myself, but nothing made me appreciate life more than the death of a dear friend, and for that Mitch, I thank you.