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The Power of a Moment
Have you ever been in that moment, the moment of utter despair and complete loneliness? Well of course you have. But did you ever feel that way not because of something that happened to you, but something that happened to someone else?
This is not a tear-jerking story of the death of a loved one. Nor is it the account of something that ended so horribly that I was forced into a long depression. It’s just me expressing some recent impactful moments in my life, starting with the moment I found out she had cancer.
Let’s rewind a couple of months. Her name is Emily. She has vibrant, curly red hair that is her sole trademark and lent her the nickname “Ginger.” She’s popular with the girls, and with they boys too; she’s pretty, athletic, and has a good head on her shoulders. She’s outgoing and friendly. I, on the other hand, am more of an introvert and consequently I’m not exactly the she-knows-everyone or the she’s-friends-with-everyone kind of girl. But my best friend is one of these social people, and was good friends with Emily. And so the story goes that every day this past summer, we’d all hang out by the beach together along with a bunch of other friends.
I got to know Emily; enough to even start calling her Em. I originally thought she’d be one of those popular girls, the ones that don’t really care who you are (I mean that in the nicest way) if you’re not in their circle. But I was wrong. Over the summer, I learned a new side of her, one that all the other people weren’t seeing. And I felt bad that they couldn’t see the smart, philosophical, driven Emily that I saw. They saw the fun, cute, outgoing Emily, which is great, but isn’t all that there is to her. We discovered so many similarities between the two of us. And she thought I was hilarious! I’ve been told I can be funny, sure, but she really laughed at my sometimes-failing witty and clever remarks. When a friend thinks you’re funny, even when you don’t think so—that’s a keeper.
Summer drew to a close. Emily and I are in the same school, so we’d see each other around, but I knew it wouldn’t be the same as our deep conversations on the beach in the summer air. I hoped she wouldn’t resort to thinking of me as just ‘an Honors girl’ (due to the fact that I’m in the Honors class) as so many others do, and fail to remember how great our friendship was. That was my sole worry relating to her at the end of August.
Fast-forward two months to mid-October. I’m sitting in History class, and a guidance counselor walks into the room to make the announcement.
At first there was a solemn shock that filled the air so tremendously it seemed to be tangible. Then a few restrained sobs could be heard from across the classroom, along with some anxious whispers.
That was the moment. I felt alone and scared. How could Emily have cancer? It seemed like just yesterday we were talking about our plans for the future and for the upcoming junior year while enjoying the summer breeze. And now all her plans for junior year disappeared, along with the cherished carefree memories of the summer. It was all suddenly knocked over by reality.
She’d be out for at least a few months, the guidance counselor informed us. A teacher noticed something unnatural on her neck and suggested she go check it out. And just like that, she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
How? Why? That’s all that ran through my mind. Why did she deserve for this to happen to her? How could God do this to a sweet girl at the age of 16, in the bliss of her life? I was extremely sad for many days; the more I thought about these horrifying questions, the more the sadness grew into anger and confusion. I realized that this could happen to anyone at any time. Over the next few months I learned that sometimes you don’t know why these horrible things happen, but you just have to look at the good things in your life and be grateful for it. It’s something we’ve all heard growing up. Yet we all get so caught up in our day-to-day lives that we don’t ever take a moment to just realize everything that we do have, despite everything that we don’t.
A tip of advice: when a tragedy befalls you, don’t try to rationalize it. Allow yourself to feel whatever it is you feel, and then work with it. That’s what we all did.
I was put in this awkward place now. Yes, I had become close with her over the summer. But close enough to visit her right away, or even call or text her that night? I wasn’t sure. And between all her closest friends, I thought that I didn’t shine in. I convinced myself that Emily did not even think of me.
My friend, who I had originally mentioned was close with her, visited her the night that we were all told. The next day was the hardest for me. I cried all day, in school and at home. I couldn’t even talk about it with my parents. But the next day, my friend told me that when she walked into Emily’s house to visit her, the first thing Emily asked was where I was. She missed me. She wanted to see me. I burst out in tears when I heard this. She still cared about me, when the whole world was caring about her.
I texted her that night to let her know that I’m thinking of her and always there for her. I assumed she was getting tons of texts, so when I received a response from her two nights later, I was surprised. I then commented on something along the lines of how hard it must be to be strong. She was in fact incredibly strong; it was evident she didn’t want pity. Her response is still saved on my phone, five months later. “Trust me I have my moments just no one knows. Anyone can give up. It’s the easiest thing to do. But to hold it together when everyone would understand if u fell apart—that’s true strength. That’s what keeps me going.”
I’m sure you can tell by now that I express my emotions through tears, and that was the case again here. But it wasn’t sad tears. It was tears of admiration. She taught me so much in that one text. It’s not just cancer that it can relate to; it’s life. So when you feel weak, with or without reason to, just remember that. Strength is not pretending like it doesn’t affect you, it’s acknowledging that it does—but keeping yourself and your life together.
Hodgkin’s is treatable and has a high success rate. So we were almost positive that in some time she’d be cured. But it was the ‘some time’ that hurt. She was out of school for months, and although I kept in touch with her and visited her, it was hard.
And her hair. Her trademark red-orange curly hair, so full of life—chemo took it. But even though it took her trademark, it didn’t take her identity. She was still the girl that I grew to love in the summer, so full of life and free-spirited, smart and funny.
Emily came back to school two weeks ago. She’s completely cured. Everything about her is still the same, and eventually her hair will once again match the vibrant girl that she is. If there’s anything I learned from the past few months, it’s the power of a moment. The moment of solitude, of hopelessness; the moment of acceptance; the moments of admiration and growth.
And of course, the few essential moments of looking at your life from an outside perspective and recognizing everything that you have—from friends, or family, or love, or a talent. Everyone has something. Yes, some may have more. But that doesn’t mean that you don’t have anything.