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Their Last Day
I sat there innocently, talking to my friend, Tina, and laughing. It was a normal Wednesday, I had decided to come to my church youth group and was loving it. It was always fun to be there and it seemed that I walked out in a better mood and with something learned. I was sitting with Tina, laughing at her as she choked on her soda, when one of our pastors came up to the front with a solemn look on his face. We ignored him, expecting the usual news of a trip the following Friday, a schedule change, a birthday..
It never crossed my mind that the news that week would change my life forever.
Our pastor eventually quieted us down and began with the usual news. I was trying to be respectful, but I started cracking up every time I thought of Tina choking/laughing on her mountain dew. I only heard a little bit of what was being said.
...birthday.....last week........africa......orphan......donate....worship songs....one more announcement....visitor
I perked up a little at the word. Visitor. Who?
“Who is it?” one girl asked, as if reading my mind.
“Curtis’ cousin,” our pastor replied, the solemn look on his face returning.
“Who’s Curtis?” someone asked.
“Curtis was a young man that went to our church. And a few weeks ago,” I looked around at a few other kids, who now had somber expressions as well, “he killed himself.”
There was an eerie silence. Had the others already known?
Finally the questions erupted.
“Did he leave a note?”
Our pastor answered patiently, “Curtis stepped in front of a train. As far as we know he did not leave a note.”
I looked at the ground. I knew what it was like to have someone die when you didn’t expect it. I remember my great grandpa, laying on the hospital bed. I remember hesitating even though I had decided not to kiss him because of a feeling I would never see him alive again...
No, that’s dumb. Mom visits all the time, you’ll see him, I thought
But I was wrong in my denial. That was the last time I saw my grandpa breathing, and I regret not kissing him goodbye.
I sang along in worship and then we split up into our small groups.
“You guys have any thoughts about Curtis?” our small group leader asked.
“Well...” one girl started, unsure, “I just wonder why he did it. Like, did someone say something to him? Does his family know if he was getting bullied?”
“I don’t really know the details but I think that...” she pauses, thinking about how to say it. “I think that Curtis was probably unhappy for whatever reason and that’s why...he killed himself.” There’s another pause. “It shows how important it is to treat people around you well because you never know if it’s the last day you’ll see someone- not necessarily because they’ll die-but you never know.”
I let that sink in. I was stunned at first. And then I realized how right she was.
The following week I met Curtis’ cousin. Currently, she is one of my best friends.
I remember asking her, “Do you miss him?”
She nodded and said, “He was my only cousin.”
I didn’t know what else to say. How would she have known that she would only see him one last time? I wondered.
I think it was at that point that I really started changing. I stopped laughing at the dorky kid that no one liked. I smiled at the “special needs” kids and treated them like normal people. I tried my best to stop discriminating against people just because they were different. Honestly, I’m no better than them. And really, it’s worth it to act this way.
I think that the experience also helped me become closer to God. I realized that I can love people like Jesus did and still does. I also realized that by limiting my friends to Christians only I was hurting people. I am religious..and I really see that as a positive and not a negative thing in my life. It’s not bad, it has helped me become a better person and lead a better life. It has helped me put God first, others second and myself last. If I hadn’t gone to youth group that night, my behavior may have not changed for the better. Maybe I would’ve had to learn the lesson in an even more difficult way.
Maybe today I said goodbye to someone for the last time. If that’s the case, I want to be remembered as someone who was kind to them...not the jerk that laughed when they slipped in the middle of the cafeteria. Ever heard the quote “live each day like it’s your last?” that’s good, but there’s another way to live. Live each day like you’ll never see the people around you again. There is a chance that you won’t. I learned that the hard way. Please remember this and pass it on...