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I've Still Got A Lot of Fight Left in Me
Death. Normally, it’s a subject most parents struggle to talk about with their children. They obscure it and they usually don’t tell the truth. Kate, Grandma Silvia is asleep. Or: Johnny, remember Mr. Franklin? He’s with God now. When I experienced death at the age of seven, it hurt more than anything in my life.
A cookout in Lumberton, North Carolina, on August 31st, 2013 was where it all began. We had driven there the night before, my dad taking the most shifts. He’d only gotten an hour of sleep, but at least we were there spending time with our family. Because it was such a hot day, my dad had begun to drink; a minor problem he developed after retiring from the Army. At least, it seemed minor. He had downed about two beers when my mom came over and scolded him. “There’s no need for you to be drinking so much!” she snapped.
About an hour later, my dad’s side of the family called for a motorcycle race. It was an event where all the males who had a motorcycle would ride around town. Whoever arrived first won. My dad volunteered. “I’ll join the race too.”
My mom got up and stormed over to him. “Oh, no you won’t! You’ve been drinking, Kenneth. Absolutely not!”
“It’ll be fine,” my dad reassured, so calmly as if he was 100% sure everything would go right. “I’ll be back soon.”
My mom tried to take away his keys, but my dad refused to let her boss him around. He was sure everything would be fine. He gave my mom a kiss, grabbed his motorcycle, and zoomed off.
That was the last kiss he would ever give her.
I was eating when I heard the siren of an ambulance, cutting through the still summer air like a lighthouse on a foggy night. My mom had gotten a phone call and refused to tell me what it was about. She left, along with a few aunts and uncles of mine. I didn’t know why she had left so suddenly, but I thought nothing of it.
She came home in tears about 30 minutes later. I was shocked because I had never seen my mom cry before. Tears streaming down her face, she sat me down and ran her finger down my cheek. My mother sniffed, trying to pull herself together. “Your father has died.”
Being a young and naive girl, I immediately denied what she had said. “No he’s not! He’s still alive!”
“Did you hear the ambulance?” my mother asked. “That was the medics taking him to the hospital. He crashed his motorcycle. He… he didn’t survive.”
Everything clicked at once. The beer. The phone call. One of the messages conveyed during Red Ribbon Week every year: Don’t Drink and Drive!
I threw myself into my mother’s arms and started bawling, screaming that I wanted my father back.
The burial on September 6th was the hardest part. Of all days, that one had to be foggy with a light drizzle, as if the clouds themselves were crying. I was too overcome with grief to pay any attention to the service, which seemed to take forever. Finally, on the somber day of September 6th, 2013, my well-loved father was buried in the home of his birthplace; Kinston, North Carolina.
As horrible as the death was, it taught me a few things. First: Alcohol NEVER mixes with anything. Second: Grieving will get you nowhere. As much as things may hurt, you have to keep on moving. Third: All wounds will heal. Maybe not immediately, sometimes they leave a scar, but things get better. They always do. Finally: Never give up. No matter how bad a situation gets, no matter how impossible a task seems, you WILL find the light at the end of the tunnel. Sure, you can’t always see it immediately, but it’s there. You just have to find it.