Embrace Your Fears | Teen Ink

Embrace Your Fears

May 21, 2015
By Migdalia Simpson BRONZE, Antigo, Wisconsin
Migdalia Simpson BRONZE, Antigo, Wisconsin
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

In American society death is typically feared. We are taught from a young age that when we die, it is the end of life. Death is seen as a taboo subject; something only to be talked about behind closed doors and even then it must heavily veiled with sympathy and discussed with carefully selected phrases to display our emotions without opening a window into the realm of the unspoken too wide.

My senior year in high school was supposed to be fun and care free. Finishing out high school was meant to be an amazing experience containing the always expected stress from school and nothing else. However, the universe had very different ideas about how my senior would play out.

The days blurred together into a mush of random events and seasons as they tend to do. Sometime in the winter of my senior year, my mother told me that my father had been diagnosed with stage IV brain cancer and the odds of him actually breathing while I received my diploma were very slim. My father. My daddy. The man who held my hand when I crossed the street. The man who constructed massive monoliths of building blocks. The man who I had not spoken to in weeks. The man who I refused to acknowledge. The man I felt abandoned by. He was still my father and now he was dying.
My parents divorced when I was four years old. In 2004 my mother remarried and I aquired a new daddy. As I grew, my stepfather became more of a dad to me than the man who sent money for birthdays and called whenever he felt was convenient. I gained resentment towards him that I never knew I could feel. His calls were soon ignored in favor of replying to a friend’s text message. Summer visits to his home in Chicago were exchanged for bonfires and sleepovers. I refused to be known as his little girl. My built up anger served no purpose but to protect the heart I had tried so hard to harden.

Hearing the news of his imminent expiration awoke a shame and pain that ran deeper than expected. I had pushed him so far away that my reaction to the event startled me. Pain has never been one of my best handled emotions. My friends have told me that I often bottle my emotions and I detest crying in front of anyone. The act of crying makes me feel weak. So when I found out about my father’s condition, I did not weep. Not at first. I waited until long after my mother had recited the cold hard facts of the disease that would slowly claim what was left of my father’s brain. My tears remained locked behind my eyes until much later when I could fall apart in my darkened room, alone.

The first visit to Chicago to assess the situation with my brother taught me that nothing makes a five and a half hour drive shorter than attempting to avoid your own guilt. Hospital rooms have a way of cementing the gravity of life. The memories of the scent of discount disinfectant and the constant beeping of monitors and machines have yet to leave my mind. My father, standing over six feet tall for the entirety of my life, looked miniscule and crumpled lying in the hard white bed. It was then that I realized that how I felt didn’t matter. I could break down on my own time but my father and my brother needed me to be strong.

He was confused. I mainly remember the embarrassment he felt when my brother or I had to give him water. He was always so independent and here he was in a hospital bed with no recollection of his journey through the doors nearly a week before. The only thing he wanted was to go home. My mind will forever hold the image of my father, once so strong, so determined, stuck in a hospital bed.

My graduation day is currently less than two weeks away and my father remains in his bed. Now in Wisconsin, roughly forty-five minutes from the town I call home, he waits to die. He does not seem to remember much anymore. People have attempted to reassure me by stating that this is expected with brain cancer. The mind leaves the body and you begin to fade away from the person you once were. He is much more aggressive now. Our visits are no longer filled with conversation of school and hobbies. The recent visits were filled with the reporters of CNN broken up by demands made first in Spanish and later in English.

I am losing my father. He is dying. This experience has shown me that sometimes the things that society teaches you to fear, death, weakness, fat, should not be locked away from the public view. Instead, they should felt. They should be shared. They should be welcomed into our lives. Because while I will never say that my father’s cancer diagnosis was a blessing, it gave me the chance to deeply understand that our heart does not promise to beat for another day. It forced me to learn that you choose to have a life full of forgiveness, laughter, and love, or live filled with hatred, resentment, and anger. I have made my choice to live each day to the fullest. Not only for my father who no longer has the option but for the person I am. When I am eighty years old, I hope to be surrounded by my friends and family able to tell stories of the places I have been and the events I have lived through. Sometimes death should not be faced with fear. It should be embraced with open hearts and open minds.

The author's comments:

I can only hope that when people read this piece they learn or realize something that makes them grow as a person.

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