It was a bright, sunny morning. The birds were chirping their special song, the sun was shining extremely brightly, and there was not a single cloud in the sky. “Today will be the best day,” I said as I was getting dressed in my neatly folded navy blue skirt and my new, crisp red shirt.
Well, I was very wrong.
My mother dropped me off at school and as usual, I gave her a little kiss on her cheek and a small hug. I was excited to enter my third-grade classroom because it was a Wednesday, and Wednesday was science class.
It was right before lunch was about to begin and my teacher got a message from Mrs. Abby at the school office saying, “Do you have Katy Stark?
“Yes I do,” replied my teacher.
“Her mother is here to pick her up. Please send her down with all her belongings,” Mrs. Abby continued.
“You are so lucky, Katy! My mother never picks me up early!” stated Jeffrey, a burly boy in my class who had the most gorgeous red hair.
As I was walking down the stairs, I could not stop thinking about why my mother would take me out of school early.
Do I have a doctor’s appointment that my mother did not tell me about? Is one of my brothers sick? Are all of my brothers sick? Are we going on a surprise trip to Disney? I love Disney. I really hope we are going to Disney!
But once I saw the expression on my mother’s face, I knew something was very wrong. She did not look happy at all. She looked extremely distraught and tired.
“Mom, what is wrong?” I immediately questioned.
“There is something I need to tell you guys,” my mother began, “You know how Uncle Sam was very sick and had to have surgery?”
“Yes, we remember,” my brothers and I said in unison.
“Well, today he had to go back to the hospital because he got hurt again and he,” my mother tried to say but tears immediately started to fill her eyes, “died.”
That was the first time my heart physically broke. My uncle, who we all used to call Uncle Sammy, just died. My father’s only living brother just died. There would never be any more times that he would stick up for me and my siblings when our father would scream at us. There would be no more stupid jokes that he would tell us and we would still laugh because we did not understand them. There would be no more times when we would sleep over at his and my aunt’s house and have pillow fights in the middle of the night. There would be no more of that ever again.
“What?! How is that possible? He could not have died!” I immediately shouted while crying hysterically.
“I agree, Mommy. He could not have died! He was so healthy on Sunday when we saw him!” Ethan, my brother, chirped up.
“I am afraid that he has died. I know that this is very hard to understand but let’s go home now so that we can visit Daddy and see how he is doing,” my mother suggested.
While we were pulling up to our driveway, I was shocked to see how many people were at my house. My entire family was there, showing us support and crying together. I saw my father cry for the first and only time in my life. When we arrived, everyone bombarded us with hugs and assured us that “everything will be okay.”
But what if it is never okay again? You cannot just keep on going through life knowing that you had only known your uncle for nine years? That he died when you were so young? That your four-month-old brother would never get to remember him since he was too young to have and remember any memories with him? That your four-year-old brother did not know for years that your uncle died and you have to explain it to him years later since he just did not understand at the time what it means to die? Those types of experiences scar a person for life. Yes, the pain might lessen as they get older and they have other things to worry about, but the pain and the memory of the incident never go away.
Throughout the rest of that day, my family was busy preparing for the funeral. Where it will be held, what time it will be held, and about what everyone will eulogize.
“Can I go to the funeral? I would really like to go because I loved Uncle Sam so much,” I asked my parents the following day.
“No, you cannot go. I am so sorry, but your father and I feel that it is best if you and your brothers stay home. A funeral is not a great place for children as young as you are,” my mother informed me
“Fine, but I still really want to go.”
For the next week, all I heard was either my parents’ friends whispering messages that they did not want my brothers and I to hear or “What books do you like to read?” “Have you seen any good movies lately?” “What is your favorite subject in school?” Any questions that people felt would help take my mind off of the tragic situation that just occurred. This worked for a couple of minutes, but once I caught sight of my father’s tear-filled eyes it was as if an alarm went off in my head; I suddenly remembered what happened, and I instantly became upset again.
I knew then that life would never again be the same, especially for my father. He lost his mother, grandmother, and aunt all in the same car accident when he was only eleven, he lost his other brother to cancer when he was still in high school, and he lost his father and grandfather to old age when he was starting his first job. Uncle Sam was the only person left from his immediate family, and now my father lost him, too.
On the anniversary of his death this past year—which marked six years since he passed away—I wrote him a letter.
I know that you will never read this letter but I still felt that it was important to write it. First of all, hello. I have not said that to you in six years, nor will I ever say it to you ever again, so it feels a little strange saying it now. Saying this to someone who cannot respond by saying ‘Hello’ back. I think of you every day. I imagine how different life would be with you here. You and Aunt Lily would still live down the road from me, and I would go over to your house every Saturday to play Mancala with you. You could help me learn to drive just like you did with your two children. My youngest brother will have memories with you just like I do. In many more ways, life would have been different.
Though I am upset that you are not physically here with me, I believe that you are still watching over me from above and are helping me out during the hard times in my life and in the easier times as well, and that is very comforting to know. That though I cannot see you, you can still see my brothers and me grow up. That you are still involved in our lives, just in a different way.
I miss you very much.”
Even though time does lessen the pain of an incident, the pain never fully goes away. I have moved on with my life, and I am not constantly depressed, but there will always be a memory of this tragic incident that changed my life for the better and for the worse. The positive that came out of this experience is that I learned to cherish every moment because you never know what can happen the very next second.
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