I never knew what it was like to feel complete desperation. I never knew the emptiness of loneliness and loss until she was gone. The moment when you feel your whole world crashing in around you, and your whole being shaken with remorse; the sheer terror of heart-wrenching pain. I always thought moments like these were rare. That desperation and emptiness were not things I would ever have to experience. I would hear stories about death and war, horrific atrocities far away, but I never hought I’d have to endure them.
My life was perfect. Well-put together. Full of love and Joy. Nothing bad could ever happen. Moments of pain were a stranger. Until the day she was gone, until the moment where I found pain right where it resided, in the face of my dead mother. I walked into my fifth grade homeroom sure that I was going to ace my test that day. There was no doubt in my mind. I had studied for hours, made notecards, written facts over and over until my hand hurt; I was prepared. I sat down in my favorite seat. You know those kids that sit in a different seat everyday at the eginning of the year to find the perfect one?
Like theyre adults looking for a home to buy? They consider the angle of their view of the teacher, how much sun the seat gets, how close it is to the door in case of an emergency, and many other factors. I was one of those kids. I searched for my perfect seat in homeroom for about three weeks. It took so long because I had trouble choosing between several candidates. I finally found the perfect one. It was located in the second row in from the door on the right. I could see the teacher but didn’t feel forced to make direct eye contact the ntire time she was talking.
My seat was formed Just right that it had a slight arch on the back that helped support my “s” shaped spine. It really was perfect… until that day. Everyone came in and sat down, but something was different. Andy sat in front of me. His long hair was so greasy it made feel like I needed to shower for him. He was one of those boys you look at and imagine the cartoon squiggles come out from around his body to imply his stench. It was brutal. I could tell my day was off to a good start. Suddenly the phone rang.
When you’re in fifth grade, hearing the phone ing is like matching the first three numbers on your ticket to the winning lottery number. The person on the end of that phone could be anyone, and everyone in your class wants it to be some form of their ticket out of class. This morning was different though. Rather than everyone dropping what they were doing to find out who it was, it was ignored. No one stopped, no one wondered, no one but me. I wish I hadn’t wondered. The teacher approached me with the most solemn face I had ever seen anyone have in real life.
Andys tang grew stronger and stronger as my mind ran hrough scenarios as to what she could want from me. Maybe it wasn’t me she wanted; maybe it was Andy. Maybe she finally smelt his funk, too, and was going to tell him to shower and get a haircut or ne would nave detentions torever. Maybe it wasn’t for me. As she finally met her destination and leaned over my desk, I realized that wasn’t the case. “Sarah, sweetie, you need to go to the principal’s office right away, okay? Go very quick, okay? No dilly dallying. ” Her voice had a bitter- sweetness to it.
That pleasant tone people use to cover up the ugliness behind their words, like a yogurt-covered raisin. I didn’t fully catch on to the true depravity that awaited me. I knew it couldn’t be good. Being sent to the principal’s office immediately was never a good sign unless it was student appreciation day. Candy awaited on those days. There was no candy today, though. Not a hint of sweetness carried in the air between the principal and I as he told me my father was coming to get me. There was no sweetness in my father’s face as he drove us to the hospital without a hint of explanation.
I don’t think anything close to sweetness could exist in the cold, whitewashed halls of that hospital. We entered the room. There I saw my mother, as white as the walls that surrounded her. She was dead. I approached her as if she was a foreign being, some alien from one of my Saturday morning cartoons. The constant tone filled the room. I knew what that was. I learned about it in health class. That tone meant heartless. My mother once had a heart, but not anymore, the drunk driver took it from her. He stole the thing that kept the beep going, but now it was Just a tone, a dead tone.
That ambient sound seemed to resonate from every direction, in every corner, getting ouder and louder as my mind and heart began to soak in all that was happening. I didn’t know what to do or think. I Just stood. Stood in the stillness of the loneliest moment of my life. There would be healing after this. I knew that restoration and recovery were in the future, but that future seemed very far away. That future didn’t get any closer in the months that followed. It wasn’t until I reached my freshman year when I knew that I could move on. In the movies, when someone dies theyre always remembered by some dramatic, life-changing statement.
A philosophy they followed that everyone knew them by. My mom said many of these throughout my childhood, I’m sure, but I can’t recall any of them. It may have been easier if I could, if I had a profound testimony to lean on from my mother that loved me so much, but I didn’t. I knew one thing, though, that she had them. Whether I remember them or not, I know they existed. She had something to share, and she did. She affected so many lucky people in her lifetime. We all have something to say. I took that thought going into my freshman year, knowing I wanted to change.
I wanted to change others and myself and make the same difference I knew my mother made in her short life. I know she made her moments matter. Her gentle words of wisdom that sang from her mouth to my small ears, and to the slightly larger ears of others, were what made her memorable. I used that insight as the foundation for my life to this day, and will continue to remember how my mother made winsome moments in her life and others. Even if I don’t remember them, her words were real, as real as the sweet moments that they created and that are remembered by all.
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