It’s been a year.
It’s been a year since the unavoidable nightmares, onset of occasional tears, and never-ending phone calls consoling each other. It’s been a year experiencing the pangs of regret, reminiscing about the past, and processing my thoughts in the corner of my room, pressing my face against my pillow.
As cliché as it sounds, I never really take the time to realize life’s short. We cling onto the memories like there all we have left. But it’s the fact that there’s room for more, the fact that we don’t have to be stuck in the past to move forwards in the future.
I look back at the Christmases and Thanksgivings we spent together, and even the ones we didn’t. I look back and I appreciate them. I appreciate them and I acknowledge them, but I refuse to be stuck in them. Of course, I still wish things had turned out differently. Every time I enter a hospital, it reminds me of you and that chilly December night. My ears ring with the sound of the awkward clutter of electric machines, moaning and making loud high-pitched noises sporadically. The machines that were alive when you weren’t. The empty glass bottles, plastic syringes, and sharp metal tools that lay scattered on the tables surrounding the hospital bed, that were meant to save you. It’s in those moments when I realize how short life is. We think all these tools, all this equipment, all these giant contraptions are bound to save us, to rescue us from that odd limbo between life and death. But reality is, sometimes they don’t. Life ends when it does, and that’s simply that.
I’m not going to wallow in the past, and I’m not going to tell everyone it hurts and that I think about you everyday. The harsh truth is I don’t. There are days when I forget and days when I remember. I made a promise I wouldn’t ever forget. Of course I’ll never forget, but there’s no point in constantly reminding myself and remembering. Today’s no different than yesterday except that I remembered the number. 365. 365 days since we drove to the hospital that night. 365 of days of another year of my life, passing by, except this time without you. And really, tomorrow it’ll be 366, and the next 367. The days go on and on.
Today, I celebrate, I mourn, and I remember. During the second semester of my sophomore year, I wrote a personal narrative. The moment was so fresh in my mind, I couldn’t think of any memory that would compare to this one. Here is a quote from that sophomore year essay:
“ It felt as if the fabric of my life was being ripped to shreds and that nothing would be able to sew it back together.”
Yes, I admit it was a bit extreme and over the top. That’s how it felt to me in the moment, as it I would never move on from this and I’d just be stuck in a repeat cycle of remorse, grief, and guilt. I did move on and I did at times forget, and I’m not afraid to admit that. Sometimes, I’m so caught up in the moment of things I think it’s the end of the world. It’s when I receive a C on the test, or when I’m waiting for a reply that’ll never come that I feel the same panic and same sense of brokenness. We experience it everyday, the same longing and helplessness that we think we can’t escape. But in the end we do, no matter how much time or healing it takes, we do.
In another excerpt of my essay, I reminisce about our time together in Hawaii.
“ One tradition my family had always kept alive was taking my aunts, uncle, and grandmother to Hawaii every year. Whether it was carrying me on his shoulders while hiking the magnificent trails of Oahu or building mediocre sandcastles that were always demolished by the tide, my uncle had always been there for me. He was the type of person who always put himself first, even if it meant sacrificing his own happiness for the sake of others. As it was my turn to say my final goodbyes, I saw the sandcastle on that remote beach in Waikiki again, ravaged by the relentless waves and reduced to an elevated mound of wet sand. My uncle came in, smiling as he handed me a childish red bucket and plastic digging tools to rebuild the crumbling mound of sand. Now, there was no one left to help rebuild everything that had come crashing down.”
How many times do you tell your friends that you hate your life and everything sucks? Probably more often than you’d be willing to admit. I do the same thing — I self-deprecate, I moan, and I complain. We all do, we’re human and we feel the need to tell others about our suffering at times. I look at the sand castle analogy and I think about all the times my sand castle has crumbled to the ground. Having the feeling of my uncle there was reassuring, but I had to accept the reality that he wasn’t anymore and I had to rebuild the sandcastle on my own. That’s when I realize I’m on a beach. The amount of sand is endless. The only barrier separating me and the rebuilt sand castle was choice. We always have the choice to live our lives in the present versus the past.
What’s the point of writing this? To be quite frank, I really don’t know. Yes, my uncle died. Yes, it’s been a year. I could’ve remained quiet and kept all these feelings to myself, but I think it’s important that whoever reading this understands that your life really isn’t that long. I’m in high school at this point, which is only four of the 80+ years I might be alive. Right now, all this drama and stress you have you’ll look back on and realize how insignificant and irrelevant it all was. I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow or the day after that, but what I know is I can’t keep wasting my time on things that really don’t matter, and neither should you. Every story is littered with mistakes and failures that can serve to remind us of both the good times and the bad, and we’re all going to make stupid decisions that make us feel like this. I know I hate hearing “It’ll be okay” and “Everything will be fine” and I yell and scream and cry about it, but in the end, things turn out however they’re supposed to and you just have to go with it. It’s really just a game of choice. You win some, you lose some. Life’s short and filled with moments that make you want to both smile and cry — it’s whether you choose to keep smiling or crying that makes it worthwhile.