My sister, Margaret Denise Williamson, died when she was thirteen. With her death, my seventeen-year-old exuberance perished, too. No longer was I filled with starry-eyed, infallible hope that as long as I kept on keeping on, I could one day achieve Disney dreams of perfection.
You see, I had bought into the idea that it was okay to live for the future, to keep trudging towards an ever-distant mirage on the horizon. I was a good student. I worked diligently behind the closed doors of my room, reading and writing so that I could one day get a scholarship and escape the hounds of poverty nipping at my heels.
My sister, my hero—her life was fraught with hardship from the beginning. A “failure to thrive” baby, constantly sick. She was finally diagnosed with cancer, Wilm’s Tumor, when she was two, and fought valiantly for life even before she could walk. We were told that she wouldn’t live through the surgery, but somehow she found the strength to pray and graced Earth for eleven more years.
Things weren’t easy for her even after her cancer went into remission. She had hearing aids, glasses, and false teeth. She had a scar that traversed the entire length of the trunk of her body. She was plagued with epilepsy and a chest that grew inward. She was taunted in school because she was in the special ed classes, because she was different.
In my rat-race mentality with my eye on the goal and the future, my pesky little sister was not important. She talked a bit funny. She was “slow.’ My friends made fun of her, and frankly, she embarrassed me at times. She pestered me, following me around and imitating my every move. I had this fantasy, this dream, of the two of us together in some not-too distant future, perhaps when I was twenty and she was sixteen. We would be zooming about in a convertible, always red, top down and carefree, laughing at some shared joke, the wind in our hair. We’d both be pretty and normal and socially acceptable—sought after.
A week before my senior prom, that dream was wrenched from me. Though I can still see it in my mind, the time that never came, I mourn the things I lost by living for the future. My sister’s death taught me so much about living. I realized that life is NOW; it is these every day moments that accumulate. As John Lennon said, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” Though dreams and goals are important, I know that RIGHT NOW is the essence, the meaning of life. Education is still important to me. But as I work towards my EdD, I understand that my son and daughter’s childhoods are now, in these fleeting moments, and are to be treasured.
Be here now is my mantra. This I believe.
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