Death hurts. But no matter how painful dying may be, it causes those left behind far more pain than death could ever muster. For, once you’re dead, that’s it; no more pain, no more sorrow. But those who go on living will carry the burden of another’s death upon their shoulders, their load growing heavier and heavier with each passing year, forever.
When I was growing up, I became best friends a hyper-active blonde by the name of Mercedes. By the fourth grade we fit every one of those cliché little sayings; ‘two peas in a pod’, ‘birds of a feather’, ‘separated at birth’. I spent five days a week at her house, returning to the address that appeared in all my transcripts over the weekends only to see my biological family and pack another week’s worth of clothes. At least things were like that until her mother was diagnosed with cancer.
Linda Giocaras was diagnosed with breast cancer on February 4th, 2002. And it wasn’t even the first time; Linda had had, and overcome, cancer twice before. But, as far as death was concerned, the third time really was the charm. And I say it so bluntly for no other reason than Linda herself was a blunt person by nature, just as she was the day she announced she had, yet again, been diagnosed. No tears, no beating around the bush. Just a simple “I’ve got cancer again”, almost as though commenting on the weather, or any other trivial matter.
Despite several different treatments administered to help her battle with the virus raging inside her ever withering body, Linda died on May 10th at 10:47 in the morning. The funeral was held 3 weeks and a day after that, on June 1st. It was a sad day; 76 mourners all clad in black, family and friends of the deceased speaking in hushed tones. Even God mourned that day; it rained from beginning to end.
Why do I still remember these facts, even though six years have passed? It is not that I have simply made these numbers up on the spot, as so many people seem to think. No, it is because each date, each time, each quantity, changed my life in ways no one could ever forget. I remember the day Linda was diagnosed: I had a project due that Monday. I remember 10:47 am because that was the time that Kaitlin, Mercedes’ sister, burst into a round of hysterical sobs that caused nurses decked in white and red to throw her pitying glances when Linda’s heart beat ran straight. I remember 3 weeks and a day (3-1) because that was the number of years that Linda had walked this earth, 31. I remember the 76 people that attended the burial because that was the channel that had been blaring across Mercedes’ TV screen that morning, even though neither of us were really watching. And I remember, because I will never be able to forget, May 10th. That’s because, not only was it the day Linda died on, but this was also Mercedes’ 10th birthday. It was also the day my adopted family fell to pieces right before my eyes.
Mercedes moved away after the funeral. And though I did see her a few times afterwards, it just wasn’t the same. For though Linda died a slow, mind numbing death, it was the people she left behind who hurt the most. It was the family, friends, and everyone in-between who felt as they were slowly being torn in two and tortured, only worse. For there was, is, no escape from the pain of losing a loved one. I know for, to this day, I still hurt.
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