I know life because I know death. It is just as I know white against black and sound against silence. I see this phenomenon at night when the stars shine out of void space.
My mother was diagnosed with stage four Breast Cancer at the end of my junior year in high school. One day, she blacked-out in front of her fourth grade classroom. They took her to the hospital and found cancer in her lymph nodes and after a week of tests, they found cancer in her breasts. That summer, she fought the cancer with chemotherapy and that fall, she fought with radiation. Our family never mentioned death until New Years of my senior year in high school. At that point, she was more comfortable at the cancer center than at home.
One night in February, my sister and I wanted to see our mother. It was after midnight, but that did not stop us. We drove to the cancer center and stared at the locked doors. In the car, we cried for our mother. Then, two men came out of the building. My sister and I yelled, “Hold the doors!” They did. We ran upstairs, past the nurses station, and into our mother’s room. We crawled into her white bed and cried. She said, “I love you both so much.” I laid there so alive next to the presence of death.
The next month, I saw, smelt, heard, and touched Cancer. I know death. I finished my senior year and went to college. I kept on living because I am just beginning my life. But, I am aware that her death changed me in every way. I love deeper. I grieve deeper. I think deeper. I relate to people deeper. I know life because I know death.
I am alive when I dance, play music, run, connect with someone, and create. My mother encouraged me to do all of these. I am alive when I have an idea for a paper, for an activity, for a joke. I am alive when I am able to laugh and continue living in the presence of grief.
I believe in the power of opposites. I am a star, shining against the night.
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