I was on my way to the carpool line when I fell. The staircase was long and steep, and I had completely lost my footing. Down I went, head-first, with my backpack flying after me. As I tumbled for what seemed like hours, images of that same day the year before flashed through my mind in waves. My shoulder smacked the stairs, and the physical pain compounded with the emotional pain of seeing my mom lying feebly in her Hospice bed. My head collided next, causing my hair to come undone from its perfectly constructed ponytail. At least I had hair; Mom had lost it all before she died. My backpack crushed my little ten-year-old body, and my breath became heavy under the enormous pressure. I experienced that sensation before, when Dad told me Mom was dead.
The emotions I repressed for so long violently returned because of one missed step. I landed with my head on the ground, body contorted, and pride shattered. I became scared. Scared for Mom when she fell on her way to the bathroom and realized she wouldn’t live, and scared for me when I realized there was nothing I could do. I stood up, grabbed my backpack, and took a long, deep breath. Feeling mentally and emotionally drained, I got in the car with my aunt. This was a woman who knew pain well. Her sister −my mom− died in February 2002; her husband died seven months later. We were the two Gregory girls, who fought with loss and pain daily yet, somehow, continued to laugh. When I told her about my tumble, we made jokes about my lack of grace and how funny I must have looked sprawled out on the ground. We giggled at our hereditary weak ankles and our innate inability to maintain any sort of physical balance. We simply reveled in each other’s company.
I believe every time we laugh or have fun, we conquer grief. Grief has the capacity to torture and overwhelm those affected, but I believe that we must fight. The day I stood up after that fall was the day I overtook sorrow. I decided that I, alone, am in charge of my life. We all inevitably will experience situations in which we fall and feel hurt or shaken. It is when we stand and laugh that the battle is won.
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