The moment you hear someone is sick every memory you have with that person is pulled out from the file folders deep within your mind. I distinctly remember every moment on my Maddie timeline- every birthday party, sleepover, school day, and trip. I remember the day walking to softball practice that I found out about Maddie’s cancer. I remember receiving the terrible phone call two years later from Emma, my best friend. “Mar, Maddie passed away tonight.” My steadily increasing heartbeat filled my ears and pounded into the receiver of the telephone. Every Maddie memory I had came racing through my mind. The memories wrapped themselves into a ball that lodged itself tightly within my throat.
In my lifetime, I had only been to one funeral. My great grandfather lived to be one-hundred years old. Here I was at my second, Maddie Paguyo, victim of a brain tumor at the age of fourteen.
Emma and I entered my church arm in arm. Boards and posters covered in photographs, awards, and report cards from Maddie’s life surrounded the large lobby. I never looked at them; I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I have always regretted that. I saw Dannie; Maddies best friend; Emma’s little sister. I grabbed her and held her tightly, the fresh smell of perfume in her hair. “I’m okay,” she told me. I realized in that moment what was going on. Maddie’s family and close friends had months to say their goodbyes. This one day was for the rest of us to get our chance.
It was surreal. I sat in the pew of the sanctuary where I had slept through services, sung, colored, received my first communion and been confirmed. Every person who had known Maddie whether directly or indirectly was gathered in one room. I thought to myself, who would be at my funeral? Emma’s head rested on my shoulder and for the first time in my life, I contemplated death; how quickly things can be taken away.
A slideshow of pictures brought both tears and laughter. Maddie’s poetry was read, her middle school choir sang, and one by one, her friends stepped towards the altar and spoke. Dannie walked down the long aisle towards the podium and Emma’s grip tightened on my hand. She was our mutual little sister, our baby, put in such an adult position and handling it with such poise and maturity. We were proud of her composure yet torn apart by her pain.
I believe that we all have one moment in our young lives in which reality suddenly snaps into place. Maddies death was that moment for me. Maddie taught me that life is short. She always wanted to be a teacher, and at the age of fourteen, she did just that. She taught all of us that life can throw terrible things your way but you must roll with the punches. I believe that every moment, and every memory must be cherished. Nothing is forever. This I believe.
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