This I Believe

Maite - Hialeah, Florida
Entered on January 26, 2007
Age Group: Under 18
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This I believe

I used to believe that death was a lie, especially when it came to my grandmother. In my childish mentality, I rationalized that my unwavering belief wouldn’t let her die, or rather that she wouldn’t die because I loved her. I created this sort of fantasy in my head that good people lived for eternity. It sounds silly now but back then, when I was five, it became my mantra and eventually stuck to me for years.

When I was about nine years old, I walked into school one morning, and there was a 5th grade girl crying while everyone crowded around her; her father had passed away. Most of my classmates just stood there and stared at her with pity in their eyes, yet no one dared to come close and offer any comfort. I was afraid and so became one of the spectators, watching the scene taking place before my eyes. As I stood there, transfixed by the girl’s tears, I realized that I could be her and so I turned around and chanted my mantra as I walked into class.

A year later, I stood in a funeral home while adults with somber faces sat in a room with a coffin at its center. It was my uncle’s funeral and I felt numb. No tears were shed by me because truthfully everything was happening at the speed of light from where I stood. Then and there I discovered a quality about death which shook me to my core: death did not announce itself, death came, staked its claim over the human soul and left pain in those who still lived.

Now, at the age of seventeen, I have finally come face to face with reality and left behind the mantra which I began to believe in so long ago. My grandmother passed away at the age of 93 and I wasn’t able to be with her in her last moments or at her funeral. The news of her death sucked the air out of the room, thoughts and memories came rushing in and along with them the hot tears which destroyed the dam I was trying to build to hold them back. That was the moment I realized how lucky I was for being able to enjoy my grandmother’s presence for as long as I did, and that is when I smiled. I smiled because she lived and laughed, but most importantly I smiled because as she said “if you cry you will become an ugly girl.”

Now I don’t live by a mantra created years ago, I live by the lesson I learned from my grandmother: Enjoy those that surround you in the now and do not waste time in thinking about the future or the what-ifs.