Hailey - Valdese, North Carolina
Entered on February 28, 2008
Age Group: Under 18
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Ann Brashares wrote, “Sometimes you hung up the phone and felt the bruising of your heart.” Last Sunday, my mother hung up the phone, and I felt one of those enormous, disgusting, greenish-yellow bruises beginning to develop somewhere inside me. Mom sat silently for a moment, struggling to remember how to form sounds into intelligible words. It did not matter. I already knew, but she said it anyway. “Mamarou is dead,” she finally managed to articulate with words that did not sound like my mother’s. Then it was my turn to sit in silence. “Can I take your car?” she asked as she grabbed her coat and raced out the door to go be with my dad. “Sure,” I replied listlessly, hearing but not comprehending her question. She abandoned me, and I sat in the office with my greenish-yellow heart dangling on a string, somewhere outside my body. I still sensed its presence, like the heaviness that sticks in the air after a violent thunderstorm. I knew I would have to reel it back in eventually, but at that moment, it was too full for my small body to hold. So I let my heart escape from the pain, the tears, and the grief, and I just thought.

My grandmother lived alone, and my family and I visited her every Sunday afternoon. The Sunday before her death, however, marked the beginning of exam week, and I chose to stay home. “I really need to study,” I thought in a pathetic attempt to justify myself. “I can always go next week.” But next week never came.

Soon after her death, my teacher informed me that I had made a 100 on the U.S. History End-of-Course test. I hated it. I hated that 100 for robbing me of the last opportunity I had to spend with my grandmother, but I hated myself more for making that 100 more important than someone I loved. I believe that the people we love are more important than grades, and it took my grandmother’s death to make me understand that.

You could call me a perfectionist. Most people do. I spend almost all of my time studying, doing homework, taking notes. Once, someone asked me what I like to do for fun, and I was appalled upon finding myself at a complete loss for a response. It is hard to smell the roses (or anything else, for that matter) if your nose is always in a book. I realize now, however, that I would gladly trade all the A’s in the world for just one more of my grandmother’s rib-crushing hugs.

Vernon Law observed, “Experience is a hard teacher, because she gives the test first, the lesson afterward.” I have taken my test. Now I must learn my lesson. Life is not about grades. It is not about tests, or papers, or projects. Life is about the people we love and the people who love us. This I believe.