Nearly everyone had left the school’s gym on a humid Monday afternoon as I sat on the bleachers numb and confused about what had just occurred. I sat with my elbows on my knees and my hands covering my face. I did not know how I felt. It was not pain nor pleasure nor despondency nor happiness; I felt an empty space. It was June 7, 2004 and I had no clue that my whole life was about to change. I fought to stand up, but I could not find the strength. My teacher, my friend, had just died and I could do nothing to fix it. As a child you make mistakes and somehow, mystically, the mistakes you make are solved and you go back to living your life, but this, this was different. I felt I could cry for years. I could beg my parents or my teachers to fix this, but I knew I could never get him back.
The day before was a Sunday morning. My mom and I left the house for early bird shopping. The weather was temperate, but of course, as always, the mall was chilly. The stores were overflowing with “Summer Sales.” It was not the kind of day when I felt despondent or exuberant; it was one of those ordinary days, at least that’s what I thought for the moment. I was not in a very good temper; I still do not remember the exact reason. All I remember is getting in a small argument with my mom about something, probably clothing. As I stepped out of the doors of the mall and walked toward the car, the warmth of the sun struck my face, and I was reminded that summer was nearby.
“Cummon Melisa! Ve have to go home before traffic,” my mother exclaimed in a heavy Turkish accent.
I climbed into my mom’s newly bought silver Mercedes, and we made our way home. It was nearly two in the afternoon when we arrived at our house. I was exhausted from six hours of shopping, barely able to crawl up the stairs as my legs felt heavier than ever. I walked into my room and I spotted my newest, time consuming hobby, my computer. Of course at that time I was not “allowed” to have AOL Instant Messenger, but being the rebel teenager that I was, I made sure that I already had it and was on twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Who would have thought that such a wonderful program could spread the news you would never want to hear? I sat on my chair and turned on the screen, I looked at who was on and found no one. I checked “Away Messages” one by one, and I found one that caught my attention. A student, named Julien, at St. Mary’s who was also in seventh grade and in my class had posted, “Soon you will get a phone call saying that Mr. Shaffer is dead. RIP.” I could never forget these simple words. At first I thought he was joking until I heard my house phone ring. It seemed to come almost simultaneously as I was reading the letters “RIP,” and that’s when I felt my heart drop. I looked over the ledge upstairs to see my mom in the living room talking on the phone to someone repeating the words, “Oh My Godtt!” I knew it, it was not a joke. Scott was dead.
I never woke up the next morning because I did not sleep that night. I knew the day was going to be one of the darkest days of my life. I could not feel anything. I felt like a zombie. I dressed myself, and I was ready to go. I did not have the appetite to eat the breakfast my mom had prepared. Everything was silent, I could not hear anything. My mom spoke, I did not answer. The radio shouted my favorite song, I did not sing along. I did not want anything. Not the slightest bit of reassurance or a helping hand. As most of the people stood outside in the courtyard at school and cried on each others shoulders I crept my way up the stairs. It was a warm morning, but I still got the chills as I walked through the hallway to his room. The door was unlocked, and I looked around. People had taken souvenirs as memories. The one thing that was most important to me, the thing that bound me and Mr. Shaffer together, was the lacrosse ball in the far left corner drawer of his desk. It was three drawers down. I opened it and found the ball. A smirk stretched across my face as I remembered the memories with him, my stealing his ball during class and returning it afterward. I always thought he never noticed, but apparently he did. I took the ball and stuffed it into the pocket of my sweatshirt and sat at my seat where I always had. He was my homeroom, math, and science teacher. The memories blew past me like movie stills popping up in my mind. This was all I had left of him.
I noticed people filling up the bleachers in the gym for a ceremony. I opened the door and I meandered back through the hall, down the stairs, and into the gym. The ceremony began, and I cannot recount a single memory from it except for the disconsolate faces of my closest friends. They expected us to celebrate his life when all we wanted was to mourn the loss of it. For a moment I was lost. I did not know where I was or what I was doing. I could not believe he was gone. The service ended, and everyone left. I still had not spoken a single word. I sat at the top of the bleachers completely insensitive with my arms around my friend as she cried on my shoulder. She bellowed with sobs saying, “Melisa I can’t believe he’s gone! This can’t be happening! He’s gone forever!” I pulled away, my lower lip was twitching. I whispered, “No.” We hugged and she cried a little longer. She left to talk to a counselor and I stayed in my seat. There were still a few others left there such as his family and friends. I sat with my elbows on my knees and my hands covering my face, and finally for the first time tears rolled down each of my cheeks.
And that’s when it began. I started appreciating life, never taking a moment for granted, and most importantly, living like there’s no tomorrow because, unfortunately, you never know what can happen. My name is Melisa; I am seventeen years old and still have a lot to learn. This I believe.
Always In Our Hearts
5 June 2004