Faded Smiles

Elizabeth - Dunstable, Massachusetts
Entered on April 10, 2009
Age Group: Under 18
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On a beautiful March morning after a long, cold winter, Jessie was enjoying working with her mom in her backyard before her accident. She and her mom decided to take a break from the yard work. They sat down on their hammock, unaware of the fatal consequences of that action. The tree supporting the hammock had rotted over the winter and it fell on top of them. It knocked Jessie out immediately, putting her in a coma overnight before her death.

After a life ends, there is undoubtedly a feeling of loss. The phenomenon of the “phantom limb” holds true not only to amputated limbs but also to the people we have known who have died or left. We feel that they should still be attached, that they are no longer where they belong, and that they were wrongly taken away. We remember what was lost as if it were still present in our lives. Losing Jessie felt completely unfair, and every day I think she should still be here. Her life was beautiful and she loved it, but it ended. Everything ends.

I ate a bowl of my favorite ice cream in 6 minutes. I pored over The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown in 3 days. A cup full of my favorite soda is quickly depleted, and smiles fade when jokes pass. Jessie lived for 14 years. When any of these good things are gone, they leave me to remember what was and to wish it could still be.

At some point, brief happiness justifies its too swift passing. Jessie was only 14 when she died, but in those 14 years she touched the lives of peers, teachers, coaches, and family. Her beautiful and vivacious life may have been prematurely interrupted, but during the years she did have, she inspired brilliance all around her. I feel lucky to have known Jessie, even though I had to lose her.

Ending is a result of beginning, and if Jessie’s life had never begun, everyone who knew her would be slightly less than the person they are now. The quality of the time between the beginning and ending is what matters. Jessie’s time here was short, but the beauty of her life needs to justify its end. Remembering the good in Jessie’s life is far more important than focusing on that one last moment of bad. Jessie had 14 years to live her life, but it took her less than 24 hours to die. It isn’t fair to Jessie or to me to remember her solely based on her death, because that is insignificant compared to the rest of her life.

Mortality is a physical phenomenon, but loss furthers that notion and introduces the emotional aspects. Despite Jessie’s death, the powerful essence of her spirit remains present in my life. The taste of ice cream or soda in my mouth, finally knowing the entire story, and what I’ve gained from knowing Jessie are all part of acknowledging what is left despite what was lost. All good things, like Jessie’s life, inevitably have to end, but the worth of their existence makes it easier to lose them; that they were there at all keeps me going after they’re gone.

You’re smile may have faded, Jessie, but I’ll always remember it in its full beauty.