It all started on December 9, 1991. I was only four years old, and I hadn’t realized what had happened. Little did I know that the whole family would never be the same. There is an empty spot on my couch where my grandfather used to nap. I sat there asking myself where he went, and when I would be with him again. I was told that he wasn’t going to be with us. In my adolescence, I was clueless that he wouldn’t physically be around, but only in spirit could we once again enjoy his company. That was the beginning of my life-long journey in understanding the real meaning behind the word “appreciation”.
You don’t ever truly know what you’ve got until it’s gone. That’s so true on many different levels. We are constantly being given lessons in life; a gift you could say, one that we don’t normally view as such. All it takes is one loss, and you start to think what you could do to savor every moment, and keep the memories in a bottle and close it up tight.
June 24, 2000. My lesson of appreciation has not yet been achieved. My aunt and my cousins have talked about moving across the country for a while now. I never thought that the day would actually come when I had to say goodbye to my cousin…my best friend. You couldn’t ever tear Joe and I away from each other. Even though he’s only a year older than me, I looked up to him like he was God. I’ll never forget the day when I went to their house for the last time. All the memories, good and bad, came flooding back into my mind. An argument that had never been resolved between he and I bombarded my mind and shattered it into little tiny pieces. We both said some pretty harsh words, and it tore me up inside to hear him say that I had actually hurt his feelings. Now they are in Atlanta, Georgia, they visit every once in a while, but I still miss having them right down the street and I could go over and visit whenever I wanted…I never really did take that chance.
That move was very hard on all sides of the family emotionally, we’ve lived in the same place for eleven years, and then all the sudden they’re gone. It was weird, and had me walking around heavy-hearted for a long while. Nearly a year later devastation hit the family once again.
My great grandfather, on my dad’s side was diagnosed with lung cancer. Being a typical kid, I didn’t really think anything of it. I remember it like it was yesterday. February 18, 2001. We’re having a “moving sale” when the phone rings. It’s my dad’s father in a hurry to give Dad some sort of news. He went in his bedroom and closed the door. Mom was quick to follow. My older brother and I waited anxiously outside the door to find out what had happened. I looked at my brother and all I said was “grandpa” and right then I knew what had happened. Grandpa Harry had died. I was confused, because we assumed that he would be fine only because we heard nothing in a number of months. Only later had we found out that it wasn’t exactly the cancer that had killed him. His death was self-inflicted and well thought out. Which made things more understandable, but still heart breaking.
I thought after that experience that I was well prepared for whatever else could come my way. I guess I didn’t know as much as I thought about how well I dealt with things. It took a death of a friend to make me realize what a scary world this actually is.
She was so sweet, beautiful and kind-hearted. Always walking around with a smile on her face. That smile could brighten up anyone’s life no matter what trials they were to face that day. Sara Joy was only sixteen when she passed. Mother’s Day, May 12, 2002, my phone rings and it’s my friend that I haven’t talked to in at least five months. She’s bawling and all she wanted to do was talk to my mom. Hearing only one side of the conversation, I hardly understood what had happened, all I heard was “what?” “How?” and “when did it happen?” Mom hung up the phone, and looked at me with a very concerned look on her face. “Do you know Sara Joy?” she asked me. Right that second, I knew something was wrong, yet my reply was nothing. My mind was racing to think of things that could have happened. Anything but the truth would have been fine with me. “She passed away earlier today”, Mom continued. I couldn’t bring myself to say anything. I wanted to call my friend back, but I couldn’t, because of an argument that we had a while back. I looked at my mom and realized that this wasn’t a lie; I had to be mature about this and call her back, no matter what I had felt towards her. I took the phone, sat outside, and took a deep breath. I called my friend back and asked her what had happened. As she sat there explaining to me the story of the day, I couldn’t even begin to believe what she was saying. After I got off the phone, it still hadn’t hit me, all I could think was “this is a lie, she couldn’t have died…she’s Sara Joy.” There were many rumors about why and how it happened. Suicide and a drug over-dose were the most popular ones. Still nobody knows what really happened. I have wanted to talk to her for the longest time. We weren’t exactly friends to begin with. I remember randomly going up to her one day and telling her how beautiful I thought she was; something I never did with even my friends. But something told me that I should say something to her now, and not wait until she and I were actually friends. Something told me that I wasn’t going to get that chance. You could feel her spirit surrounding you the next day at school. The only communication anyone can have with her now is prayer, and letters. I’ve written many letters to her, building our friendship even though I can’t see her. She’s my guardian angel I believe. I wish I wouldn’t have procrastinated, if she was still here with us, she and I might be great friends. Now we’ll never know.
The loss of people isn’t the only thing in life that teaches us the many lessons of appreciation but also the loss of an animal. The loss of a loved pet is also very devastating. Lessons come in many different forms; nobody needs to die necessarily, to make people appreciate life and all it has to offer. I think that I will always be learning the real meaning behind the word “appreciation”, and that lesson in life will come to me in many different forms. Appreciation isn’t the only lesson that can come from these stories. Procrastination is learned as well. Don’t ever wait to tell people that you love them. Dance like no one is watching; sing like no one is listening, and love like you will never get hurt. Take those chances in getting to know someone. Share your stories with the older people in your life, chances are they have more stories than you, and will laugh about the times they had, and the times you have in common. You don’t ever truly know what you’ve got until it’s gone.