Cheering Me On
I close my eyes as tight as they can go.T
he lights go off, and my imagination switches on. Pictures flash through my mind like an old film from the fifties.
I remember driving home by myself for the first time. Now, I look into the future and imagine that I am walking across the stage to receive my college diploma. The years pass, and I hear my fiancé say "I do." I look further and listen to the gentle gurgles coming from my baby"s nursery. A smile discreetly appears as memories past and thoughts of the future travel through my soul.
I journey to memories of my high school graduation, and a tear suddenly trickles down my cheek. I look into the bleachers packed with families and friends. I see my parents wrapped in pride, and I look to their side for Katie and Kevin"s approval. But Katie, my older sister, is not there.
My eyes abruptly open as I am snapped back into reality. I remember being called out of Spanish class in tenth grade and taken to the hospital to see Katie, who had cancer, for the final time. It was an excruciating task, but I found the good in Katie"s tragic death.
Katie"s room is exactly the way she left it on a Friday night in September, 1993, when she was carried to the ambulance on a stretcher. Her James Dean poster hangs on one wall; her elementary school track ribbons and collection of porcelain masks hangs on the others. Her bed is neatly made and lined with stuffed animals -- typical of a girl who would visit her sloppier friends and, without prompting, start vacuuming their rooms.
Katie died just a few weeks into her freshman year at the University of Miami. At eighteen she was 5"5"" tall and had straight shoulder length blond hair, big blue eyes, and pale clear skin. Her senior year in high school, Katie was the varsity cheerleader captain and valedictorian.
More importantly, though, she was my best friend. After all, when she was six years old, she had declared herself old enough to take care of her little sister and brand new baby brother, because she thought our mother was not sharing us enough with her. This caring attitude continued throughout her life. Katie would always braid my hair, go shopping with me, and let me go out with her and her friends when I was lonely and bored. Katie would always tutor Kevin, who has a learning disability, when he needed help with his homework. She would continually drill him on his studies until he got it right. Afterwards, she would take him to go get ice cream as a reward. Clearly, Katie was not just our older sister. She was also our teacher, friend, and second mother.
Katie always surrounded herself with friends. She was constantly opening her ears, heart, and arms to someone in need. The phone was constantly ringing and her room was always crowded with people in it. Now, my house is silent.
I realize that getting caught in a pool of depression only leads to drowning. I live by looking for the positive in the worst situations. I now have a relationship with my parents and brother that means everything to me. I know what is important in life, and it is not always partying and getting A"s. But most of all, I know that I can handle anything. Life is not easy, but I overcame one of its toughest obstacles.
I believe, the hardest part of death is the experiences it steals. Katie will not be clapping for me when I finally get my college diploma or giving me advice on my wedding day. My children will only hear stories of the girlhood of their aunt, both stories of reality and an imagined future.
I close my eyes as tight as they can go.
A diploma is placed in my hand. "I do" echoes from a distance. Katie says she loves me and hugs me tight on a September afternoon in 1993. Just before I cross my high school auditorium stage, I look out at the spectators in the bleachers, and I see mother and father and Kevin.Katie is sitting right beside them, cheering me on.