Please welcome Anessa Hanson, a friend of Jason's. Anessa is 12 and she is passionate about volleyball, math, and English.
“A drop of ink can make a million think” Lord Byron
Luck. When people hear it they think of winning the lottery or landing their dream job. Something amazing. Something crazy. Something remarkable, like it chose you. Lots of people call that luck. But that’s only half of the meaning.
Luck is when something abnormal happens. Coincidence. Accident. Chance. When the unspeakable becomes spoken. The unthinkable becomes thought. And the unimaginable doesn’t even have to be imagined, because it happened. I know it because it happened to me.
I stepped into the hospital. I know most people recognize a certain smell when they come into a hospital. The scent antiseptic, an aroma I can only describe as blank and white. Towering glass windows and doors blocking all the dry summer heat as soon as they shut. The place was still. Full of what seemed like dead air. We didn’t bother to sit on the gray leather chairs. They looked disheveled. Hard as concrete. Silence filled the place. No sound. But the quiet somehow rung in my ears. I wanted to be here but I wanted to race out at the same time.
The cordial lady at the front desk directed us to the fourth floor. The floor we had labeled “Auntie’s floor.” We went inside the elevator, my mom and I talking. I forgot about what because it wasn’t important. Slowly, we walked into the room. I don’t remember everything from that day but I remembered how her face looked and the smile she had on when we came through that light wood door. I remember how pale her hands were and the drained color of her skin. No makeup on. No glasses. And her smile faded too fast. Faster than ever. She looked like a completely different person. Her limbs as motionless as a pulled weed’s roots. I don’t remember the exact paint color of the walls or her nurse’s name. But I remember how I made her laugh. And how she immediately stopped because it hurt too much. I don’t remember everything we talked about because she could barely talk. It was hard not to think about the plastic tubes going through her mouth and up her nose. Because of them we couldn’t have conversations like we used to. I do remember the light coming through the windows and onto her bulky hospital bed. Her room filled with flowers. The shelves with store-bought cards. Words of encouragement spilled around the room, written unto whiteboards and pasted onto the walls. Half of them done by me. That’s a day I think about a lot. Sometimes too much.
My aunt was born with her spine open, a rare disease called Spina Bifida. No one really knows what it is. And I don’t get a chance to explain it often. But you begin to understand when one of the closest people in your life goes through it everyday. From the day she was born Auntie was paralyzed from the waist down. She couldn’t walk at all. All as a family we went through countless battles, going through wheelchairs and finding the right car for her. But none of that ever stopped her. Auntie graduated and started fulfilling her dream of being a teacher. But the job of being the best Aunt never ever went away. Since she lived just up the street, there wasn’t a week we wouldn’t walk up and visit her. She would roll us around on her lap even when we got too big and Mom would tell us to get off because we’d crush her legs. But we didn’t. I don’t remember how many times she’d pick me up and go shopping with me even though she hated shopping. Or how she went to go watch The Greatest Showman with me instead of with her coworkers. She’d drive me to the park where we ate our Subway and I’d roll her around. I seemed to go a little too fast sometimes but Auntie always wore a smile when I pushed her. We’d stay up almost all night talking on the deck outside, gazing at the twinkling city lights. Or laughing as I did crazy hairdos on her. She had short hair because having long was too hard to manage. But with a spray bottle in one hand and a comb in the other, I gave her bangs, mohawks, and anything short of amazing. I didn’t realize until I was older though. I never did fully understand. But the little hints Grandma and Grandpa said as Auntie went to go lie down or go to the bathroom told me. Once I pieced it together I grasped, just a little, of how much pain she was in. Every second of every day. But she took those seconds and spent time with us. With me. But, being a kid, I thought since she couldn’t feel her legs she couldn’t feel the pain. But I never knew exactly how wrong I was.
One day we found out she had cancer. But that still didn’t seem to stop her. I didn’t understand all the surgeries Auntie had and frankly I didn’t spend too much time thinking about them. Because I knew after she had them everything would be fine. She would be fine. After the big surgery, the surgery the doctors said would stop all the cancer, she went to rehab. It was nice and new, but so gloomy. They tried to cheer the place up with bright yellow decorations and certain times of the day scheduled for cookies and games. But that didn’t seem to matter to Auntie. The place was filled with old people. It was kind of like a retirement home. But all these people seemed way too tired. I’d go there almost everyday after school and sometimes stay there past 10:00. We had our fun though. I always tried to look past the pain with Auntie. The things that wore her down. So I’d roll her around the facility. We’d do physical therapy together. Read and play Scrabble, like old times. I even convinced her to do karaoke and we went outside to go play catch some days. But still.
“Are you liking it here?” I’d ask her. She would stare off for a few seconds. Some faraway look, I wish I could comprehend. “No.” She’d reply.
Maybe it was because of the unlikable food. Or how it looked so creepy at night. Maybe it was the fact that some of these people weren’t getting better.
Maybe it was because she wasn’t getting better. But I didn’t know that until maybe a month when they found out the surgery hadn’t worked.
So that’s how she ended up here. Well I should say that’s how we ended up here. We went where she did. We were there for her, no matter what. When we left the rehabilitation place Auntie was beaming like the sun. I didn’t know how happy she was to leave. But the freedom was soon gone when she came here. Lying on a hospital bed. Weaker than I’d ever seen her. I remember not taking this visit as seriously as my Mom did. I loved my Aunt to the moon and back and more, I just knew everything would be okay. It always is. But my Mom never left her side. She held her hand and continually asked if there was anything she needed. She was so fragile there and Mom treated Auntie as if she would break if she didn’t let go. Auntie couldn’t move her legs on her own before. Now she couldn’t move anything at all. We spent the whole day there. But sadly, I was just a kid no matter how mature I thought myself to be and I was getting very impatient.
“When can we leave?” I whispered to my Mom. “Oh! We should probably get going,” Mom said gently. She glanced away to look at the time then her gaze remained on Auntie. It was full of sorry and a trace of guilt. And as I stared between them, all I could think about was how I just didn’t understand. What were the looks? Why was Mom talking so weird? “I have to make dinner.”
My Aunt nodded. She didn’t show that much emotion the whole time. I don’t know how hard it was for her. I don’t think I’ll ever know. She only gave the slightest of nods. I could see the disappointed stinging in her eyes. And I hate myself for wanting to go.
“I love you. Get some rest okay?” My Mom told Auntie, kissing her forehead. The little nod came back and I look at myself now and think, if only I knew a little more. I came up to her white bed and tried to get around the cords and tubes. I gave her a big hug, but gentle too. With all my heart I didn’t want her to break.
“I love you Auntie. Bye.” And once again I said I love you. I got up and headed to the door. No matter what I never left just saying bye. It’s a rule that I’ve slowly created over the years. I’ve always been one to fear about the future. About change. At the crazy things that could happen. I’m the type of girl who thinks about the unlikely situations maybe a little more than the real ones. Who thinks about what might happen. And dreams about what could happen. Maybe that’s why I was so sure Auntie would be okay. Because I always had hope. However, either way, I blew Auntie a kiss on the way out. I watched as Auntie slowly pretended to catch it. And I smiled. But I never knew how long it would last.
That night when we came home and after we ate dinner my parents told us to come to the living room. I sat next to Dad on the loveseat. And Mom sat between my brother and sister on the other couch. My Dad took a big breath. And tears flooded his eyes. Dad barely cries. But when he does it’s because of something important. I silently wished I was like that. I think people would take me more seriously. I watched Mom start to cry.
“This morning we all came to the hospital. Grandpa, Grandma, Uncle Dan and I. And they told us,” Dad’s hand smeared over his face. “Auntie is dying.” Everyone cried. Immediately. Fully. Except me. I asked all the questions: how? When? Why? All of them. I still didn’t understand. They told us they still believed God would save her but their tears said otherwise. I still knew everything would turn out. I said I would write a bunch of letters to her, expressing how much she meant to me. I said I would visit her tomorrow. After I got done with working in the orchards, my summer job. But still, everyone cried. I don’t know why I didn’t cry. I’m probably the one who cries the most in the house and I didn’t cry. I knew everything would be all right. I just knew.
Then I woke up the next morning. At 5:30 or so because I had work really early. So it was normal as Dad shook me and my brother awake. But he also woke my sister up. He said to come to the kitchen so we did what he said. The island was lined with glass vases and in them were all the flowers from Auntie’s hospital room. And the first thought that came to my mind was that Auntie had come back from the hospital.
But then I saw Grandpa’s glasses. And they were filled with fog. And that’s when they told us.
Auntie was dead.
I can’t tell you what happened after that. There was screaming and crying and nothing felt real. It couldn’t be happening. It couldn’t be happening. It just couldn’t be happening.
We all think we have forever. But we don’t.
I won’t tell you everything. Because I’m afraid everything will just come back. But I’ll tell you this. It felt like half of my world was gone. And there was no getting it back. I can’t tell you exactly what it felt like. And I’ve been struggling to find any words that would exactly match how I felt. But I came to the conclusion that I am not that great of a writer or there just aren’t any words out there for this. I watched my family crumble. It was like we were the glass vases. And once those words were announced it was like someone had taken a metal hammer and flung it through all of us. And we all shattered. We all broke into a million pieces. And boy, it was hard to be put back together. But there will always be that gap. That hole that can never be replaced. And through that hole I waved goodbye. A goodbye to Auntie. And an I love you right after.
The pain never does fully go away as everyone told me. But maybe one day all I can feel is love when I think about how she’s in heaven, smiling down at us, and walking around. I still don’t understand completely. I don’t think I ever will until I’m up there with her. But until then, I’ll tell you this.
Luck. It’s a word people use when they think of winning their dream house or meeting the live of their life. But it’s also getting in a car crash or their house burning down. My Aunt died at 42, a day after they told her she had the rest of the summer to live. But what they didn’t know was that she wasn’t supposed to make it to be a teenager, let alone live at all. There’s a lot of luck in life. And I’ll hold onto the really lucky moments. I don’t know when everything happens. I don’t know how. And I definitely don’t know why. But I believe in fate. That everything does happen for a reason. And I believe that there is a plan for each of us. I don’t know a lot. I barely know anything at all. But what I do know I’ll tell you now. None of this was luck at all.