No Place Like Home

img_1436You know that saying, “Home is where the heart is”? Well, I find that to be particularly true.

I went home this week for Thanksgiving break, but that’s not all. For the first time, I visited my best friend. Not in the usual way that most college students would. No. I went to a cemetery, looked down at the newly placed stone and hoped that she could hear all the words that filled my head. Words about my college experience and simply put everything that  I haven’t told her already. Words that I had waited to tell her and words that I wish I knew how to say. While I stood there, I wondered all of the same questions that I had a million times before but no answers came to surface.

Then, I remembered the day. I visualized me walking up to the door to realize she had already come in. I saw her small little dance that she did. Then we walked to the living room and I turned on Glee, the show we had been watching together. We talked forever, not even really paying any attention to the show in the background. We had seen it a million times already. We joked and laughed all day. Not only do I remember what we did that day, I also remember how I was feeling. It was overwhelming happiness. For lack of a better way to put it, I was home. I was with my best friend whom I loved and who made me happy. My heart was whole. I had no worries. I was not stressed. I was carefree. I was happy. I was home. As the day went on, I remember feeling a bit of dread because I knew she would have to go back to her house soon and I simply put didn’t want her to go. After she left, it would just go back to being a random, boring day.

Standing at her grave, all of those feelings rushed back to me. The readiness to see her. Not necessarily happy, but whole. It was the first time since the accident that I had felt still. Not still in the frozen kind of way, but steady. As I stood there, my whole existence was unraveling before me. I wasn’t torn in two. I was just there looking at the stone that sat above where my best friend lies permanently. For the first time, I wasn’t unsteady. My mind wasn’t racing with a million thoughts. My heart ached no longer because I was there. I was with her even though she wasn’t physically there. I was there and this was where her body lied and for me that was enough. It wasn’t like last time when I watched her lowered to the ground. My heart aching. No more tears left to be shed. It wasn’t like that. I was just visiting a friend. I was visiting my best friend. My best friend took up most of my heart. I loved her and I lost her. As I remembered her laughter and jokes standing there, I realized that I had lost my home. My safe place. But in a way it was all around me as I stood there. My mom standing beside me still supporting me through everything, just as my best friend would have.

Then I realized something else. Just like the saying previously mentioned, no matter where I am–big city or small town that no one has ever heard of–I will always have a piece of me that is home. Because that’s where she is. And that is also where my family will remain. And they are my safe places. They are what take up the space in my heart and that’s how it always will be.

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Change of Traditions

Beginning in November, we would hop into my grandma’s car only to hear Christmas music coming from the speakers. Now at that time my siblings and I looked at each other with a smirk. However, we would sit in the car those mornings and just absorb the music playing because my grandmother enjoyed it and we were too tired to even say anything. One time each year when we thought to, we would always ask, “Christmas music before Thanksgiving?” This would encourage her to say the words, “It’s never too early for Christmas music.” This was one of her favorite times of year, especially when Christmas music was involved.

Looking back on moments such as these just days before Thanksgiving, caused me to wonder what it would be like this year. The first year without her being here to celebrate with us. Will we continue to do our baking ritual? Or will that falter away just like she did? Where will we meet? Will it be all of us or just some of us? She had a way of holding the family together even if part of us were fighting with the others. Will the Christmas music continue? What now?

However, as it is Thanksgiving day, I see that not much has changed. To start off with, it was a little bland. Though that changed pretty quickly. My mom put my sister and I in charge of baking a various number of cookies. Then about halfway into it she decided to find a Christmas music station. “This is more grandma’s style,” she said as she went back to the sink to start washing more dishes. As soon as the music came on, my sister starting dancing around the kitchen and my mom started singing. This brought me back to a moment that we shared with my grandma. Christmas music playing softly throughout the house while my sister and I are rolling the cookie dough and my grandma at the sink and setting up what we are supposed to bake next. I watched my sister sneak some powdered sugar from the bowl like she used to with my grandma. I also freely went for the cookie dough because that’s my favorite part. Mom also took the position and sang along to the music. So with all of that going on, it was like she was still with us even though she wasn’t. We were keeping her memory alive, smiling and laughing all the way.

So with that Thanksgiving and any other big holiday will be fine. There will be memories all around that relate to her. Maybe it won’t exactly be the same because we won’t have her there physically, but she will always be there through memories that we shared. For as long as we celebrate, pieces of her will still remain. So we will continue to celebrate.

Everything I Didn’t Say

Here is a poem that I wrote. It’s my first try at one so it may not be too great, but I hope that it is at least decent.

 

 

I say this here

Because I don’t know if there’s

Trust in my voice to say it aloud

But I’m sorry.

 

Out of everyone, I’m the worst of all.

You lied there so broken while I sat without a clue.

I should have been there to help take the fall.

Every other time you were there for me and on your turn, I fail you.

 

Pieces of my heart are now scattered across the floor, once again,

I look down on them with a silent hope that they will fall back together.

But you were here last time

Now you’re not and I look down, screaming, “I can’t do this anymore.”

 

Laughter radiates from the room next to me

As bittersweet memories are all I can see.

You’re one masterpiece, crowding up the space in my mind.

Without you here, there’s nothing left.

 

Now I go through the motions, just to go to sleep,

With old messages you once sent lying unread

Just as my new ones stay with the words left unsaid.

Then I wake once again, but close my eyes,

Because a world without you is not a world I want to see.

 

So here it is

With every ounce that I have left,

Every moment that has fled,

Every tear that I have wept,

All the words left unsaid.

 

Don’t go.

I love you.

Please stay.

 

Speech By Speech

fullsizerender-3I walked through the double doors of the school. I thought I would only see this place maybe once more in my life, but here I was right back here. My palms were sweaty and I was already shaking. My mom could tell that I was nervous. Everyone else probably could too. The lady at the front instructed us where to sit and we entered into the gymnasium. There were already people sitting down and some at the front looking at Stancil. My sight first landed on her when I walked in. An overwhelming amount of longing rushed over me as I wished, for the thousandth time, for this all to be a nightmare that I would wake up from. My mom found us a seat and I sat, not paying attention as to where. There was only one thing I was focused on.

It reminded me a lot of my graduation day. The way all the seniors gathered in one of the hallways and talked, joked, and laughed. I was with Stancil that day and my former boyfriend. I remember being so nervous that I couldn’t say anything. That I didn’t want to. I was set to give the valedictory speech for my class. They both told me how it was such an honor and that I would do amazing. Then we had to line up, forming two lines—it was time to walk into the gym. I waited, anxiously for our turn to walk and to get to my seat. I felt like I could not stand. Like I could not hold myself up any longer. I was so nervous, but I had them to look at.

I was feeling that among other things at the moment. Natural dread mixed in with the feelings. I just watched her. She was lying there, sleeping peacefully—never to wake again. The funeral hadn’t started yet, but I knew it would soon with all of the people now filing in. Kourtney, a former student just like me, came up and asked me if I wanted to go outside for a few minutes and wait for her friend. We went outside and just stood while other people walked up. We didn’t talk, there was nothing to say. One of my favorite teachers, and Stancil’s, came up toward us and enveloped us in a hug. I cannot remember what she told us, but I remember blurting out.

“I’m speaking.” I remember the feeling I got in my chest as I said it. It just continued to tighten as if it would eventually just explode. She looked at me, sympathy filling her eyes.

“Do you have a tissue?” I said no and she began searching through her purse for an extra one. She handed it to me. I stuffed it in the pocket of the dress I was wearing. “Take your time up there. Feel free to cry.”

“She was- She was leaving my house.” I said, feeling as if it took every last ounce of me to say those words. I felt the tears forming in my eyes, but I did not let them fall. She hugged me one more time before telling me something about the speech and going inside. Kourtney’s friend came up shortly after and we all went back in. As we sat down the funeral procession started, I could feel my heart beating faster by the second. Everything was such a blur until the moment arose for me to get up from where I was sitting and walk to the podium. Time began to move slowly as I got up from my seat. I walked the same path I walked on graduation night. Walked up the same stairs. Walked across the same stage. And then, finally, stood behind the same podium. I remembered in that moment, as I was unfolding my paper, on my graduation night that I looked out into the crowd as I spoke. I looked at three teachers that had shaped my life in some way. Then I took a look at my boyfriend. Then I searched the crowd for Stancil until I found her. As that moment went on, before I began to speak, I looked out at the crowd. There was probably less people in the gym that day, but it still felt the same. The weight of what I had to say. I searched for her and then glanced at the casket that lied before me. With that, I looked down at my paper because I realized then that I no longer had anything left to look for and began to speak. After I finished, I don’t even remember if the audience clapped or did anything. I didn’t expect them to. I just remember walking off the stage in a different way than last time and sitting back down in my seat. The rest of the service also went by in a blur, until my attention was caught by someone handing me a flower to load in the car outside. Almost everyone had gathered outside, just like our graduation day, except this time they were replaced with solemn faces. I couldn’t take it anymore so I went back inside to find my mom. When I got to her, a teacher that Stancil and I both knew, and had a class together in, came up to me and hugged me.

“You have to keep going for her now. She will always be with you.” I remembered murmuring something, but I can’t remember what it was and she hugged me again. Then the teacher I had met before the funeral came up and hugged me once again.

“You did good.” I nodded. However, in my head I was saying, it wasn’t for me. Then my mom asked if I was good to go and I nodded. On the way out, two other members of the school’s faculty tapped on the glass from the office and mouthed “You did good.” I nodded and took it even though I didn’t want the credit. I only did it for her. After that, we went to the burial site and I hugged her stepfather and talked to a few more members of her family before leaving.

Later that night, I had wondered if she was proud. If I had done the speech justice and if I had captured basics of our friendship in three short minutes. Just as I had wondered the same on graduation night. I caught myself starting to text her and ask her, like I did on that night. Then I realized looking at her name on my phone that I would never honestly know how I did on that night, because she will never be able to tell me. I checked my phone once more, just as I had the nights prior to, hoping to have a response. But nothing good would come of it. Then I realized something more devastating.

I would never be able to read the line she would always say to me— “I’m such a proud friend.” Everything had changed forever.