In college, I went on a date with the son of my mother’s coworker. I couldn’t remember if his name was Jason or Justin, so I spent the entire night maneuvering my way out of saying his name. He... [+]
Then life moves on, leaving the past in the past.
People die, and there's nothing we can do. We can only watch as their life slowly fades away into nothingness.
So that's why I decided to dedicate my life to saving others - taking others' lives out of the fires of danger and putting them into the safety of others.
"Mommy! I want to help people when I grow up!" I exclaimed, running up to her, and hugging her tight in my arms.
"But you know you have to be very brave. You're just like me." My mother smiled, her bright eyes twinkling with happiness. Little did I know as my seven-year-old self, that would be the last time I was able to touch her, hear her voice, and smell her scent before she would be slowly lowered into the ground as a dead corpse.
She had died trying to save others from the disaster of 9/11. That had broken my young heart, and it had broken my father's.
He had slipped into alcohol abuse as it was his only escape from his misery.
I tried to push through it. It was hard for me, as an only child with a single father. Others tried to understand, but it was impossible.
I promised myself that I would help others as my mother had done.
I got into college, yet I had no idea what was in store for me.
"Dad! No!" I clutched the still figure that was lying limply on the couch. "You can't be dead! I refuse! No. NO. NO!" I shrieked my heart out, tears falling down my face in a continuous stream.
I watched the last bit of life slip out of him. I looked up as it floated into the air and up into the sky.
"NO!" I screamed. It was the scream of heartbreak - the most horrifying scream you could ever hear.
Again, I faced the hole in the ground as my father was lowered into it. I didn't cry, maybe I had already accepted the fact he was dead. I will never know.
I facing the great Nothing by myself. No one was here to help me this time.
That is how I lived.
I became a firefighter. My mother was one too. I followed her path.
I looked up into the sky, counting the stars as I did with my family before they had died - honoring their memory with my work.
Later, I had met a man who could finally make me smile. Laugh. I had forgotten what it was like to finally be happy, and it was so was addicting. As someone who had lost the ability to be happy, it was life-changing.
We had one beautiful son. I protected him with my life. It was my job now, as it had been passed down to me by my parents.
He grew up, became independent. He was my son, one I could love with my heart and soul. He did well in school, had received straight A's, participated in sports, and even fell in love at an early age.
I could be proud of him for his work. He enlisted into the U.S. Air Force, and he also started honoring my parents in the way I had - helping his country.
That was until we got the call.
"I'm sorry, ma'am. Your son has been killed in battle. He died an honorable death."
Couldn't it end?! Did I need so much death in my life? What did I do to deserve this?
Tears dripped down my face, and I hung up the phone. I didn't want to face the hole in the ground again.
The cemetery is the thing I have hated my entire life. It had always stank of death.
I didn't go to my son's funeral. I didn't want to; I wasn't ready. I instead started to pretend he was alive, somewhere out there. Fighting for what he loves: me, his father, and his country.
It had become an addiction.
"I wonder when he'll be home."
"I wonder how well he's doing."
"I'm glad he's still alive."
These words poured out of my mouth robotically. Eventually, I said them enough that I started to believe them.
He is alive. Soon. Soon he’ll come home. That was what I kept telling myself.
Yet my life went on. I kept being a firefighter, helping others.
One day, I took a chance that would be life-changing. I went into a burning building that was ready to collapse. Despite my age, I was the only one who was willing to plunge into the sea of flames and save the ones who were stuck a place of no escape.
I blinked furiously. There was smoke. Smoke everywhere.
I have to help others; do it for others.
Oxygen tanks are low.
I still had to find those innocent people.
They don’t deserve to die.
"Get out of there!" A voice rang out, and it caught my attention.
"I have to find them!" I yelled back.
I plunged through the flames, looking for the mother and her child stuck inside the building.
I noticed two figures huddled together in the corner, shivering in fear.
"I need you to get out of here!" I shouted pointing towards the closest exit.
The mother nodded, but the child attracted my attention immediately.
She looked up to me with large eyes, filled with fear. It reminded me of what I was feeling back then when my own mother died. I was facing the darkness with only myself and my courage to help me push through and to help me overcome my grief.
"Go!" I ushered them through the open window of the one-story building. "Hurry! Hurry!"
The beams started crashing down, landing all around us.
"Come on!" The woman screamed, clutching her daughter.
"Don't worry about me. I'll be fine." I smiled slightly.
I should leave.
I stepped towards the window, but the wall collapsed. I saw the roof pitching downwards.
A beam landed on my legs, and I felt a sharp crack.
I screamed in pain, but the sound was drowned out by the cracking of the roof dropping on top of me. I stopped screaming, realizing fate that was upon me, allowing a small smile to dance upon my lips.
And then there was Nothing.
This is how it feels to be dead.
Letting the ocean waves of peace and calm wash upon you, allowing you an empty mind.
You don't feel anything, and that was the terrifying part.
Then the blinding light appeared.
"I'm sorry. Your wife died saving a family from a house fire. She had the courage to do what was needed. Nobody else had that kind of courage. You should be proud that she died an honorable death."
The light quickly faded into the black Nothing once again, leaving nothing.
Those last words echoed around in the darkness of the Nothing. Bouncing from one wall of the Nothing to the next, as if I were there, listening to those words being spoken.
I sat in silence, unsure of what was about to happen and what was even happening. I felt as if I were part of the Nothing - I was Nothing. The Nothing started to consume my mind and body, leaving me empty.
Then I remembered I have lungs. I took a breath, filling my lungs with air. I remembered I have a voice.
I opened my mouth and started to speak. My voice started filling the Nothing with bursts of color as if a paintbrush was just starting to paint a beautiful picture. A tear dripped down my face as I started to make sounds using my mouth, proving to myself that I have a voice.