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What Doesn’t Kill Me Makes Me Stronger

[1]What I thought was going to be a normal Saturday morning turned out to be one of the worst days of my life. I had just woken up and was making my bed; I got used to living at my aunt and uncle’s house, considering I had been with them for a month or two. They took care of me and made me feel completely at home. It was August 16th, 2008 and my cousin called up the stairs from the living room.

“Melissa, come downstairs, Aunt Marie needs to talk to you,” Michelle yelled.

I was nervous and completely oblivious. What did I do now? Michelle was sitting on the couch along with my uncle, and my aunt was standing in the middle of the room, waiting for me to sit down. My dog was barking as usual, and I had a gut feeling that I did something wrong and was going to get in trouble. The next few words that came out of her mouth were unforgettable.

“I don’t know how to tell you this, so I’m just going to say it,” she started. It seemed like hours had passed before she continued.

“Your dad passed away last night.”

My heart stopped pumping. My aunt continued to talk and explain what had happened, but I tuned out. I was in my own world. My blood went cold and my body became numb. I was speechless. The only things I heard about cancer patients were survivor stories about those who fought until they were cancer-free. I thought my dad was the strongest man alive and that he would overcome the cancer taking over his body. Why does this have to happen to me? My father was all I had. He was my world: my dad, my coach, my mentor, and my best friend, really.

After this day, I was a different person. When I realized that the one person I depended on and loved the most was gone, I shut down. I wanted to curl up and be alone all day in my room. I never wanted to talk or be bothered by anything. I pushed away my family and friends and was very rude. I didn’t care about anyone except myself. I tried to believe that my dad would walk through the door sooner or later and ask me to go out and have a catch with him. I knew it would never happen, but I just could not accept that I was never going to see him ever again. He will never be there to see me mature into a young woman, he will never be there to walk me down the aisle and give me away, and he will never be able to hold his grandkids. That’s what hurts the most.

One of the worst feelings I felt after my dad’s death, was the one I got when people didn’t understand why I was still upset. People believed that I should have gotten over his death a week or two after he was gone. All I could do was try and be strong. I bottled up my emotions. The first day of seventh grade, two weeks after his death, all I could do was smile. I didn’t talk, and if I didn’t pretend to be happy, I would have broken down. To this day I try to hold in my tears as much as possible. When my friends complain that they hate their parents because they won’t let them go to a party that weekend, it makes envy them. They still have both parents, and have no idea what can happen in the blink of an eye. People don’t understand how lucky they really are.

After a while, I was able to learn that life could continue without my dad. I learned that I had to accept what just happened to me, because there was nothing I could do to ever bring him back. I have become strong and wise and I learned who my real friends were. Those that said “I’m here for you if you need me” but never actually approached me after my dad’s passing were useless to me. I needed friends that showed that they were there for me. I needed friends I could cry with and vent to. The people who were there for me back then are the people I can consider my best friends today. I have been through a lot more than many people my age, and I feel that it has made me into a more mature being. I am an older, wiser, and stronger person than I was before.

I have slowly started appreciating more. I used to not care about much. I lived life day by day, usually got what I wanted, and took things for granted. Now, I don’t get caught up in little fights because I know that it’s not worth it. Things can happen in a split second, and life can end at anytime. We do not know our expiration dates, and I want to live my life to the fullest and not pause it to resolve a stupid fight over nothing. I also watch my mouth. I used to say “I hate you” to my dad when he wouldn’t get me that cool, new toy that I was dying for. I wouldn’t be caught dead saying that to a family member now. I am beyond thankful to have a loving family who took me in, not caring that they lived in a small house with limited space, and already had to take care of three kids of their own, two of which were being put through college. They accepted me without even thinking of the ifs, ands, or buts. I cannot even begin to think where I would be today without them.

The death of my father had also caused me to find one of the most amazing places in the world: Comfort Zone Camp. Comfort Zone Camp is the world’s largest bereavement camp for kids ages 7- 17 who have lost a parent or sibling. There I have learned to talk instead of bottling things up, I have learned coping skills to deal with my grief, and I have learned one of the most helpful things yet: that I am not alone. I have made so many friends who have gone through the same things I have, and can talk to them whenever I want. Initially I went in thinking “why do I need to open myself up to a bunch of strangers?” and now I am a three-year returning camper, currently applying to become a junior counselor. I couldn’t imagine life without this beautiful place. Soon, I’ll have a “little buddy” of my own who will need me to be there for them, just like my big’s were there for me. This is definitely the best thing that has happened to me since the death of my dad. It has made me so much stronger and has helped me in so many indescribable ways.

The demise of Edward Douglas Moore can be defined as the worst thing that has ever happened to me in my entire life. It has changed me in many ways, some good, and others bad. My dad’s death sparked a turning point in my life, and I had no other choice than to continue moving forward. I think about the memories we shared every night. My room is filled of pictures of us together: pictures of us canoeing down the Delaware River, exploring the Grand Canyon, and taking silly photo booth shots. While seeing these always make me sad, it makes me feel so lucky to have gotten to share 12 years of my life with him. I still am, and will always be a “daddy’s girl.”

Special thanks to Comfort Zone Camper Melissa Moore for sharing her story here with us.

Photo Credit [2]