Once a year, my mom and I take a road trip to the same winding road along the St. Croix River, to the town of Prescott, Wisconsin.
I didn’t know it then, but this loss forever changed how I saw the world and it opened up my mind to seeing life from other perspectives. This made me want to help others who experienced the same tragedy that I had.
I am nervous. I don’t enjoy it.
Mom parks our van on the side of the highway, hoping not to be hit by oncoming traffic. Cars whiz by so you only get a second to look at them.
We exit the van and reach for the white wooden hand-made cross with a pink flowered wreath laying in our trunk. We haul it up a hill with no paths, full of unattended grass, bushes, and bugs. We place it in a spot where people could spot it from the road and we utter a small prayer. When we leave we pass the town full of people getting their motorcycles ready to ride the road, like my father on the day that became a tragedy for us all.
I was 6 years old when my father set out on his motorcycle early one morning. He was told many times to be careful on the dangerous route he would be traveling on.
My mother was at home when she got the call that my father was being airlifted to the hospital. After that we received another call with the worst news possible—that he had passed away. My grandmother was holding my mother, who couldn’t stand on her own. They were both in tears.
The next thing that sticks out in my memory was laying a single rose on top of my father’s body in his coffin, never thinking that would be last time that I would ever feel my father. I didn’t know it then, but this loss forever changed how I saw the world and it opened up my mind to seeing life from other perspectives. This made me want to help others who experienced the same tragedy that I had.
When my father died, I looked up to my mom for her strength, but I had no idea how to move forward. I kept my feelings locked up for a long time. I felt like I was trapped, curled up in a dark room of my own creation, empty with no one to talk to. I never told anyone what I felt, but my family found some papers I had written about how I was feeling.
They took me to a counselor, talking to this person who had the skills to help me break down the wall I built for so long. She worked with me to understand what I was feeling and express those feelings in the right way. Her office became a safe place for me where I knew I could allow myself to vent my feelings without any judgement. She sat and listened and suggested solutions on how I could solve problems.
Last year after the death of my grandfather, who had filled my father’s shoes in raising me, I went to her to help me pull through it. Going that soon after his death helped me understand how my family dynamic was going to change and how I would be filling his shoes around the house. It also helped me have my best trimester in school because I was able to focus on what was important.
Now, I want to use my own experiences to help people deal with all the challenges that they face. I want to be a counselor and teach people that there are better ways to handle the challenges that life throws at them. Already I’m the one my friends reach out to with their feelings and problems. I have become a person they trust, who will listen and help them through whatever they are going through.
No one should live in the darkness like I did for so many years. I want to show them that everyone belongs in the light.