College Essay: Life’s Short, Go See the World

Aleena Thor

When I rushed into at my grandma’s house on the morning of February 26, 2012, she was already dead. I was 8 years old and I knew she was sick. Her death was still sudden and unexpected. And it took a part of me that cannot be replaced. This experience taught me to try to live life to the fullest.

My grandmother was my caretaker. Both my parents worked full-time jobs as teachers and I stayed with my grandma until I started school. One of my most special memories includes watching my grandma reach to the top of her wardrobe, grab her secret stash of goodies and hand me a delicious lucky strawberry candy when I behaved well. The last memories I have of her were from the night before she passed. At my aunt’s wedding, I remember seeing my grandma, only 63 years old, laughing and dancing and posing for photos with our family.

Little did I know, that would be the last time I would see her alive. The next morning, I woke up in panic to my dad yelling.

“Wake up! Your grandma has died, wake up!”

When I arrived at her house, the living room was maxed out with more people than it could hold. Everyone was crying. My grandmother’s body was lying peacefully on the ground, on her back, with her head resting on a pillow. To this day, I can still hear the wailing in my head.

The next thing I recall was heading to a Girl Scout camp trip later that morning. Throughout the bus ride to the camp, I rested my head against the back of the seat in front of me. I avoided people. I just needed time alone to reflect and process what had happened. I tried to still have fun. And I did. I remember learning how to ice fish. If I didn’t go, I wouldn’t have had the had the chance to learn something new. In hindsight, I’m glad I went to distract myself from my grandmother’s death.

Days after she passed, I felt incomplete because my grandma was no longer here to greet me and give me her goodies or hugs when I went to her house. Weeks later, seeing her again at her funeral was really comforting to me because she was no longer suffering from kidney failure, and I knew she would soon be reunited with my grandpa and our ancestors.

My grandmother has taught me the greatest lesson of all. She inspires me to realize that life is short and limited. I should never take anything for granted — from the people in my life to my education, to my future. And I’m already starting. Last year, in eighth grade, I accepted a new risk and challenged myself to go on a school trip to Washington, D.C. It was a three-day adventure without my parents. While I was nervous to go, I thought YOLO — you only live once. In the nation’s capital I saw many things that expanded my understanding. For example, at the Holocaust Museum I saw emotional videos and artifacts on the persecution of Jews during the Holocaust. At Arlington National Cemetery, I was thankful I did not have to make that ultimate sacrifice as a young soldier. At the National African American museum, I learned how horribly blacks were treated as slaves and in our recent history.

That trip opened my eyes and curiosity to the world. I want to travel more and learn more things that textbooks and the internet cannot teach. And thanks to a great teacher, my grandmother, I will not allow myself to miss out on any opportunities to learn and explore. I plan to go to college and study journalism, travel, and share and tell stories from around the world.