It’s strange, a lot of times we don’t register some of the impactful moments in our lives as they happen — we only see how they influenced us when we look back and reflect.
This story is about one of those moments in my life.
She was my first girlfriend in a long time — since high school. I had managed to make it all the way through college without seriously dating anyone . So when I met her, I figured it was about time I give it a shot again.
And she was different, not like any of the other women I had previously been interested in. She had what I can only describe as this naive innocence — and it was something I really liked about her.
Our relationship was far from perfect, but we went through some pretty heavy stuff together.
One very heavy thing in particular.
Within the first few times of us hanging out, she told me her mom had terminal cancer, and there was nothing anyone could do.
She didn’t cope like most other people would. I only saw her cry once while we were together, and it was while her mom was in the hospital.
But I will never forget that one time. It’s a moment that has stuck with me, I think it changed me in some ways.
So a month or so after we started dating, I went to my brothers house for his “dad-chelor” party. He was expecting his first child.
While I was there, she and I made plans to meet up later in the evening, after I left the party. She mentioned she was going out with some friends to have a few drinks, and suggested that I come meet her after.
I agreed and was immediately excited about the prospect of seeing her later.
As the hours went by, her texts came with more spelling errors. I knew what this meant but thought she might sober up by the time I got there.
Either way, I didn’t judge. I couldn’t even begin to imagine what she was going through. I was just happy she had gotten out of the house and surrounded herself with supportive friends.
Even despite the situation with her mom’s illness, she maintained a surprisingly positive attitude. If it was really affecting her (which I know it was), she did an exceptionally admirable job putting on a happy face.
But if there’s one thing we know about the effect of alcohol, it’s that it has a unique ability to bring out emotions that are already there, but may be deliberately buried underneath the surface.
When I arrived at the bar later that night, I could tell immediately she was very drunk. She was happy to see me though, so that was nice.
I said hello to her friends and socialized for awhile. But after about an hour, I realized it was probably best if I take her home, and so I offered to do so.
Begrudgingly, she agreed. So we slowly made the two block walk to my car. She was very inebriated at this point, and getting more emotional by the second.
Again, I understood, she had every right to be upset.
I finally got her in the car (I let her lay down in the backseat). And about 15 minutes and a few vomit pit stops later, we arrived at her house.
The person who first introduced us was living with her family at the time. So I called ahead to let him know I was bringing her home and to warn him that she was in pretty bad shape. He came outside when we arrived to help me get her in the house.
As soon as we made it inside the front door, she completely broke down and collapsed on the floor, weeping uncontrollably.
Through a flood of tears and heavy sobs, she repeated several times that she didn’t want her mother to die, and she can’t imagine her life without her. There was heart-wrenching desperation in her voice.
My heart broke for her. It seemed to all be hitting her at once.
Soon after, both of her sisters along with their dad, all came together on the tile floor where she now lay, to surround her and comfort her (oddly enough, this was actually my first time meeting her sisters).
It was a devastatingly sad, yet beautiful moment, as this family huddled together — trying to come to grips with the fact that they were about to lose their beloved mother to this terrible, ugly disease.
After about ten minutes, I had to go to the bathroom to collect myself and wipe the tears from my eyes.
When I got home that night, I opened the door to my parents bedroom where they slept. For nearly 20 minutes, I sat in the doorway listening to the sounds of their snores, as well as my Dad’s white noise machine.
I just wanted to to know they were safe and okay. The events of the evening had done something to me — they had given me perspective.
Eventually, I went upstairs to bed.
I called to check up on her the next day. Her warm innocence and unaffected persona had returned. But I knew what lay underneath all that.
Only a few weeks later — her mom was gone.
That was nearly four years ago, and I still find myself thinking about that night sometimes.
And now this is the part of the story where I tell how precious life is, how we must cherish the time we spend with the people we love, because once they’re gone, we can never get that time back.
It’s too easy to forget this.
Shit, I still have to remind myself from time to time — especially when I find myself getting frustrated with my family and closest friends.
But when I do, I think about that night.
None of this is meant to instill you with fear. No — it’s simply meant to encourage you to regularly flex your gratitude muscle, to be thankful for those meaningful and beautiful relationships you have.
So next time you’re surrounded by the people you care about most — stop, look around, and take a moment to appreciate just how lucky you are to have these amazing people in your life, because this is the stuff that really matters.
Life is unpredictable — life is a fickle beast. You never know what can happen.