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Story listed as: Fiction For Teens | Theme: Inspirational | Subject: Death / Divorce / Loss | Published here : 03/25/2018
The Legacy of a Single Word 
By Briony Harris
Born 2003, F, from Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
The Legacy of a Single Word
My mother died of cancer. She was told of the cancer about seven months before her death. My name was Summer, and I was just a young adult learning of what all this meant. During that time, we placed her in hospice and I read every book or pamphlet that I was given to prepare myself for what lay ahead. I believed if one tried hard enough any death could be peaceful. Hospice provided palliative care and gave relief of pain, and our job as a family was to meet her needs. But I wasn't prepared. There was so much that no one ever told me. And because there were components of her death that were not peaceful, I was left feeling as if I could have done better.

When my mother's death was at hand, things happened not described in any of the materials I had been given to read. The experience was not peaceful. Believe me, I found out the hard way. She never spoke of being ready and we never had that one last wonderful talk. Instead she was agitated, restless, anxious, and spoke of nightmares.

One evening I located a support group on the internet for people who were going to lose or had lost a loved one. Being a young girl I was only hoping to make sense of my mother's suffering. I told the group of my mother's death. They shared their experiences with me. I can't tell you why or when my healing began but only that hearing others' stories did this for me.

I came to believe that my mother's sudden fight to live was a defence mechanism that we all are programmed to have. We are programmed to survive. If you throw a person who cannot swim into a pool they struggle to stay afloat. So even though my mother was ready to die, she struggled in the end. It was her last effort to survive.

I remember several months before my mother's death she told me she had been thinking that birth and death were similar and comparable in some ways. She said she bet if you asked any unborn child if they would like to leave where they were and be born into a new world they would choose to stay right where they were. Perfectly happy with life in utero. She said that she did have some fear about death but thought it was natural fear of the unknown.

Birth and death have some similarities. They both are monumental occurrences that change your life forever. They can make or break it. Megan Cooper, an acquaintance I met when trying to make sense of this experience, mentioned if we talked about birth like we talk about death we'd say something like: There is a baby inside you. It will come out. The way it comes out is different for everyone. The same as death, we all die differently. We wouldn't talk about long labour, pain, caesarean section or circumcision. But of course, we do talk of these things and that way the family is better prepared to deal with the event and a crisis should one occur. It is time we start talking about death. We need to hear about pain control, agitation, delirium, hallucinations, and restlessness. That way if one of those arise when you experience a death you will be better prepared.

I started collecting stories of people's experience with death. I wanted to know what happened at the time of death so that I could see if my motherís experience was typical. The more stories I heard the more my mother's death seemed less traumatic. It seemed more like a part of the way we live and die. I have come to believe that witnessing my mother's death allowed me to experience something holy and that reading about other familyís deaths has brought me peace.

I soon realised that I was on my way to recovering from my motherís death but there was still something lurking around that made me feel incomplete. I made the decision and I decided that I needed to take an adventure.

I chose to start out overseas in a place where I didnít know anyone and didnít have the worries of anything. I started out in a place no one knew of. A place I called, Paradise Springs.

As I stepped out of the aluminium tinny and onto the bamboo jetty, my face was filled with the island breeze. I looked to the north of the island and I saw a lush green rainforest with tall tree canopies. I heard the birds lightly chirp amongst the trees. Then I looked to the west of the island where I saw the clear blue water hitting the white sandy shores. As I walked closer, step by step towards the heart of the island I saw something that took my breath away. I saw the biggest tree house I had ever seen. It was huge. There were about ten stories, lights, a zipline, a massive swing, open bedrooms, hammocks, and so much more. I stood there for about ten minutes in the beautiful ocean breeze with a memory that kept coming to mind. I remembered that as a little girl my mum used to read the Andy Griffiths books to me every night before I went to sleep and I especially liked the one about, ĎThe 26-storey tree house.í It was my favourite book. This tree-house made me feel like I was living in that book. It was mesmerizing. I had never seen anything like this before.

As the flaming orange sun was setting, the reflection and glow off the crystal-clear water was enthralling. I even caught a glimpse of some beautiful blue shining dolphins gliding into the sunset. It was incredible.

The night sky soon appeared and the twinkling stars gave a sparkle in my eye. As I was walking along the beach with the sand itching between my toes, the water gently rushed over my feet and washed the grainy feeling away. As I looked out to sea, the big and bright reflection of the moon was glowing against the water. There was no light needed. The light of the stars and the moon was just simply enough.

I woke to the gentle sound of a bluebird singing in the distance. I thought I would check out the island a bit more so I decided to start by going to the beach. I know I had seen the beach yesterday but I wanted to go in for a swim. As I walked into the water I had one word come to mind. Paradise. As my feet touched the water I felt like nothing in the world mattered. Nothing at all. The water was perfect. The whole feeling of being there was beyond words and beyond what anyone could ever imagine.

After my peaceful swim, I walked around for a bit. It felt like such a privilege and I was so lucky. As I walked into the jungle part of the island and the rainforest, I saw something that put an even bigger smile on my face. A monkey. The personality of a monkey always reminded me of my mother. Always a smile on the face and always full of joy, mischief, cleverness and curiosity.

I started to think about everything I had been through. My motherís death didnít seem so bad now. Yes, she is gone, but I had accepted the fact that she was. We all have our ways of dealing with different experiences, but this was my way. I once read a quote that said, ĎRemember the past, plan for the future, but live for today, because yesterdayís gone and tomorrow may never come.í I had remembered the past, and now, I am living for today because like the quote says, tomorrow may never come.
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