When I was a child, everything seemed safe and secure. My parents never cried or acted sad around my brother and me. The world seemed like a safe and happy place, and I believed parents just never cried! It seems crazy, but when I was three, it seemed sane—until this made-up “world” came crashing down.
In 1998, my grandfather died of leukemia. I don’t remember how I felt about his death; I don’t think I even realized he had died. But I remember people crying, their eyes swollen and red. I was too scared to ask them why, but even more I wondered how my parents could even be crying. When I cried as a toddler, my parents were there for me, comforting me. Was I supposed to comfort them now? I was shocked to learn that my parents did not have a superhuman ability to not be sad.
Last year marked the tenth anniversary of my grandfather’s passing. There were many relatives at the cemetery. The same people who left me confused earlier now made me anxious. Forest Lawn was pretty empty; I liked it that way because it was easier to reflect on life. The grass was the greenest it would ever be, and spring filled the air with the scent of flowers. I was surprised that so many relatives came—my grandpa‘s sister, my uncles-in-law, and all my extended family. Some people talked and shared stories, but I just stayed silent. I was too deep in my own thoughts. I remember the moment, the feeling, and wondering, What comes after life? How would our lives have been different if my grandpa hadn’t died?
That day I cried, but I mostly comforted my mom. And it all felt okay. We had switched places; now she was the toddler crying for her father‘s death, and I was the adult. She cried out for comfort, and I gave it to her without hesitation.
The day my grandpa died not only marked the end of his life, but also a part of me that always thought parents differed from everyone else. That experience made me who I am today. Without it I would be a gullible person, but instead I am sensible and realistic. I have learned that humans need love and care. Everybody cries, and everybody needs comfort.
— Laura K., Grade 9, You Never Forget How to Ride a Bike
Laura K. is a freshman at Marshall, but her education won’t end there. She plans on going to college and becoming a psychologist. She enjoys reading, writing, sarcasm, music, movies, and chocolate. Her favorite show is That ‘70s Show, and her favorite movies are Click and The Hangover.
826LA asked 78 students at John Marshall High School in Los Angeles to tell the world about lessons they’ve learned, and they don’t disappoint. They lead us through the moments that have shaped their lives—among them encounters with Def Leppard albums, wormy peaches, campus police, and Salvadoran gangs—and share with us the things they’ve learned about the kindness of strangers, resolve in the presence of naysayers, and the value of a dollar.