Papa | 2014

2007: A suffocating numbness crept into the crowded waiting room. The faces of my family members filed into the space, cheeks adorned with silvery trails. It was over. He went in his sleep. After the long, aggressive struggle, cancer struck the final blow gently, in one last quiet exhale. Empty, mournful eyes cast unseeing looks at the yellowed hospital wallpaper, wondering what came next. How would any of us start a new life in a world without my Papa? The sun seemed a little further away as we stood in the parking lot, watching the partly deflated “Get Well Soon” balloons drift sulkily into the sky.

2005: Roses topped tables and white frosting proclaimed “Happy 50th Anniversary!” My feet swung back and forth inches from the floor as I listened to affectionate speeches given by admiring children and friends. Finally, my Papa was given the microphone. He adjusted his too-large bifocals. Yellow sunlight filtered through the window behind him as a few of his self-deprecating jokes filled the room with laughter. Once he was sure he had earned our attention, he smiled and his voice lowered a little. An expectant hush fell. “Life is like a bus ride,” he began, “Some people will get on and ride with you for a few stops, and you’ll share some stories and some laughs. But soon enough, they’ll have to get off at their stop. Other people might ride a little longer and you might go through some tough times together, and you’ll get close. You’ll mean a lot to one another. But eventually, they’ll have to get off at their stop too. That’s okay. That’s life.” Eyes stayed fixed on my Papa, who tucked his hand comfortably in his pocket. “There are some people, however, who will get on the bus and ride with you all the way to the end. Be thankful for those people, because they’ll be there for you no matter what...”

2007: All dressed in black, we sat with empty mournful eyes that cast unseeing looks at stained glass windows wondering what came next. How would any of us start a new life in a world without my Papa? It would take us awhile to remember that he had already told us. We had come to his stop. It was his time to get off. And it was okay. It was life. Our bus wasn’t going to stop, and we couldn’t stop it. It didn’t mean we had to forget. It just meant we had to keep riding, ready for whatever life may bring.

2014: The bell rings, releasing restless minds into the crowded hallways. Lockers slam and papers are carelessly shoved into backpacks. In a few hours, we’ll be under stadium lights proudly clad in red and white, cheering for the team. As I maneuver my way towards the doors, a thought tugs at the back of my mind: in a few months, we’ll again be clad in red and white. This time, however, we won’t be cheering for the team. We’ll be cheering for each other. One by one, we’ll cross the stage, accept that certificate, shake some hands, and it will be over. Another bus stop. Lots of familiar faces will get off. It doesn’t mean we have to forget. We just have to keep riding, ready for whatever life may bring. There’s a long ride ahead, and it will be so beautiful.