A Dozen Years.

It’s been a dozen years since I’ve seen her face, heard her laugh or held her hand. Tomorrow will be twelve years exactly since that awful night.

It’s been so long that my memory has started to fade. I have a hard time telling the difference from real memories and the ones that come from pictures. I remember her smile, I remember her laugh, but I can’t hear her voice anymore. I can’t remember what happened the week before she died.

I do remember that morning; we rode together to school because my car was in the shop. We went to different high schools that year so it was very unusual for us to rider together and I remember telling her I loved her as she got out of the car. It was the last time I ever saw her.

I remember everything about that night – the painful details are branded into my memory. The waiting, not knowing if she was dead or alive; the police walking up to our door. Listening to the officers explain to my parents what happened in the accident, hearing the words that we were all praying not to hear - like a bullet through our hearts.

While we went downtown to identify her body I sat in the front seat of my pastor’s car staring out the window into the Atlanta night sky. I was thinking how peaceful it looked outside while my Mom wept into my father’s chest. Her heart was broken into a million pieces and it would never be put back together.

For years I couldn’t sleep; every time I closed my eyes I would imagine what those last minutes were like for her. She must have seen the drunk driver’s car as it crashed right into where she was sitting. What went through her mind? She must have been terrified. I am thankful I never actually saw the wreckage but I have pictured it so many times I feel like I was there. I replayed it over and over obsessing over what could have been different.

I always wonder what she would be like now. I know she would be beautiful, but would she be married? Where would she live? Maybe she would be a National Geographic Photographer or Missionary as she wanted to do both. She would probably still be an on-again, off-again vegetarian and a lover of all living creatures. I am sure she would still climb trees on the weekend and love the outdoors. She would have been the Maid Of Honor in my wedding; I would have let her use my id to get into bars underage.
We would be close. We would be sisters.

Unfortunately, those dreams will never come true. I can’t change what happened no matter how many prayers I say, shooting stars I wish on or pennies I throw into fountains. The only option I have now is to cherish the time I did have with her and learn to hold on to my loves ones a little tighter; to be more forgiving and to always say I Love You. I smile every time I hear her name or see her picture. I love when her friends tell me stories about her and share their memories of time they shared together. It’s important to me to keep her memory alive.

My life is forever changed. My heart is permanently broken, and, although I now sleep through the nights, my pain has never faded. But, somehow, we have all kept moving forward; kept living. We laugh and love and enjoy life. As much as I thought it would, the world never stopped turning. The sun has risen every day since and I see the moon every night. Life does go on, as it must.

The past twelve years have taught me a lot. I now know what I am made of, what I can endure and what I can overcome. I know the kind of person I want to be and how I want to be remembered. I know how precious every second is with the people that you love and I will never take even a moment for granted.

Life is a gift.

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