ROSES DON’T LIVE FOREVER
One day, I woke up and saw my mother’s face. I was confused. She looked sick to her stomach when she told me, “We have to go to the hospital because grandma is in horrible condition and was diagnosed with cancer.” I was startled because I was still half asleep. The more I sat there and thought about it, the more I started to have this aching feeling in my throat, as if I was about to cry but was holding it in.
I’ve learned that cigarette smoking is the main cause of lung cancer. About ten percent of lung cancer cases occur in people younger than fifty years old. But that day, all I remember is the sound of ringing in my ears and my heart pounding. I guess I’d rather hear the beeping than one long, constant beep.
I was upset with myself that I hadn’t seen my grandma in six years because I was distant from her side of the family. There are about 224,210 new cases of lung cancer each year. Experts say that 116,000 men and 108,210 women get cancer every year, and they estimate 159,210 deaths from lung cancer—86,930 in men and 72,330 among women. I never thought something like this would affect my grandma.
I got to the hospital, and all I remember is shaking, knowing I was going to see other distant members of my family. When I walked into the room, all eyes were on me. I heard my aunt crying, and people were coming up to me, giving me hugs, and saying I was the last one she had been waiting to see.
When I think of my grandma I always remember the smell of her perfume. She always smelled like her favorite perfume, Chanel No. 5. I also remember that she always looked beautiful with the way she would do her makeup. The room smelled very heavy and had a weird odor. I sat down next to my grandma, and I grabbed her hand and held it. Her hands were cold and weak. She squeezed my hand, knowing I was there with her. I started crying because I knew she was in pain. I saw tubes coming out of different places in her body. I heard the sound of the beeping from the machines. After being there for five hours with my mom, we decided to leave because it was getting late. I said my goodbyes to my family and whispered in my grandma’s ear: “Bye grandma, I love you. I’m sorry I haven’t been here for you, but you mean the world to me.” We left the hospital, and the whole way home was in silence. I asked my mom if we could go back the next day, and she said yes, so I was happy. I went to sleep peacefully, knowing I had seen my grandma and that I was going to see her again. I asked my mom how she was feeling about what was going on, and her response was: “I’m feeling sad and surprised because grandma always took good care of herself, and I never imagined something like this happening to her. She’s a good woman, and she’s going to get through this.”
The next morning, I woke up happy and excited. I was going to have breakfast, but my mom came to me crying, saying we couldn’t go to the hospital because my grandma had passed away three hours after we left. I lost my appetite immediately. My heart dropped, and I began to cry rapidly.
That week, I was depressed and quiet. I cried myself to sleep for two months, feeling like it was my fault for not being there for her. It was my first time going through anything like this, and I took it very hard. This happened when I was twelve, and ‘till this day, I still have sleeping problems and cry to myself. I’m sixteen years old now. I know she’s in a better place, but I wish I could have spent more time with her.
Editor’s note: The following description of Zuber is taken directly from 826CHI’s 2014 anthology, "Around that Age, I Liked to Play with Fire," in which this essay originally was published. Naome Zuber is a girl who lives in Chicago, IL, and wants to finish high school and go to college. Naome is 16 years old and attends Curie Metro High school. She likes to play volleyball, do cheerleading, and hang out with friends. She loves to watch football, but can’t stand to watch basketball or soccer. Naome’s favorite places to be are her bedroom, downtown Chicago by the lake, and in a forest where there’s a waterfall. What inspires her to be the best is her mother and her best friend, Ulysses. She likes to watch movies with her best friend and eat junk food. Music is something she can turn to when she’s having a bad day. Her favorite colors are maroon, red, blue, and black. Naome’s favorite foods are tamales, pozole, pizza, arroz con leche, and anything that’s spicy. Her lucky numbers are 3, 7, 1, and 14. She is more of a summer and fall person.
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