This is a regular column featuring original poetry and fiction by and for teens, provided by Figment.com, the online community writing site for young readers and writers.
By Ella Hann
It was the last summer of my high school career when my sister, Hailey, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. At the young age of 23, she was told by the doctors it was in the late stages and that chemotherapy was not going to help it be relieved. She was given three months to live, at the most. When we got the call, she was calm, accepting it. My parents were in hysterics, both sobbing while talking to her. I was in shock -- I didn’t cry, I didn’t throw up, I didn’t even talk to her on the phone. When my parents hung up the phone, they both went to bed and neither of them came down for the next two days.
At first, it had not sunken in for me yet that my sister would die and I would never be able to hear her laughter and her cries, or even see her smile again. When it did, it hit hard. I cried for days, my face was so swollen; I had to put ice on my cheeks and eyes. I was out of school for a week. I couldn’t face anyone.
The next week, my sister came over and we held one another, the bitter tears falling from our eyes. We didn’t have to speak to hear each other’s thoughts. She stayed at our house for the next three weeks. We didn’t miss a day together; we would all live happily, as if nothing was going to change. As if she was always going to be there.
When she went to the doctor's again -- the tumors had grown and were now spreading. She was dying right before our very eyes and nothing we could do or say would change that. She was going to die. We were going to lose her.
As the weeks past, Hailey grew sicker. She’d lost so much weight, she looked fragile. She looked so easy to break. She was put in the hospital when she began to stop eating, everything she would eat would come back up. The clock was ticking faster, and nothing the doctors did was making it stop, or go any slower.
One morning in October, one of the doctors took my parents into the hallway. I watched as my parents fell apart. My mother began to vomit outside the room. My dad stepped away, throwing things and breaking things. I turned to my sister, who was looking so ill. She took my hand and smiled at me with tears in her eyes.
“Mom and dad are going to have a hard time, Lisa.” She said to me. “I need you to be strong, for me," she said, the tears coming over the brims of her eyes. She had machines connected to her body, showing her heart beat, her blood pressure, as well as an IV. I nodded at her, not knowing what else to say.
When my parents took me home, they told me the news they’d gotten in the hospital. Hailey’s organs were failing. Soon she would be going into a coma, one she would never come out of.
The next morning, I was taken to the hospital once again and was given the last alone time I’d have with my big sister. We talked for hours about life, the happiness, the memories, and everything in between. We laughed, not even realizing that these would be our last laughs together.
Near the end of our visit, Hailey took my hand once again. She told me she needed to tell me something that was important.
“Lisa, when I die, I want you to look in one of my boxes, but only you. I want you to look in the small blue, fancy box mom gave me when I graduated. It has something in there that is just for you. I want you to keep it with you always.” Hailey smiled, giving me the biggest hug she could have given. I wished I could hold her forever, never having to let go. I wanted more time, more time to have; more memories, not these sad ones.
Three days later, she took a turn for the worse. Hailey slipped into a coma and another night later, she passed away, my hand in hers, my mother’s holding the other.
At her funeral, many people arrived. Friends from high school, teachers, schoolmates, coworkers, ex-boyfriends, and of course the rest of our family came to the funeral to say their good-byes.
As they laid her to rest in the cemetery, I nearly had to leave. I was crying so hard I’d been causing a scene. Letting go is harder than anyone could imagine.
It took a month before we went to her apartment to clean it out. As we cleared out the entire apartment, I came across a small beautiful box, a light color of blue. It had sewed in material, making it elegant. As I opened it, I noticed an envelope with a welted rose. On it was my name in her handwriting. I picked it up and started reading the letter inside.
As I opened the letter, I took notice to the paper itself. It was a melon green, my favorite color. She’d written with her own handwriting, pen and paper.
If you are reading this letter, I’ve passed away and you’ve received this letter from the blue box mom had given me. I just wanted to write to you, so you’d have something to remember me by.
I want to tell you everything I remember about you from the day you were born, to how you are now. I want you to know how much I love you, as a sister, as well as a friend.
When mom told me she was pregnant with you, I was so excited. I’d almost thought you were going to be like a brand new toy that I would be able to hold all day as well as all night. When you were born, you were the most beautiful thing on this Earth to me. You had light brown hair and bright blue eyes. You almost seemed to have a smile on your face as soon as you came into this world. You gave me something many do not get to have. You gave me a darling face to look at every morning when I would wake up as well as at night when I would lay down to go to sleep.
As you grew, we disagreed on many things. With us being a bit far apart in age, you would get into things when I would want to be left alone. But I didn’t mind. I always had time for you.
As you became a teenager, I saw myself in you. You had the same face as me. You had the same eyes as me. You smiled the same way I did. You did better in school that I did, but we were a lot alike. You’re beautiful, Lisa. Do not forget that.
I’d always known I’d die young, I could feel it. I never thought it would be so soon though. I thought I’d have more time with you, Mom, Dad, even the pets. But our time on Earth isn’t forever; it’s just a wonderful memory and blessing.
I was blessed to have you as a sister, Lisa. I want you to look in the mirror and see yourself as you are. I want you to smile every day. I want you to laugh at every joke. I want to hear you from Heaven, Lisa, so make it really loud!
I’ll love you always,
Hailey was the most beautiful person on this Earth. She smiled even when things were bad. She taught me to never give up and let things go with the flow. She reminded me of how precious life is. She gave me a gift that no one else can ever have. She gave me hope not only in this world, but in myself as well.