I was so excited to go to my friend’s sweet sixteen celebration. She was the last of us to turn 16 and it was a momentous occasion. I could just imagine how cool the pirate-themed cake would look. However, my aunt died a few days before Morgan’s birthday on Halloween. We hardly ever go to weddings or family reunions, but my dad told us we were going to the funeral. I had never met her so I just could not understand why I had to go.
I objected. I wanted to go to the party but it was no use. My dad had made up his mind. We left Friday afternoon when school was out. As I walked out to the pick up area, I walked past my dad and brother. I didn’t recognize them because they were in a shiny red SUV.
Much to my displeasure, we went home and packed our things. We stopped at McDonald’s for dinner. My friend was working a Friday night shift at Mc Donald’s. She put on a goofy grin when she saw me and I ordered my favorite, a double cheeseburger and fries.
I thought about telling her I was about to leave for Chicago, Illinois, but I decided not to. Besides, I already told everyone I would miss the party. When I got back in the car, I struggled with the idea of missing the party for a funeral even though it was nice to leave town for awhile.
Another thing that was troubling me was that I had forgotten where I placed a two-hundred and fifty dollar manual camera for photography class. I felt apprehensive knowing that I was traveling and my camera was back at home waiting for me somewhere. Despite my worries and my internal struggle I decided to enjoy the scenery outside my window.
Most of what I saw was endless highway and road signs. I tried to stay awake as long as I could. When night fell I saw the outskirts of a city and a green sign that said ‘Hopkinsville.’ I wished my dad would have driven through the town located in Kentucky. I could see the street lights and restaurants that always adorn the entrance of cities. I was born there and I have not seen the town in six years. I don’t think I realized we were in Kentucky. It was so dark I couldn’t recognize the blue-green grass. It was ironic to go by the place you were born while going to the place where my dad was born. I saw the city of Nashville, illuminated at night.
I always enjoy seeing the city at night. To me it’s the best time to see the city. When I woke up that morning we were almost there. Seeing downtown Chicago for the first time was interesting. Marble building and overwhelmingly tall skyscrapers looked down on me as if they were saying, ‘Welcome.’
The first place we went was to the funeral. When I arrived, most of the family was already there. Even though I had never met my aunt, I felt sad at the funeral. What touched me was when someone got up and said that when one member of the family was hurt all of them were. I thought that was how family should be.
At the cemetery I saw the grave of my great grandmother. I read the tombstones of others, some died young, others old and I wondered what their lives were like. After the funeral I saw the place where my dad grew up. I saw the school he went to and the neighborhood he played in. I saw it all from the window of the red SUV.
On this trip I learned that looking back on the lives of people who have deeply affected others can be a sobering, moving, experience. When I saw my aunt she was lying in her coffin lifelessly. It taught me that time is precious and we should take advantage of it, but nothing is more precious than the human soul. I can only imagine what it would have been like to see her moving, breathing, and alive. Without the soul, the human body is just a lifeless form. I would have never learned that at a sweet sixteen party.
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