It was July of 2009. My family was going to our annual trip up to Pennsylvania to visit my Aunt Janet at her lake house. Our destination: Indian Lake. Why? to celebrate the fourth of July. With a family of five, airplane ticket costs were out of the question. Instead of flying, there was only one more option: driving. The drive itself was 18 hours, in a somewhat spacious (for a van) car. It wasn't before long my family realized that it wasn't the best idea to have my brother and sister sit next to each other. They sounded like chipmunks fighting over an acorn in a field full of other acorns – yes, it was that ridiculous. After my sister and I switched seats, my family moved forward to our destination. Along the way, I learned that 1) you can be sick by eating McDonalds all the time 2) never go inside a not well-known gas station, and 3) do not stay at shady hotels just because they seem to have the lowest price in town ( it's the cheapest for a reason, which is why I slept in my clothes that night). After what seemed like the longest 1,080 minutes of my life, my family arrived at Indian Lake. The view was breath-taking. I loved seeing all the trees, hills, the lake, and smelling the fresh air. The air gave me a novel feeling because I am used to the damp, humid, Florida weather. It wasn't before long that my head became clear from my busy life and I got to relax and enjoy myself. The feeling I had was selflessness and peace. Fourth of July, 22 other relatives came to the lake house to celebrate. The grill is on, the aroma of juicy hamburgers and hotdogs filled everyone's nostrils, the laughter and gossip filled the air as the women prepared the food (the men cannot cook to save their own lives) and my cousins and I jet-skied for hours until dinner time. My Aunt Janet called everyone together for dinner. It was a full house, and unity is hard to come by in our family; everyone is spread across the United States and we all lead very busy lives. But here we were, together at last. My aunt had cancer. It wasn't long before everyone realized the true meaning of coming to the lake house. My aunt called everyone together because she was afraid it was going to be the last time she would see all of us together. Aunt Janet changed everyone's lives that day; she taught us to appreciate every moment of our life and everything in our life because life is short and one may never know when it's going to end. Let's just say that everyone's outlook on life became a lot different. Aunt Janet lived one more fourth of July in 2010. In December of 2010 however, my Aunt Janet passed away. With each passing day, if I hear the words "lake" "Pennsylvania" and "fourth of July", my mind takes me back to that 2009 summer, which is forever preserved and embedded in my memory. Despite all the family fighting and all the shady "rest stops" my family took, I learned that I actually enjoyed the journey. These moments gave me stories to tell, a reason to laugh, and, most of all, a reason to appreciate life. The reason: I am alive and have so much more to accomplish in life.
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