The universe is so big, the teacher was saying, we still see light from stars that died millions of years ago. Tommy sat up straight, flipped open his notebook and wrote: Where does a star go when it dies? His notebook was filled with various doodles, poetic thoughts, and quotes that inspired him. Sometimes, he also captured his thoughts or held private conversations with himself.
He did not care much for school, but he went because that was expected. It is not that he was not smart, but he did not want to go the lengths it required to fit in. He could fit in easily, but he did not want to become one of those people who said and did things only to please the people around him. He was not interested in impressing anyone, it just wasn’t his style. Funny thing is – he was actually very smart and got good grades easily. He did not make a big deal of it, what was the point?
Outside of the school, you would find him hiding somewhere with a book. He loved to take himself places and to feel experiences he had never felt before. Perhaps that is why he started writing in his journal. But he knew that was not it. Perhaps that is just why he still writes in his journal.
He first received that leather bound book as a gift from his father. The therapist had suggested that he write his feelings down, so his dad thought that was the perfect place. The journal was smoky grey leather with a strap to bind it together. These days, he took it everywhere. In the beginning, it was not so easy. He carried so many conflicting feelings, that sometimes it just caused too much pain to reflect on them. He was reluctant to remember the death of his mother. He was in the car with her the day she died. He was the last one to hold her hand. Even as scared as he was, he looked her in the eyes and told her she was going to be okay.
He held that burden now. He felt guilty for lying to her. He wished he could have done more. Perhaps if he didn’t ask to go to the moon sighting up at the national park, she would still be alive. He felt her absence greatly. She was the first person he saw every morning. She would sing to him as she opened his drapes to let the morning sun in. She worked hard to make their house a home. For hours, she would work tirelessly in the garden. There, you could sit under the trees and be surrounded by the overwhelming scent of jasmine. It was her favorite flower.
The garden was his favorite place to sit and read or write. Sometimes, he would even be inspired to do his homework out there, while admiring the butterflies and hummingbirds that came for a visit. She made everything… more beautiful. After school, she would pick him up and they would take a short walk before returning home. Even though he didn’t speak much, he enjoyed this time together. She would tell him about her day and she would notice little things like birds high up in trees or a squirrel scampering on a branch. She would help him be more aware.
The thing that he regretted most, was that he never told her that he loved her. He would say “I love you” from time to time when he thought of it and was thrilled when it made her smile. The problem is, he never truly told her how much she meant to him. He never told her how much she made a difference. It is sad to think that someone is gone and all the things you wished you could say, you only think of them after the fact. At the time, they just didn’t seem important or perhaps it was just that he always thought he would get a chance someday. The sad fact is, that time is now gone.
He leaned over his notebook and a small tear started to well in his eyes. The quote he had just written… where does a star go when it dies, still stared up at him. Not long before she died, his mom had a star named after him. She gave this as a gift for his eighth grade graduation. Now it may seem strange to some, because most boys would rather get a video game, a new basketball or something else that did not take much thought. His mom though, she knew him and she cared about what he loved most. Ever since he was young, he loved the stars. For his 6th grade birthday, she bought his first telescope. He would spend hours staring up at the moon and stars. She encouraged him, even when he wanted to go in the middle of the night to take pictures of the night sky. That was where they were headed before an elk jumped in front of their car, sending it into a deep ravine. And still, he could not beat the guilt, no matter how many pages he wrote in his journal.
But something about those words spoke to him. He tossed them around in his mind over and over like a silent chant. Where does a star go when it dies? And he realized, that just like the stars, her light would always be with him. He could hold on to her memory and there would be no reason to ever have to let go. It is not the same as having her here, but it is better than thinking she has to completely fade away. There was something special about realizing that it was okay to hold on to her. There was no reason he had to build a new life just because she was gone.
Every day after that, he wrote in his journal and when that one was full, he went and got another. He still doodled a little, but much of the journal was filled with things he wished he could say to his mother had she been here. He would share his ups and downs, he would share the questions he wished he could ask her, and he would share who he was with the one person who cared enough to want to know. And though she was no longer able to participate in these conversations, he felt she was still there, looking over him. No longer wracked with guilt, he started working harder in school. He also made a few new friends. He finally realized that this is just the beginning of his journey but he never had to worry about letting go.
© Sumyanna 2017