The sun will rise again


I don’t think I would go back to who I was before the accident, however selfish that sounds. I don’t think I could.

The initial terror and utter shock — I couldn’t believe it, couldn’t accept it.

It couldn’t be true.

They always say ignorance is bliss, which on one level, I can see. It would be easier to not acknowledge the pain, to push it aside, and to put it off as just an experience that I don’t have to worry about any longer; but I can’t do that. There is no way I could go back to the way things were before.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I would give anything to change what happened, but I wouldn’t change how I reacted or what I took away from it.

I know too much, too much has changed, and I won’t go back.

Tuesday started like most days did at camp. The fog rose peacefully above the water like it did every morning. I was able to catch the sunrise at the early hour I was up, but how could I know this would be the last “typical” sunrise I would ever watch?

I would never view a sunrise the same way after the accident.

A sunrise had always held a beautiful serene warmth, yet it had also been something I could always count on to be there. But after Tuesday night, the sun rising would never seem like a mundane, daily routine again. No, that Wednesday was a blessing. Despite however much I viewed that Tuesday as a curse, Wednesday meant that I was blessed with another day.

Wednesday meant that I was blessed with another sunrise.

I was dancing in a chapel right along the lakeside. Some of my friends were there, while the young carefree girls I looked after played happily with the rest of their campmates outside. I didn’t know why, but my nonchalant moments of pleasure were short-lived with the sudden filling of the chapel with girls. My campers came and found me, and we all sat down waiting to have an explanation of what was going on. I assumed it was a simple change of plans. Perhaps a short notice switch in scheduling?

Oh, how I wish it could have been something so simple.

The band started singing worship after everyone was seated. I sang along, blissfully unaware of the true treacherous event that was occurring behind me. Not until I was informed by a fellow staff member that something was transpiring in the water did I begin to panic. Someone was lying motionless on the raft and was undergoing CPR. Immediately, my mind started racing. My brother and my sister were both on staff with me, along with my two cousins, who are coincidentally my best friends. I’ve staffed with the same people for two years, and I’ve known them for even longer. I consider them all close friends that I could come to with anything. I had no way of knowing what was happening or who it was happening to.

I felt the very feeling I despise most: out of control.

I tried to be strong for my girls, to carry on like everything was going to be fine. After all, I was their only source of strength in a crucial moment like this. However, I couldn’t help the whimper that escaped my lips as soon as I saw the flashing lights. My vision blurred, and the lyrics of the songs got stuck in my throat as it tightened. How could this happen? This camp, the one that I’ve gone to for nine years, was my safe haven. Nothing bad had ever happened to me here, let alone to me in general. I lived a safe life.

Accidents happen to reckless people, but I’ve never been the type to take risks that have great possibilities of loss, so why was this happening? How could something this terrible happen to anyone?  

The chapel filled with tears from the girls as the lights continued to flash. As the cries grew louder, all of their voices increased with sound until it was a beautiful mess of melodies. The contrast of mourning what was happening right outside a wooden wall and trusting that all would be alright came together in a mosaic way: sharp and rigid, with cracks unaligned.

That day, I lost one of my friends that I had known for five years.

I staffed with him, teased him, loved how he loved others, and lost him.  He died at only 20 years old after having a seizure in the water right outside the very building I sat in.

It’s funny how there are make or break moments in our life, split seconds that will continue to affect us every day after them.

I made a decision that day, one that came so suddenly and softly but seemed like the only possible answer: I would become stronger through this. This would not destroy me, nor would I falter in my life because of it. This realization did not come as easily to some of the other staffers serving alongside me. It was one that I continually needed to remind them of, even for weeks to come.

Everything would be alright. We would have to believe that, if not just to protect our sanity.

I might have had it easier, not being able to see what truly occurred, but it changed me regardless. I will never view life as something that is guaranteed, but I will view it for what it is. It is fragile and taken away from the young far too often. I will never go back to that state of carefree living, but that’s not to say I will be cautious in everything I do.

Now I appreciate everything that is given because life is not one of those things. Life is not something that can be meddled with or taken advantage of because it is always taken too soon.

We will never have enough time.

Despite the sudden loss of a loved one and the stark realization that nothing will ever be the same, I became committed to loving everyone, more than I ever had before. Because we should love everyone whenever we get the chance to, even if for just a short amount of time. That’s not something I will go back on; I don’t think I ever could.

And so, the sun still rises, and the sun still sets. Life goes on, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t changed.