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The Elephant In The Room

By Steven Schumaker —

We have all experienced some sort of loss. Maybe you lost your money or maybe you and a friend got in a fight. Small or big we have all lost something. Loss is a part of our lives whether we like it or not, and we are never going to be able to stop it no matter our dreams or wishes.

By the age of one year old I had already lost my father. From a family of five we went down to four. With my aunt and my grandma being so close with us, it made our family a number of six. A widowed mother with three young boys, each with an eight year difference between us. I, being the youngest, never really understood what was going on, since they all kept me safe by not telling me things, but to wait. So of course there is going to be the unavoidable question of “where is my dad?” I was even more confused when my oldest brother was angry that our mother got a boyfriend. I was maybe in third grade.

I was in seventh grade. He was in sixth. A friend. A great friend. A friend I could be myself with when I was having issues with the “other” crowd. September 17, 2012, he died. I cried as others did. School doesn’t prepare you for loss, in fact, nothing does. School purely gives the opportunity to meet people you can lose. When my mother told me, I didn’t know what to do. I was 13. I sat for a little bit wondering what to think. I settled on the fact I needed to take a shower. I sat in the shower, water running down to my head to join the tears coming out of my eyes. I probably sat there for almost an hour.

I was not prepared for death even though I knew of it, I mean, we all know of it. It’s just transparent ’til it happens near us. I was confused about losing my friend I hadn’t talked to in so long, but that never prepared me for what happened just four months and two days later.

Steven Schumaker photo of brother Jacob's memorial 2016January 19, 2013. A catastrophe in my eyes. No storm or loss of homes, no shooting or fire. A 17 year-old boy riding his longboard was hit by a car at the entrance to Yosemite Lakes Park next to Rivergold Elementary, where he and I attended. I was in eighth grade at Rivergold at the time of this event. It was a Saturday morning, about tenish. Our house phone rang. We never get calls on our house phone so I got up to check. It was my Grandma calling. I should of answered but I gave it to my Mother to answer instead. “WHAT!?” My mom said, panicking. “Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god,” my Mom started repeating.

“What’s going on?” I asked as she started rushing for the door while grabbing the keys. “ YOUR BROTHER HAS BEEN IN AN ACCIDENT, I HAVE TO GO.” I ran out after her, jumped into the passenger seat and we raced off. We sat in the middle of that intersection crying for about ten minutes ’til my aunt and grandma got there. Another hour or so ’til my oldest brother got there from Fresno with his now-wife. After a little bit of the family holding each other there, my brother finally got our mom in the car so we could cry in our home.

In four months I had to deal with death twice. Yes, a very different feeling with each but, nonetheless bad in both situations. The expense will never be repaid or forgiven. Losing a good friend is bad and saddening but, a family member, your older brother, the closest thing to a father figure you had — your mentor who you looked up to just goes away, just vanishes, just dies on a Saturday morning — it kills you inside. Your heart gets taken away from you and not smoothly at all. Rough and rugged surgery while you are conscious. Something was taken that can never be replaced. I am now missing a part of my heart.

“Love heals scars love left.” (Henry Rollins).

I will never be healed and that is no exaggeration, but love from others can ease the pain for me. I have my closest friends and my girlfriend and they do a wonderful job. Before I had them, before I even knew these people, I turned to drugs. For a good amount of time I was smoking weed. I never turned to anything harder and I have always stayed away from tobacco. I went to that because I had known others that did. I will be honest: it helped, just to an extent, though, nothing solidly satisfying. I got in trouble for it a lot.

After time went by my mind finally learned I don’t need that in my life. I sobered up. I got serious about sports again and started doing better for myself and learned to say no. Love heals, yes, but never fully. There are gaps that can never be filled, even with all of the cement in the world. The cement will only make the sorrow heavier. Love helps. I have never been so happy before I had my girlfriend and closest friends, but still I have my good days and my bad days, my better days and my worse ones.

You will never be prepared for early death. You will start asking yourself questions, you will start asking other people things, and you will ask the universe and time questions of “why?” Why didn’t my father or brother get to watch me play highschool football or basketball? My first year of Varsity. How about how strong I have gotten? Or my acts in theater? Why is there three when there should be five of us? Why me? I don’t have the answers, just simply, I don’t know. We say we are sorry even when it is not our fault, because we don’t know what else to say.

Loss is reality while we are still dreaming.

Steven Schumaker is a junior at Yosemite High School.

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