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There are people who in life who can never be forgotten; this person was my aunt Jennifer. She had a beautiful smile and always laughed even when life was challenging. In 2012, she was diagnosed with  breast cancer. At the time, I did not know the severity of the diagnosis. I understood she was sick, and the family was worried. There was an over- whelming sadness that impacted me.  A few years later, my family moved to Florida. I did not see her as often, but we still spoke on the phone. Unfortunately, her cancer worsened. As a result, she wanted to get together with our family. We knew how important these memories would be to her. My aunt and her daughter came to visit for a week, and we planned to go to Disney World. It would be their first time. My family and I prepared for their visit. We were so excited! Before her arrival, my mother told us that my aunt would be very tired and to be helpful. That statement made me realize how badly cancer was affecting her.  When my aunt arrived in Florida, she had that big wonderful smile and started to make jokes. We had more fun with her in the airport than we had in a long time. It was a perfect opportunity for us all to reconnect. The next day we traveled to Disney World. Throughout the day, we had to stop frequently and wait for her, and I saw the effects of cancer. On the last day of her visit, she was so tired we had to go home. I was upset and angry. I was angry at cancer and how it was defeating my aunt. My feelings gradually turned to sorrow.  Approximately three years later, my mother told our family that her cancer was not improving, and it was taking over her body. One day my mother got a call from my grandmother. The look on her face concerned me. She left the room, and all I heard was sobs. I asked what happened and she told me that my aunt had two weeks left to live. This news was gut-wrenching. I always hoped for recovery, but reality hit.  My family immediately traveled to Virginia Beach. It was Valentine’s Day. When we arrived, my grandfather took us to the store to get flowers for my mother and aunt. We entered her house. Nurses from hospice were setting up her bed, and she was on the couch with my grandmother and mother. My mother and aunt were so happy to see the beautiful flowers even though there were many bouquets present. I hugged my aunt. I noticed how tired she looked, and her eyes had turned yellow.  We returned to Florida. A few weeks later, my aunt passed away. Hearing the news out loud was devastating. We flew up to Virginia to attend her funeral. When we arrived, I could see the effect of our loss. Her funeral was filled with music and flowers. Although it was a sad moment, we shared our memories of her, which created a feeling of comfort and love.  Looking back at that time in my life, I feel immensely solemn, but I have learned a great deal from the experience. I understand the importance of health and how a person chooses to live their life. Also, I realize that it is essential to spend as much time as one can with those that you love. Family bonds are so powerful, and when critical events happen, you can always rely on those around you. It is essential to look for the good in a situation, even though it may be difficult. 

© Jonathan VanBeuren. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team through this website and we can put you in touch with the young person’s teacher.