Well, I would say it all started when my dad died. I was twelve-years-old. This October it will be eleven years.

Over the past years, it’s gotten easier, but it really hit my life in a way I didn’t expect.

He was always there for me.

Growing up as a kid you don’t know how to appreciate your parents. I do now.

Now I have it in my mind that this may be the last time I see someone. I always appreciate the moment because I don’t know when I will see them again, if at all.

I remember that day very vividly. I was in 7th grade. I was going to Girl Scouts. All of our meetings were at my elementary school and I was friends with a great group of girls. I remember telling a friend earlier that day that I would just have to ask my dad if they could come over.

A half hour into the meeting, my little cousin, Morgan, came running into the room and said, “Katie, you need to go, your dad is in the hospital.”

Everyone stopped talking. I didn’t know what to say or feel as my world went from 100 to 0. None of the girls said anything, but I understand now why because they didn’t know what to say. They were just as young as I was.

I gathered my things and my aunt drove me home. I didn’t want to go to the hospital. I remember getting home and my mom and my family were already at the hospital. I didn’t want to believe it was real. I wanted to do my homework and pretend everything was okay.

For obvious reasons though, I did.

When we arrived, I shut down, fell into my mom’s lap. I saw my sister crying and I had never seen her cry before. I knew it wasn’t good.

All of his best friends were there, it was this whole thing. Came out of nowhere.

For the longest time I went to grief counseling and talked about what happened in our lives. That helped a lot because I got to hear what others had to say, what others felt guilty about in their loss. I felt like I had jinxed it when I told my friend I needed to ask my dad.

Over the years, I told myself it was nothing I could control.

He was out with his best friend, Randy, who is my second father.

It was a blood clot in his brain that popped and he collapsed at lunch. That was it. He was a vegetable before they took him off the breathing machine because there was nothing anyone could do.

My dad dropped us off at school that morning, my brother and I. I am thankful the last thing I said to him was I love him. I think my brother was in high school at the time, so I got dropped off first.

Ever since, my entire world flipped. I’m just like my father. I relate to my mom in some ways, but my dad really understood me. It was hard to recognize that the person who really did understand, the one person I could talk to about anything, wasn’t there.

And that took a huge toll on me.

It took me longer to open up to friends, to help them understand me. I didn’t want to talk about his death, all it did was make me cry. From year five to now it’s been easier to open up and share what I went through.

I even remember what I was wearing that day. It’s a day that will never go away, but I’ve come to accept that.

I’ve learned to accept people’s presence. When they are there, they’re there and you don’t know when they will be there next.

Everything has been good, I have his ashes in my room. So I always feel safe and know that even if I need to talk to him, he’s here. He’s with me.

It’s a feeling of comfort.

A feeling that everything is going to be okay.

Father’s day is always hard. I never really accepted my stepdad as a father. He’s said some really nasty things about my dad and I couldn’t forgive him. It isn’t a day I celebrate. Besides my grandpa, but even then, it’s not really the same.

Fast forward to now I’ve been doing a lot better. I can talk about it openly, but I still get emotional, for obvious reasons.

Maybe he would have given me motivation to stay in school

But I love the person I am right now. And that’s hard to accept.

I may not have my dad, but I have who I am right now and I need to appreciate that as I would with anyone else’s presence.

Then this October I was working at BJ’s restaurant and my mom, who has been depressed for a few years now, used to work for the school district. She worked with all the kids who have special needs. She got really close to this boy, Isaac, who had a lot of heart issues and she loved him like her own. The teacher she worked with was nasty to her, bullied her, made fun of the fact that she was older. My mom loved it though because of Isaac. Then he passed away and it completely broke her.

Ever since then, it’s been really hard. She quit because the teacher kept telling her to get over it. No compassion, she didn’t seem to care that her student had passed away.

She was unemployed for a while and felt very lost. Had gambling issues, but we got passed those.

A week before my dad’s tenth year anniversary, I was living at home and was woken up by my aunt who asked if I heard about my mom.

I had seen her the night before, said goodnight, I love you, see you in the morning. She said the same things.

My aunt told me that night she had tried to take her own life.

When I found out, my entire world went from 100 to 0 again. I didn’t know what to say. I couldn’t cry, I wasn’t angry, I couldn’t talk. My mom had taken 10-12 sleeping pills. When I went in there, she was sobbing, telling everyone she didn’t want to wake up, that she didn’t think she was going to. She was out of it. My step dad was trying to get her up to take her to the hospital. My aunt didn’t know what to do so she held my hand the whole time. My brother wasn’t home, he didn’t know. He was in Vegas for the weekend and my mom told me to not call him yet because he’s on vacation.

At first my brother was angry, but he understood.

We took her to the hospital. My grandma met up with us. My mom cried the whole way, hugging me in the car. She kept apologizing. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t want to say it was okay because it wasn’t. But I didn’t want to make her feel worse. I wanted to let it be and heal on its own.

All I thought was that she woke up and that’s important.

We spent four hours at the hospital that morning before she was admitted into West Hills. She hated it. I remember going to work that night at BJ’s and I couldn’t focus. I was messing up orders, I just didn’t have my head on straight. I remember when I got into my car at the end of the shift, I cried a lot. It finally hit me that I was close to not having two parents just that morning.

It was so hard to think about.

She was at West Hills for about a month. She wasn’t allowed to have her phone or anything, she only got the clothes she came in. She could call me at some points. The first time she called me I was at work, she left me a voicemail. She was crying and it was hard to listen to. I couldn’t listen to the whole thing the first time.

The next day, I got up, told myself she was getting better, that there were people helping her, and I knew that everything was going to be okay.

I went to Sundance Bookstore and bought The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz because that book put everything into place, a coloring book, and pencils for her. When I got to the hospital they didn’t allow the pencils because they were sharp objects. I wrote her a letter saying I loved her, that she woke up for a reason and it was to be here with her kids, and to live the rest of her life happy. She called me later that day and told me she got everything. She sounded so much happier compared to the first voicemail I heard.

It put me at peace. I just knew she was doing a lot better.

That was a long month without her. Going home to just my stepdad who I never got along with and no brother. My sister had just recently moved and I didn’t talk to her much.

My aunt and my cousins spent time with me and we got it off each other’s minds.

It was a whole day of relief the day we went to pick her up. She came out just glowing, and I knew at that moment that everything really happens for a reason. My mom was supposed to experience losing Isaac and all her feelings and emotions because it led her to living a happier life. It made everyone in my family feel really good.

She saw therapists for a few months afterwards and that helped as well. Now she has a new job that helps pay the bills and gives her money to spoil herself, which she deserves.

That leads me to today. We don’t really talk about it now. I remember her telling me after she left West Hills that she didn’t even realize what she had done was a week before my dad’s anniversary. She was really sorry, but I told her not to be because she was here and that’s all I needed.

I really have no idea what I would have done if I had lost her too.

Life has been a lot better, she openly talks about her feelings now where she used to never. She comes to family dinners, wants to go out and do things with me, even goes out to get lunch and gets her nails done. Small little things that aren’t much but are still a lot.

I’m so thankful that I have her. That I have experienced what I’ve experienced because it totally changed who I am. How I look at people and life and the way the world works and I know it sucks, but we have to accept it and the sooner we accept it the sooner we can live on. And I think that’s what’s more important.

Getting into yoga recently, quitting my main job, going to Europe, it has all been a part of a life change for me. It’s all led up to this moment. I’m just so appreciative of the people in my life that I know I can talk to and just be happy around and know that everything that is meant to be will be. And that’s really everything I can say.

I’m alive, she’s alive. My family is healthy. I take that into consideration a lot. We spent Mother’s Day weekend together and we laughed and smiled and I can’t remember the last time we had a family dinner like that. It was nice.

Things aren’t super-duper great, but they are a lot better and it will go up from here.

I am thankful for my yoga wheel, photography because it has been huge for my creative side, trees, that my car starts every day, when I found three bobby pins in my purse – so having everything in my purse, my vinyl, fuzzy blankets, coffee because it saves my morning, my feet that have taken me all over the world, cheese pizza, and for my HydroFlask.

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