Fall of 2013 seems so far ago, and it was such a lonely and hopeless time. It was my freshmen year of college and I was supposed to be in New York City and have been discovered already by someone who could make me rich. I was supposed to be making new college friends that’ll change my life forever. I was supposed to be feeling like something was happening, but I felt nothing, and nothing was happening. The only positive thing about my freshmen semester at community college was my Intro to Theatre class, it was my fresh of breath air every week. As weeks went by, I couldn’t believe I still hadn’t made any friends. With a 3 hour gap between classes I would just sit alone and write in my journal wandering what my life would be like if I wasn’t at this school, and if I would’ve had the courage to go somewhere else. I would sit in my car and just cry. I never even really understood why I cried so much in my car, but my freshmen year of college was such a disappointment. Then I made a friend, and this friend was one who from the moment we spoke to each other, I knew we were going to become very close. One day as I was waiting for class to start, my future best friend Cecilia sat next to me. She complemented my makeup, and I complimented her outfit. We started small talking and as each sentence came out, the energy between us got more excitable and lively. We genuinely “clicked.” I was so happy that me and her were talking. She was so pretty and unique, I knew we could be friends. We then discussed about our time gap and realized we both had a 3 hour gap between classes. We decided to get each other’s number and maybe go get lunch during the gap since we both had the same class afterwards anyways. Class had been in session for weeks already and we hadn’t spoken but every day when I walked in class, or she walked in class, both of us always looked at each other’s outfit, makeup, hair, and then smiled. I think we both knew we wanted to be each other’s friend.
We really hit it off, and I had never gotten so close to someone so fast. Just like me, she was raised by a single mother, was into fashion and writing, had a blog, loved makeup and dying her hair, and above all- me and her both shared one large dream: we both wanted to make it in New York City one day. We both wanted the world to know who we are. Being around Cecilia my self-esteem was always at level 10. Once I met her, my depressed freshmen days were over. She brought hope and liveliness in my life, and I was so thankful that the universe lined up in a way that we were bound to meet. On our gap time we would walk around Ybor City and take pictures, which were mini fashion shoots to us, and we would drink coffee and talk about our future plans with stars in our eyes. Cecilia was the first friend I ever had who shared the same visions as me, she was the first person who made me feel like my dreams were valuable and real.Cecilia was the friend I needed to meet so I wouldn’t lose sight of my vision. My heart genuinely grew once I met Cecilia; she granted me so much confidence that I didn’t even know I was capable of having, and in return, I know I fed her back the same energy. We both felt alone and lost in the world, but when it was just us two; our own little world felt like the best place to be. Anything was possible in me and Cecilia’s world. Around November of 2013, Cecilia’s mother hadn’t been feeling well, she seemed to have caught the common flu or cold. Instead of me telling you the story, here is Cecilia’s description of what happened during this 7 week nightmare with her Mothers fatal illness.
“On October 21st we took her to her doctors because she had what we thought was a FLU or cold, then she was admitted into the hospital for abnormality in her EKG after her doctor said to take her to the hospital. First the Florida Hospital said she had a blood clot in her lung due to her birth control. They said it was normal for women who have been on birth control for so long to get blood clots. So they gave her steroids and did numerous tests. Well 2 days after being in the hospital she would get these shiver attacks and her teeth would begin to chatter as if she was cold. So she would take hot showers and bundle up, the last time it happened she said she was very cold but then, something wasn’t right. We were told by the Hospital that she would be out before Halloween. They were wrong. That same night that she was getting the “shivers”, she began to slowly lose the way she could speak. She was unable to hold her urine and bowel movements. When the doctors would ask her what year it was she would say “I know the answer, I just can’t say it”. It was like she was going back into baby stages. She then began throwing up and fighting her sleep which soon began permeating. After her condition got worse and after countless calls to different doctors to check on my mom, they finally took her into an MRI. While I was covering the night shift for my family, I waited alone till my mom came out of the testing. When the doctors came out they told me that my mom had a server seizure while getting tested for the MRI. This lead to her room changing into the ICU department. After many more tests and un-clarity from all sorts of doctors, they pronounced my mom with strenuous Brain Damage. Over the 7 week period of her being in the hospital her muscles became atropine (prevention of nerve stimulation and response of bodily structures.) She was put on a feeding tube to sustain her life and then was connected to a triage to receive oxygen in her lungs (life support.) Emotionally it was a roller coaster ride, she would have her good and then her bad days. My family and I kept hope. We hung so many pictures and happy memories in the room with Bible quotes. We talked to her, moved her limbs around, and cleaned her body to our best ability to being on bed rest. But nothing was coming out positive. The hospital was an acute hospital, meaning: it has revolving doors. You get sick or hurt, come to the hospital, they medicate you, and you leave. They didn’t like the fact that they gave up on her and her family didn’t. There next idea was “we need to empty the bed for our next patient”. So what did they recommend- hospice care. That’s a place for the elderly or patients who are soon to pass, a place where those patients can come in and rest peacefully. The hospital unconnected all the wires and life support and stopped feeding her. My family and I felt like we were giving up on her or leaving her there to die. It’s so hard to see your mother slowly decrease in health. She’s a single mom and all I have. Meanwhile, I was still going to school and completing my assignments. My teachers mainly understood and allowed me to work from the hospital. On December 16th, my mother passed after it being declared brain damage, and the body could no longer perform oxygen on its own. That I have to say was the worst day of my life.
Her funeral was then held, the first weekend in January, just days before my 19th Birthday…happy birthday to me! I took off from school in Spring in 2014 for personal time obviously, and just worked and stayed home taking care of my new puppy. I distanced myself from my friends and was forced to move in with my uncle.”
During those 7 weeks, every Tuesday and Thursday when I got to see Cecilia for Theatre class, she would talk to me about her mother. I always felt like there were no words I could give her that would help the situation. I wanted to help so badly, but there was nothing I could do- and that broke my heart in millions of pieces because that was my best friend. My best friend who only had her mother, just like me. My best friend who had dreams of moving away and needed her mother there more than ever, just like me. Cecilia would tell me how she would talk to her mom even though she was unresponsive, she would write down everything she wanted to say and then read it to her when she got to the hospital, she told me how she would pray, and I as well every night was putting Cecilia’s mother in my prayers. Every day when we would talk on the phone, and on the days we saw each other, I just wanted to serve her in any way possible. I wanted to try and brighten her day in any way I could. I wanted to heal my best friends breaking heart, but I knew I couldn’t, and that put me in a position I had never been in before.
On December 16th, all day long Cecilia was texting me saying that her mom was getting really worse and she didn’t think she was going to make it. I told her to keep praying. I was shaking inside for Cecilia because I didn’t want this to happen to her. I didn’t know what to say, I just wanted this all to stop and for her mother to recover so my best friend didn’t have to go through this. On December 16th, I got off work at 9PM and as I was pulling in my driveway I received the text I was dreading to receive, “My mom passed away.” In my driveway I could see the living room lights on in my house, and I saw my mom watching TV. I stared down at the phone and my stomach twisted inwards, my heart dropped to the bottom of my rip cage and sat cornered, pressing against the bones and the pit of my stomach. My chest sunk. I couldn’t believe it.
I told Cecilia I was off work and to call me, within seconds she called and I remember the first words out of her mouth “Olivia, I can’t believe my mom died. Olivia my mom is dead.” She was crying and I could barely understand her but as soon as she spoke I started to cry too. She could barely catch her breath and she was crying so much I kept telling her “I know Cecilia, but try to calm down. You have to breathe Cecilia. I know, I’m so sorry Cecilia, I’m so sorry.” I didn’t know what else to say, and I didn’t want her to know I was crying because I had no right to cry. My mother was in the living room, and hers was no longer alive. I sat in my car in my driveway and talked to her for about 30 minutes. I just listened as tears kept dropping from my eyes. This was the first time in my life that someone else’s broken heart and loss had me feeling broken hearted and completely devastated as if it had happened to me. I was so hurt and confused. I couldn’t believe this happened to her. All I could think was, my God, she didn’t deserve this. 18 years old, with only a single mother, she just didn’t deserve it.
After getting off the phone I sat in my car and continued to cry. I asked God out loud, “Why God, why Cecilia? Why?” I cried because for 7 weeks I had been listening to my best friend have hope, and tell me about how she thinks her mom is going to pull through. For 7 weeks I desperately held onto the small slither of hope just like she did for a miracle to happen- and it didn’t. I even sat with her through her first tattoo that she got just for her mom. I had been by her side since the day we met, and from the bottom of my heart I wanted her mom to be healed. My heart was crushed because I second handedly witnessed an event in life where all the hope, all the prayer, all the pain and wishing for something to change- didn’t work. I watched my best friend suffer and hold onto hope, for her to be crushed and her life to be changed forever. I was crushed, and I knew she was a billion times more crushed than me. The entire situation was penetrating and tragic.
I wiped my face and refreshed my makeup before walking into the house but as soon as I walked in the door, my mom looked at me dead in my eyes and said, “What’s wrong with you?” I started crying and walked to the kitchen table, I sat down and she followed me to it. We both sat down and nervously, she asked again, “Olivia, what’s wrong with you? What’s going on?” I told her “Cecilia’s mom died, mom. She died. After everything, after all of the praying and hoping, Cecilia’s mom died.” I was crying and could barely catch my breath and ironically, just like I had said to Cecilia, my mom said to me, “Olivia, you need to calm down. You need to breathe. I know you’re upset but you need to try and calm down.”
I told my mom, “It’s not fair Mom, it’s not fair that now at 18 years old she has to face her life without her mom and I can. That’s not fair. Why does an 18 year old have to lose their mother right in the beginning of their first semester of college- right when she needs her the most? Why mom? I just don’t understand, why Cecilia?”
That night something changed in me, as my tears started to become less excessive, and my questions became more forceful, I said to my mom “You know what Mom? All that praying and hoping, all of that for nothing. All of that praying to God, for what? For him I guess not to hear a single thing. The way Cecilia’s heart just got torn in half, there is no way in Hell that God exists. There’s just no way, mom.”
For the rest of December, inevitably Cecilia did become distant but I understood why. As Cecilia was grieving and having to adjust to her new life without her mother, I was adjusting to the bitterness I now had living in my heart that God didn’t exist. I was dealing with my new found idea that there was no reason for hope- because no matter how much hope a person had, bad things were going to happen to good people, and that was the end of it. Even though it didn’t happen to me, Cecilia’s experience changed me as a person. It opened my eyes to the real world. The next semester Cecilia took off of school and worked so she could get out of her uncles house and get her own apartment. I as well, withdrew from the semester 3 weeks in because I was lost and confused about the purpose of life. I couldn’t sit in a classroom and listen to anyone talk to me about shit from a textbook when I had reached a point in my life where I understood that good people on a daily basis were dying, praying, and suffering constantly. For those 5 months off of school, Cecilia and I both got restaurant jobs and started serving. When fall came around Cecilia started to take classes for a job in the medical field, everything that had happened with her mother inspired her to look down that route. I knew she wouldn’t choose it as her career because I knew Cecilia’s heart- and I knew her heart belonged to Fashion and Writing. But I encouraged her to try it out.
During 2014 Cecilia got her own apartment, started making her own money, upgraded in her car situation- and most importantly, she learned how to support herself and be independent. Now in 2015, she has her own running fashion blog, she just was invited to the Orlando fashion show, and she hasn’t given up on her dreams even though she lost her bestfriend, her only mother. With an abyss of darkness that filled her heart on December 16th, she still managed to fight through it every day and grow as a person. Every day she misses her mother and wishes she could talk to her, but Cecilia being a true dreamer, a truly persevering soul, she has decided to step into her own shoes and walk to her own beat; she hasn’t let the tragedy of losing her mother stop her from being true to who she is and chasing her dreams. Cecilia is a hero to me, and she is the definition of a true dreamer- because a true dreamer never loses sight of the vision and never gives up on it. Even when they get a little off track, and life happens, they never give up on their dreams. They do not accept defeat.
I know your Mother is proud of you. I’m proud of you, and you should be proud of you. Who knew in 2015 we’d both we studying journalism, running our own blogs and feeling confident about pursuing our dreams that once felt so far away.
I can’t image what it feels like to lose a parent, and your only single mother at that. I truly can’t imagine- but seeing Cecilia everyday do her own thing, work hard, and chase after her dreams with such confidence and passion genuinely inspires me to keep chasing mine. Cecilia, you inspire me every day when I see your posts. When I see you, I still feel that joy in my heart because you are one of a kind and stronger than most of the people I know. You are built to accomplish anything you set your mind to, and there is no one like you on this Earth. As your Mom would believe in you and love you unconditionally, so do I.
I am so lucky to have met you, and I can’t wait to see the way our life unfolds. True dreamers never stop chasing their dreams.
For those still reading, if you take anything from this story- please realize this: anything can happen. We never know what life is going to throw at us. We have no control over when, who, or why our heart shatters into a million pieces.
But no matter what happens, we owe it to our self to keep moving forward. We must keep hope alive in our hearts.
We must believe that things will get better, even when it feels like our life has fallen apart. And the thing about our life falling into pieces, is it leaves us room to creatively put them back together- even if a few pieces we may have lost along the way.
We have to keep living and believing in our dreams- because truly, if we had nothing or nobody left, all that would remain, is what we dream of.
Thank you Cecilia for allowing me to write about your story. I’m lucky to know someone like you, and I know that we will be friends for life.
Please love each other and take nothing for granted.
With lots and lots of love,