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My name is Rebecca and I am an English student at BYU-Idaho. I love to write poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. I am happily married to my best friend and we have a little boy. My husband and I are both from Arizona, but we currently live in Idaho. We love spending time outdoors going for walks, hiking, having picnics, swimming, and camping. I am also a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Fourth grade is a confusing time, an interesting time to introduce a child to death. Of course, this wasn’t the first time I had heard of him, death had taken great-grandparents and other family members under his arm, but this was the first time his acquaintance had become so intimate. I don’t remember the first time I met the boy with dark spiky hair. As I flip through the pages of my memory, he suddenly appears. He’s by my side as we wander across the playground, unsure of where we belonged in our elementary school’s hierarchy. Friendship between boys and girls was a new idea, one unfamiliar to girls who mastered double-dutch and boys who talked about Star Wars and Harry Potter on the playground. All I knew was that I liked being around the kind Puerto Rican boy with the sweet smile. When I was on crutches, the other kids teased me, but my loyal friend helped me carry my things. He was in my classes, and our friendship was no secret. I will never forget where I was when I heard. I remember hearing the words my mother said to me on that Saturday morning as she relayed the email she had received. They hung around me like arithmetic equations; sounded familiar but I just couldn’t put them together in a coherent way. It was just a cold. That’s all it was, a harmless cold. How was his mother supposed to know that he was allergic to the cold medicine she gave him? The allergic reaction was too much for his young heart to handle. Could you really die at ten years old? My teacher sent me to the counselor’s office. It was just me and his best friend, two kids sitting there in the small room as we were asked to share how we felt about Ricky’s death. I didn’t know what to say, I didn’t even know how I felt. I did not yet possess a vocabulary capable of conveying the confused and sober thoughts of my young and troubled heart. Suddenly I was introduced to the fragility of life, and the ground beneath my feet was replaced with thin ice. When would it break; submerging me under the frigid waters of death? Were we all just floating in an ocean of tears waiting for a wave to swallow us whole? There was a memorial in his honor, and I was shocked at the tear stained faces of kids who hadn’t even known his name until he was dead. Where did this large group of mourners come from and where had they been when the counselor bombarded two kids with questions about grief? There were no tears in my eyes, my mind was still struggling to comprehend that he would never against sit next to me in class. I saw his Catholic mother with her blood-red rosary and tear stained eyes as she mourned her Ricardo at the memorial, surrounded by people who would never know the sting of watching their child slip through the veil of death. I don’t even remember what we were supposed to write about, but I took my thoughts and watched them bleed on the paper. When the writing assignment was returned, my teacher squeezed me against her large body and told me about how my paper had made her cry. She let other teachers read it, and they had also cried. I have often thought about the boy with spiky hair and chocolate brown eyes. I have often thought about the time I learned about death’s sting, and how I have continued to become more acquainted with it throughout my life. Fourth grade is an interesting time to introduce a child to death, an acquaintance who will always be near.
I don’t know remember exactly when and how it started. Perhaps it never had a beginning but had always been a part of my soul. Books had captured my attention since infancy and stories lived on my tongue from the moment I could string a sentence together. The exact day I began jotting down poems in my school notebooks, doesn’t matter. I was only releasing the steady current of words from my mind and watching them trail across the paper as they came to life. I can’t recall how old I was turning the birthday that I received one of my favorite gifts. My grandma had given me a collection of poems by Emily Dickinson. I had never heard her name before, but her words would lead me deeper into the literary world. I was young and couldn’t understand every poem, but I often got lost in that thick book as Emily taught me her own rules about grammar, romance, and life. As an English major, I would later learn a lot more about the immortalized poet. I wondered about her life in her room, peering from her window. Did she know what impact her words would have on the world? Who would have guessed that a recluse would play such a big role in helping a little girl grow in her love for writing and reading poetry? When studying Emily in college, I felt as though I was being reunited with an old friend. The taste of her words on my tongue brought back the musty smell of the book pressed against my face as I laid on the floor of my childhood room. Long before her words had really made much sense to me, they had awoken the poet inside. Not a skilled poet by any means, but a poet who understood the depth of life by giving breath to her thoughts, concerns, joys, and fears. Like the poets of English classes and beloved anthologies, my poetry was a showcase of growth and the evolution of a woman. They started out as descriptions of nature sceneries from the eyes of a child living in the suburbs. As an early teen, they grappled with life and the confusions of adolescence. When waves of depression came, my poems matured and darkened with themes of death, suicide, and a heartbreaking desire to be loved and understood. I continued to grow, and my poems became museum exhibits of old loves. As I became a wife and mother, they talked about the struggles and joys of marriage and motherhood, supporting me during the hard days and preserving the beautiful ones. I will forever be in debt to the shut-in who opened me to the world of poetry. The woman who opened her mind so that other could see what she saw from her bedroom window. The writer who planted seeds of inspiration. I wonder if she’s wandered through the gallery of my poems. Did she too witness the evolution of a girl to a woman through words? Was she able to see traces of herself in my works; able to trace my progress back to the anthology of her works, that sat near my bed for many years? I will watch my poetry continue to evolve as I do. It will carry the years, hardships, and blessings of my life until we are buried together. While my poems may not be analyzed in lecture halls or studied by scholars, they once lived, and that’s enough for me. They lived because Emily awoke them within me, and together we breathed life into their lungs.