Circle of Life: How I’ve Dealt With Tragedy

Throughout my life, and anyone’s life for that matter, we all experience some form of tragedy. Whether it’s a harsh break up with a loved one, parent’s separating, or a death, each one of these events have the ability to change the path of one’s life. I think that it all depends on how you mentally take on your obstacle. I’ve had a lot of significant events happen in my life, as have many of you. Sure, the pains lingered, the distorted ways of thinking took place, and I even made decisions that would inevitably control where my life would go. Sometimes the best way to help understand and cope with those feelings is to express them, and that’s what I intend to do. Consider this piece my therapy.

One of the first major events that I can remember experiencing was the death of my father’s parents. Now, both my Yaya and Papou came from Greece, and barely spoke English. My Yaya stayed at our house for a little while, where I learned that we shared a love for Oreo cookies and singing songs. My Papou lived in a small little apartment attached to my aunt’s house. I can still remember it: dimly lit, TV always on, and a smile on my Papu’s face whenever we entered the room. We spent most of our time playing cards, which is where I first learned how to play Gin and Dry. I am still amazed how I was able to learn it, seeing as he wasn’t able to verbally explain the rules, but no matter what the outcome of the game he always laughed, smiled, and gave me a big hug and kiss.

My Yaya passed away, and it was one of the first times that I can remember seeing my father cry. One of the hardest things to see is the man who you consider to be fearless and invincible having tears roll down his cheeks. Some time had passed, and I remember going over my Papou’s house with my dad and brother. I noticed that my Papou had said something to my father in Greek that had taken him back. I later learned that my father asked if he wanted to go visit Yaya, to which my Papou responded “it’s ok, I’ll be with her soon.” A week later, and a year to the day that my Yaya passed away, my Papou joined her just like he said. Now, I couldn’t comprehend it at the time, but looking back I realize how strong my father was and still is. I couldn’t imagine losing both of my parents, let along within a year of each other. I’d probably go crazy, or Lord knows what else. Seeing how my dad handled it and how he deals with it today makes me grateful that something as tragic as that made him stronger in a sense. I always wanted to emulate my father, so that’s something I learned at a young age.

The next tragic loss I remember was my first dog, Bruno. Bruno was a Rottweiler, one of the meanest looking dogs on the block. Little did anyone know that he was one of the most loyal, loving dogs I’ve ever encountered in my 25 years of living. One hot summer day, my brother and I had a few friends over to go swimming in our pool. Bruno was doing the usual; frolicking around the pool, running towards wherever the splash of water came. I remember getting out of the pool and running up to Bruno, stroking my hand across his back. It was at that moment; Bruno keeled over and passed away. My father came running out from inside the house, wrapped him in a blanket, and tried to drive him to the closest animal hospital, but it was too late. The first pet I ever had, dead. For the longest time after that, I thought that I killed my dog. I had a lot of guilt, pain, and just overall sadness. It took almost three months for me to get over it. Thanks to my parents, I was able to understand that he had a heat stroke, and that I wasn’t the one who caused his passing. After I was able to comprehend that, it became a little easier to deal with. Again, I can’t thank my parents enough for all the strength and courage they’ve instilled in me.

Along the way, I’ve had many of friends and family who have come and gone, but one that really had a major effect on my life was the passing of my Mimi. For my whole life, Mimi was the best. She’d teach us dirty jokes and poems, trade jabs with each other, and she even thought that my brother and I were criminals for a good portion of our lives (jokingly, of course). Nonetheless, whenever we left her house, it always ended with a big smile, kiss, and “I love you”. As I got older, she started to get sick. The visits would become shorter to allow her to rest, and her memory started to fade. I remember the night she passed. We all went over to her house, since we all knew it was coming to be about the time where she might not be with us anymore, but our family believed that her last memory on earth would be surrounded by her family. I was about to leave the house, when I realized I had forgotten my jacket. It was in Mimi’s room. When I went to get the jacket, I wanted to give Mimi my last goodbye. Unfortunately for me, it was the last one she would ever receive. Her breathing had stopped, and she was gone. One of the only women besides my mother and aunts who had given me guidance, unconditional love and support, was no longer with us.

I was devastated. My mind would be racing, mostly asking God “Why me? Why was I the one who had to be in this position?” I started to worry that anyone I would get close with would leave me in some way, shape or form. My self-esteem went to shit, and I put myself into a dark space of depression for a while. As noted before, I am blessed to have the family and friends I have that were able to support me, bring me up when I was down, and show me love. In that sense, Mimi is still around. So is Bruno, Uncle Joey, Uncle John, Mr. B, and all of the others we’ve lost along the way. I’ve come to learn that, naturally, with birth comes death, and we can’t escape it. As long as we live in the now, cherish the memories we have or have had, and constantly shower each other with love and positive vibes, it makes life that much more enjoyable.

This brings me to my next point: life. Believe it or not, we’re all the same. We’re all born, given a chance to live and grow as people, and one day, our time will be up. In my town of Stamford, I read about a new shooting just about every other day. Most of them involving young kids with no regard for their lives, or the lives of others. We need to educate our youth, as well as ourselves for some people, on the value of life. I understand that there are elements about these situations that I may not understand, but that shouldn’t be a reason for killing someone. Murder doesn’t prove anything. You don’t get cool points for ending a life, you get a record. I also understand that events like these are a part of life, but should they be? Has the number of senseless deaths caused us to be desensitized? I hear this all the time: “what can we do? They’re gonna kill people regardless”. Wrong. If we sit back and allow these events to continue, someone you love could be next.

If you or someone you know is experiencing some sort of emotional, mental, or physical pain, comfort them. Let them know that you love them, and you value them in your life as they should value their life in general. It’s not about what happens to you, it’s how you react to it. We can go and do something drastic, but does that solve anything? Most likely not. I believe that expressing yourself helps cope with everyday problems, seeing as there’s a good chance that someone you know or love is going through the same hardship. If you don’t think that anyone will hear you out, I have two ears ready to hear you out. Just like my parents, friends, and family: no one is left behind, and together we can conquer anything.

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