What would you do if you were a genius? That was the prompt given to my eighth grade class one month before we hit high school. World domination, write with the greats, and cure cancer. Those were the answers Ashley gave, and—just four short days later—she died of Leukemia.
She trudged through the beginning of the week like it was just that, another tedious school week. Wednesday had been a normal day, going along with no fears of tomorrow. But Friday morning she was admitted into Doernbecher’s. Sunday the phone rang, but instead of being greeted by her all too familiar voice, I was paralyzed with the news of her death. Her disappearance fed my desire to do my best to help the 1,545 kids under fifteen who die of cancer every year in the United States.
Ashley was now a part of that statistic. Close family and friends comforted each other with stories of her life. How she read every book she could get her hands on, greeted everyone with “Good morning, sunshine,” and never took the time to be cruel to anyone. The only question on everyone’s mind was, “Why Ashley?” With such a warm heart, a full mind, and so many years ahead of her, and yet, she died at fourteen.
I took those initial thoughts and turned them into something that has encouraged me to crave a life where I can be the cause of a family’s happiness. I figured that if there was a situation such as Ashley’s, then there must be other families in the exact same predicament. So why dwell on the death of Ashley, when I could take the emotion I felt, and transform that into aspirations, future destinations, and, most importantly, my character?
I refused to stay in that place of grief and panic. I know the kind of person I want others to describe me as: a leader, smart, kind, and strong. I feel that these things are reflected in my everyday actions. The world around me may not be a fair one or easy to navigate, but I want to be one of the few dedicated to not giving in. I want to never give up, follow through with my word, and always help the people that surround me. This character is who I believe myself to be today.
Life is said to be short. Young people are always told to have no worries about the future and just enjoy today. But what are you supposed to do when you’re only fourteen? You can’t drive, can’t have a job for money, and relationships are a joke. So how do you live life to the fullest with so many restrictions? If you could ask Ashley, her answers would be world domination, write with the greats, and cure cancer. But ask me, and I would tell you that helping even one of the 1,545 kids is what I was meant to do with my life.
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