100: Lending a Hand

100: Lending a Hand

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teens Talk Middle School

Lending a Hand

The greatest healing therapy is friendship and love.

~Hubert H. Humphrey

Hey... Get up... Get loud... We’re pumping up the party now!” was the sound of Martha and Samantha singing along to their iPods.

Martha was the prettiest girl in the whole school, and she always greeted everyone with a smile and cheered you up if you were sad. She was a great friend.

We had just started sixth grade. She lived down the street from me and also obsessed over the Jonas Brothers.

Samantha was one of Martha’s best friends. They sang together on the bus all of the time. They were always thinking up different ways to have fun—they were both always so happy. Martha especially had fun all the time. I looked up to her. I was never as optimistic as her, and I probably never will be.

One day, Martha and Samantha were in the car on the way to pick up Martha’s brother from Boy Scout camp. It was rainy and another car was coming in the opposite direction. That car was going ten miles over the speed limit and it hydroplaned, hitting Martha’s Jeep head on and flipping Martha, her dad, and Samantha into a ditch. The other driver was killed instantly.

Martha and Samantha had been in the back seat watching Jaws. The side airbags had popped out and hit Martha in the head, breaking her neck. Samantha broke her leg and ruptured her spleen. Martha’s dad broke both of his legs. Martha died.

When I found out, I cried for what seemed like three days. Not Martha... Not Martha! I don’t know why it happened. It shouldn’t have happened. Not Martha.

Then I started to get angry. Why couldn’t they have left a few seconds later? Why couldn’t the other driver have gone a little bit slower? Why did Martha have to sit on that side? Why her? Why not me? I felt like someone needed to be blamed.

People put posters on her locker and pictures of her all over the walls of our school. They tied white bows to trees. We made a memorial for Martha and I wrote letters to her family. We released balloons with notes to her on them, but I still cried. Nothing helped. I felt like I needed to do something, but I wasn’t sure what.

I went to Martha’s visitation. At visitations, you are supposed to give the family words of wisdom and kindness, to help get them through the tough times. I stood in line to talk to Martha’s mom. When I reached the front with my friends, her mom pulled me into a hug. “I want you to be able to move on with your lives,” she said to me, “and don’t let this affect you. I know it’s hard, but I need you to get through this time and appreciate the fact that you are still here.”

I stood, unsure of what to say. Her daughter had died, but she was the one helping me get over it. “I’m so sorry about your loss...” I tried to say.

Martha’s mom held me at shoulder length. “I know what you are thinking—that I’m supposed to be crying and you’re supposed to help me. But I know that Martha is looking at us right now and wanting us to get over it quickly. She wants us to be happy and successful. I am doing what Martha would have wanted.”

I was instantly inspired. I started going around and helping people cry, helping them think of the good times they had with Martha. I helped in every way that I could think of. I knew this was what I was supposed to be doing.

The next day, I went to Martha’s funeral. My writing teacher came up to the podium and told us she would be reading from Martha’s English journal. It was an entry from August. Our teacher had asked us to write our opinions on the saying, “People create their own punishments.”

Here is what Martha wrote:

I believe that sometimes, people do create their own punishments. For instance, someone who tries to rob a bank. They know they will get in trouble and they do it anyway. But sometimes, completely innocent people end up in fatal situations that nobody can ever prevent, and it isn’t anyone’s fault.

I don’t believe that it was a coincidence that Martha wrote that. I believe that the journal entry was Martha’s way of talking to us and helping us feel better.

Since that day, I have learned to appreciate life and make the best of everything. I have gotten better at talking about Martha, but I still miss her.

~Bethany Beago

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