From Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul on Love & Friendship

Eternal Light

No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.

Hal Borland

Three years ago my best friend, Stephanie, was killed on her way to school in a head-on collision. The man who killed her did not have a driver’s license and was under the influence. He was driving about sixty miles per hour and didn’t even brake before he crossed into oncoming traffic and hit her. She died on impact. She was only sixteen. Painfully alone, somewhere between emotional inertia and complete despair, I struggled to navigate my suddenly unraveled reality.

When I received notice that my mother was at school to see me that foggy March day, my stomach sank. Something was terribly wrong. I immediately turned in my half-finished math test and rushed to the administration building to look for my mother. I found her sitting in the school’s parlor. She asked me to sit—I stood. When she told me the tragic news, I could hear my heart pounding. The red walls seemed brighter then, and more fluid, as if they were swirling around me. A peculiar emptiness overtook me that afternoon in my mother’s car as I repeated the words she had spoken to me earlier: She died today. She died. She’s dead. I tried to make myself believe what I soon realized was the dark and horrific truth: Steph was dead, and she was never coming back.

There was a drastic change in my expectations and hopes for the future from that day forward. Never had I imagined that someone with whom I had cried, someone who had been a sister to me through everything from my parents’ divorce to my first kiss—my future maid-of-honor—would no longer be in my life. All that was left of my future now were the questions. Who would give me those enormous, suffocating hugs and mischievous grins? What would I do at the times when her laugh was the only thing that could make me smile? Who would catch me when I fell? Who would be there for me when I endured the most crushing experience of my young life— the death of my best friend?

I had never felt so alone, and consequently I chose to look within myself for comfort and understanding. I hoped that somewhere, deep inside of me, she was still there and would guide me through the monumental changes occurring in my life. But as I began to peel back layers of my own consciousness, my feelings of isolation and desperation only grew. I had always considered myself a strong person, but I felt completely lost. I could not focus on my schoolwork or much else in my life except Stephanie’s death. Most of my days were spent merely existing with little pleasure or interest in anything. I wrote poetry in math class and scrawled overly dramatic statements like “Have you ever lost yourself?” on my notebook during advanced placement biology. I never bothered or cared about the actual class discussion. I spent what seemed to be an eternity staring into the eyes of my favorite pictures of Steph. I had every lash and sparkle of those celestial blue eyes memorized, but I feared that my memory of the passion and charisma that I searched so intently for within them would fade. Although I didn’t cry much, I thought a lot. I tried to figure out why she was gone, how someone could kill another person and have no remorse, what I was going to do with my life. Then, after much thought, I found something. Under all the layers of pain and frustration, something within me briefly twinkled.

A few months after Stephanie’s death, her sister gave me a letter that she had found deep in one of her cluttered drawers. This letter was the healing catalyst I so desperately needed. She told me in the letter that she loved me always, that I was her best friend, and lastly, that I was her mentor. Like a piece of stardust, something deep inside of me began to illuminate my soul. Never in my life had I been so flattered, so touched, or felt so loved; it was as though she had left the letter behind to console and encourage me. She had always taken care of me before, and now I knew that her death did not change that. I realized that despite my suffering, I needed to take responsibility, use my talents and participate actively in my life’s unfolding.

Now, whenever I’m worried, I ask her for guidance, and I swear that she has helped me profoundly. Whether she gives me the strength to call back after I’ve hung up on someone or the inspiration to trudge through my advanced placement language test with confidence and clarity, I know she helps me every day. Although it is impossible to verbalize such an abstract, warm confidence, I feel her presence inside of me as I succeed, and more importantly as I cry, longing for her sweet, warm embrace. It is with her strength and support that I am able to forge on in life. I have faith in her presence, and I have faith in myself.

Steph’s death caused me to question myself and my own position in life. I now feel that although I have endured an emotional darkness more intense and shattering than most eighteen-year-olds have, it is not the pain that has changed me, but rather Stephanie’s love and confidence in me that has inspired my metamorphosis. I can feel her guiding light in my own life as it changes, and thus I have the courage and resilience to embark on a new chapter of my life. I emerge from the darkness as a confident, faith-filled young woman with an especially bright twinkle in her eye.


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