We decide to take a walk. I like spending my birthday peacefully, observing the little things in life that most people tend to miss. If I’m lucky, maybe I can obtain some peace and transfer it to my mother. I know how much she needs it.
If I remember my past life then who’s to say everyone hasn’t died before? Perhaps they just forget their past lives. Isn’t that crazy? All the time you spend in life building a legacy, all the relationships you put in timeless effort to cultivate and maintain and it all suddenly disappears in an instant. It’s all gone. It flashes before your eyes and then it’s gone.
When I was a kid in my past life and before the life-changing disease, I was obsessed with conspiracy theories. I don’t know why. I just loved thinking that maybe there was something out there that no one knows? And one of the ones I read said: What if when you die, the light at the end of the tunnel is the light of a hospital room, and you cry when you’re born because you miss your past life? I believe that might not be true for everyone, but it’s true for me. I cried a lot as a baby. Because in my mind, I wasn’t a baby. I was sixteen years old suffering from a horrible disease. A disease that took everything from me. Instead of fighting for a good grade in Algebra II like my friends, I was fighting for my life every single day. I fought for a chance to see tomorrow; a chance to see the rest of my life. My wedding day, my high school graduation, my first child—all of life’s biggest moments.
But despite how hard I fought, I didn’t get any of that. I will never get to marry Shawn because even if he hasn’t moved on, would he really marry someone fifteen years younger than him? And what about my siblings? I’ll never get to see their graduations, I’ll never get to give them my advice through the journeys of life…none of that. And my parents. Oh, my parents. All the time I’ve missed with them. All the time I’ve missed with everyone! My family, my friends…maybe I got younger, but they all got older. A lot older. Fifteen years of my life I’ll never get to relive. And was I really living during my last two years as Amber?
No. I was fighting. I was fighting so that one day I would get to live. But I never did. You fight cancer to live, but oftentimes, you’re only fighting to live longer. Longer, not forever.
True, nobody lives forever. But I didn’t want to live forever. I only wanted my time. It’s also true that most childhood cancer survivors suffer many health problems later on in life. So even if I had been cured, would it have even mattered?
What happens after death is unknown because no one has ever come back to tell about it. I suppose I haven’t either…technically. I’m not exactly sure what happened. When I was fourteen, I was diagnosed with cancer. Treatment didn’t seem to work completely and we all knew that the inevitable was coming. It seemed that God didn’t want the inevitable to happen. He would often fight to give me good, healthy days. After all, when you have cancer, every day is a gift. He gave me two hard-won years until neither of us could continue. One night I got a terrible headache and then I couldn’t breathe. I was rushed to the hospital. The doctors did everything they could. I remember the drugs making me very groggy. (My mom wanted it that way, I’m sure.)
I didn’t know what was happening. All I knew was that my parents and my siblings, Micah, Riley, and Jack were surrounding me. They had tears glistening in their eyes as I slowly faded into unconsciousness. That whole day was a fuzzy blur in my memories. Many things were said and done, but all I know for sure is the last thing I heard was, I love you, Amber, from my mom. And suddenly, in the blink of an eye, I wasn’t Amber anymore. Almost immediately, I was born to another person and the grogginess was gone. The pain that had coursed through my entire body since my diagnosis was…gone. It was like I’d had a total reset. But I wasn’t a dumb baby. My brain was developed. I don’t know how, but my mind, well, my mind switched from my past life to my present one. To be honest, when I found myself as a baby, I wasn’t really that shocked. I was more shocked that I remembered who I was than at the fact that I was someone I didn’t remember being yesterday. I knew that I was going to die, but I also realized what exactly had happened over the course of that momentous second.
That second between life and death.