Monday, 22 July 2013

Graduation Day: The Boy Who Lived

April, 2010. It was the first day of school. The boy was about the start grade eight. It was his little sister’s first day at Junior High; her first time wearing a uniform and having a different teacher for each subject and a million other firsts. The sakura were blooming and pale pink petals fluttered through the air. As he had nearly every day for a year, he walked with his friends. They joked and laughed, faces turned to one another and eyes crinkled against the chilly spring sun. They didn’t see the car, coming around the corner too fast. The car couldn’t see them past a hedge on the corner, and didn’t bother to slow down. The impact crushed his ribcage, bone stabbing his lungs and tearing his diaphragm. His skull shattered, his brain swelling and escaping its suddenly fragile casing. For a time, he died.
For a week afterwards, a teacher was at his bedside twenty-four hours a day. He was not expected to survive more than a few days. His tanned, wiry body looked half the size it had now that it was surrounded by machines. A machine breathed for him. Another fed him. The school councillor prepared the other students for the inevitable. But the boy did not die. He remained comatose for more than a month. His family were warned not to expect too much, even if he woke up. He had been so terribly broken. When he did, one day, open his eyes and struggle to draw breath into his scarred lungs by his own power, I felt worse for his family than if he had died. His eyes were vacant. His face was expressionless. He didn’t respond to sounds. I imagined his mother spending the rest of her life caring for the shell of her child and silently cursed the paramedics who had brought him back from that first, small death.
I was so wrong.
”elleroyHe came back to us, more and more every day. He learned to smile. He sat up. He managed to swallow by himself. Finally, almost year after the accident, the hospital asked if he could come back to school as part of his rehabilitation. His mother, who had long ago quit her job, came with him. At first he could only join one class a day. He didn’t have the balance to sit on a school chair. He couldn’t climb the stairs to get to the science labs. He couldn’t speak. But he fought every day to get back what he had lost. He fought and he smiled every time he dropped his book or had to go to the toilet with his mother’s help while his friends looked awkwardly the other way. After a morning of struggling at school, he went back to the hospital and did more rehabilitation. At the start of this year he was walking by himself without a stick. He could speak, but it was very slow and difficult to understand. His mother moved to the side of the classroom instead of sitting beside him. He began trying to get his old life back, trying to reconnect with his friends.
It was hard for them, too. They missed him. They wanted to support him. But they were fifteen, bursting with energy. All they wanted to do was strip down to their undershirts and play soccer, pushing their growing bodies to their limits. They wanted to run, jump, even somersault across the sports field. He could only watch. They felt guilty when he watched them. They began running out of the classroom as soon as the bell rang, escaping before he could struggle from his chair to ask where they were going. He tried to engage them in the jokes they’d enjoyed before, but he had missed a year of television and didn’t get the current gags. His thoughts moved too slowly to understand their conversations, newly turned to topics more ‘adult’. Every time he was left out, he smiled. Every time I saw him smile, I wanted to cry for him.
In November the school festival included a number of speeches by students who had won essay writing awards during the year. I was surprised to see the boy’s name on the program. It was difficult for him to climb the stairs to the stage, but he did it alone. He spoke slowly. He words were still a little indistinct, a little difficult to understand, but his voice was loud and strong. “I wanted to come back to school” he said. “I never have a break; rehabilitation never stops. But I wanted to come back to school. I wanted to graduate with everyone. That’s why I can get through every day.” It was the first school festival since the tsunami and great earth quake. The student council had chosen the theme “生きているから” (because we live). For the boy, this meant something so much more. He did not die. He came back to us. He reclaimed his body, muscle by muscle. He was able to tell us in his own words how he felt.
Today is graduation day. Today he will walk across the stage on his own feet. Today he will stand with his friends to thank the teachers and parents who have supported them, with his voice loud and steady. Today he will graduate, together with everyone. Because he lives.

This was originally posted March 1st, 2012. I'm re-sharing it for Elleroy's Monday Blog hop. I hope it makes your Monday better.
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  1. Normally I would not betray my lurky nature on an older post, but this is too beautiful a story, and too beautifully written, to be left unremarked-on. Thank you for posting it -- it lifted my spirit today.

    1. Thank you for coming out of "lurk" to comment, it means a lot to me actually. This is my favourite thing I've written; in fact, I originally started this blog because I wanted somewhere share what had happened. I wasn't sure if the post still showed, up being one of the oldest, so I am really happy to hear that it is still being read. Thank you.

  2. Our graduation party had been organized at outdoor NYC venues. We had such blasting time in party and color scheme looks just perfect. All party arrangements were done by all of us in coordination. It was a great feeling that we pulled it off quite perfectly.


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