Hazel McCallion Senior Public School
Mississauga, Ontario

By Elizabeth Tan (Grade 8)

I remember it was a cold and windy morning. As we walked to the church, the wind blew through our hair, ripped through our coats, and nipped at our skin like fleas on a dog. We entered and sat in the middle of the church, dressed from head to toe in black, our pants well-creased and our blouses neatly ironed. I never knew her, I never wanted to and that was probably what I regretted the most.

Every note that was played on the organ softly echoed through the hollowness of the halls. There was a slight mutter that lightly buzzed around the room, but it was too cold an atmosphere for cheerful conversation. I looked around the room. It was filled with the faces of Margaret's friends and family, some familiar to me and some not.

The priest walked in, and the light mutter silenced. We watched in silence as he approached the front of the church, heels clacking on the ground, his tissue in hand. Margaret's funeral was about to begin.

I remember her very clearly, as clear as day, and what I remember most was that she frightened me. I can remember every lesson which I never failed to leave in tears, the fear that racked my body, her eyes on the back of my neck, just staring, staring ... she was my piano teacher. I remember the sweat of my palms, the shivers down my spine and the knot in my stomach. And I hated her more every time, for every tear that rolled down my cheek, I hated her more, and from deep down in my gut, I wished her dead.

Then it happened, it was just another day until I came home to find my mother weeping somberly at the table. It happened so fast I don't even remember feeling anything. It happened between my mother's sobs. Margaret had cancer. The news flashed past me like a bolt of lightning in a storm. For moments at a time, I just stared blankly at my mother. The room was quiet. There was only the hum of the washing machine, and the last sobs of my mom's tears. I would never know how my mom felt at that moment, because I could feel nothing, I could sense nothing, and no matter how hard I tried, there was not one emotion that stirred inside me.

Almost every week, my parents were faithful to visit, and always came back with comments on how horrible she looked. Her skin turned yellow because the chemotherapy had killed many of her cells and created jaundice, her hair was thinned and stringy, her eyes were deep, sunken and underlined with bags, and she had become quite thin. And yet, each time, I ignored their hints to visit her, and simply looked the other way.

"Talk to her," they suggested, they coaxed and even begged. I never went. After approximately three months, it was apparent that she was not going to make it. Before she went, I had time to do one more thing. My mom had suggested that I confess how I'd felt about her, but I couldn't talk to people very well, so I did what I did best and I wrote her a letter. I was always intending to send it to her, but I could never summon up the courage. So I hid the letter in the back of my bookcase. It was as though there was a barrier between her and I, and no matter how hard I tried to cross it, it just couldn't be crossed. I'll always regret that. I'll always hate myself for being a coward. I had the chance to set things straight, and I chose not to.

On August 2, 1997, Margaret passed away in her hospital bed. And when we received the phone call, my mom wept bitterly. That night, I reached behind the bookcase and retrieved the letter. For the last time, I opened it up. I would be the only one to have ever read it, or even to have known that it existed. In disgust, I tore it up and flung it into the garbage can. I don't know why, but I cried. For the first time during her entire illness, I cried. I don't know why they were there, nor will I ever, but the tears just kept streaming down my face, uncontrollable, swift, and continuous like a river. Perhaps some things were just meant to be unexplained.

"And may Margaret, our friend, our wife, our mother and our teacher, now be able to live forever in the loving comfort of God." Amen, I secretly whispered. From my hand I dropped a single white rose onto her coffin.

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