HIM – A Story of Remembrance (March Contest)
He was sitting inside, staring. He was staring outside at the white snowflakes, falling from the sky. In fact, he was staring at a blizzard. He knew this blizzard was coming, so he wrapped himself in a blanket to keep warm.
Every winter, he loved to look outside at the snow. He loved to gaze at the frozen tears of the clouds. He would specifically look at the garden in his backyard, his most prized possession, and watch his vegetables covered with a blanket of snow. And when springtime came, he continued to look at his garden. He watched as his vegetables re-grew into strong, sturdy plants.
What he didn’t realize was that it was already his favourite season, spring, but he was still looking at snow.
He was old, 79, just shy of his 80th birthday. He was a widower, his wife had died more than a decade ago. His children had grown up, married and lived elsewhere. He was alone.
He does the same routine every day. He wakes up early, around 5:30am, and meditates. He wants to show reverence to his God, so an hour and a half of prayer was done each morning. Then, he eats a small, but filling breakfast. He first has a cup of Greek yogurt, followed by a banana split oatmeal. He finishes off with some orange juice. He likes to read a newspaper while eating. He usually turns to page 23 which is his favourite section, culture. He loves learning about the people around him. At 8:00am he sits down by the fireplace, and reads a book about his favourite game, chess. He reads about strategy, how to use tactics to take down his opponent’s king. He reads slowly, absorbing every word in the book. He reads for 3 hours. As lunchtime nears, he puts away his book, opens a window, and exercises. He does some yoga, relaxing his muscles away from tension. After this relaxation period, he prepares his lunch. He makes a quinoa salad. He eats onions, red peppers and mushrooms, combined with pecans and quinoa, topped with an Italian salad dressing. At 1:00pm, he goes outside for a walk. This is a walk around the block or to the neighbourhood park, or sometimes a drive to the grocery store. At 3:00pm, he returns home and watches TV. He likes to watch Channel 6, the game show channel. His favourite show is the buzzer beating game, Jeopardy. Next, he watches the news. He particularly watches the local forecast, eyeing predictions that could affect the days to come, such as storms. When it approaches 4:30pm, he turns off the television, and prepares his dinner. He eats a meal of lamb and potatoes. He cuts up lamb into small pieces, and chops up some red potatoes, and eats. Now as the day comes to a close, he once again sits by the fireplace and reflects. He reflects on the events of the day, and what he has done on that day. Although he does the same task every day, something new, whether it be the smallest thing, always comes to mind. He reflects also on his past. He thinks about his life, and what has come of it. He reflects until he goes to bed, at 9:00pm.
The blizzard was getting in the way of his daily reflection. He was trying to think about the day’s occurrences but the snow was distracting him. These reflections were the only thing that was realistically important to him, so a distorted reflection would not be helpful.
He decided to close his eyes, for if he went into a state of total relaxation, he would surely reflect with ease. He was better reflecting now. This gesture of closing his eyes sparked a change in his reflection, he had never reflected with his eyes closed. He suddenly remembered an abundance of minor details about his past, joyful aspects of his life that he had once forgotten. This rapid remembrance of specifics about his past brought a drastic thought in his mind. He decided to look back at his life and all the springtime events he could remember, every detail he knew of, every moment that defined him. He wanted to relive the ecstatic life he once lived, in his favourite season of spring.
He recalled a moment in his childhood, one that he could never forget, his first day of kindergarten. At age 5, his mother and father had walked him to class and put his backpack in his cubby. They looked at him and saw happiness. They knew he would be happy here at school. Then, his father looked into his eyes and told him, “Son, if you’re not sure what to do, breathe, just breathe.” They hugged him, said their good-bye’s, and he ran to the centre of the room where all the other children were. That first day, he thought, was the best day of his life. His teacher gave him a gold star for his magnificent drawing of an elephant. He replicated his house by building a gigantic structure out of Lego. And, he made a best friend whom he would share his every thought with. This first day of school taught him that life was a beautiful thing, that it should be cherished. This first memory brought back countless more memories to him. He began to remember events in his youth that his brain had once erased.
He remembered his first Rookie baseball tournament, when he was 10 years old. His team was exceptional. In a tournament of 32 teams from all over the province, his team was ranked in the Top 5. This was because of their coach. Their coach was very dedicated to the sport of baseball. The coach taught him how to never give up. Even if the team was down 5 runs in the bottom of the 9th, according to the coach, it was still possible to win the game. The team would go on to win the tournament, and be crowned provincial champions. There was an award given out to the MVP of the tournament. From the start of the tournament, he wanted the award more than anything. He worked extremely hard in practices, and it paid off in the games. He received the MVP award. From that day forward, he found his place in the world. He strived for excellence in everything he did.
He looked back when he was 13, his parents signed him up for piano lessons. He had never played a musical instrument before, but concluded that it was possible for him to be great. He practiced the piano every day after he finished his homework. His teacher noted his excellent abilities on the piano, and he was offered a spot to play at a concert. He played his favourite piece Symphony No. 7 by music great Beethoven, and he played it to near perfection. The spectators were amazed at what they heard, that they gave him a standing ovation, encoring him. He had never felt such praise, knowing that so many appreciated what he had done. He had realized that great things can happen for anyone, that people will applaud if they does great things.
He then began to recall a memory from his high school days, as a 16 year old. Most of the students in his grade were falling away from their studies and began to stray away from school. This sparked a thought in him, excelling in school. His parents did not strive in school, so if he could impress them with good results, the family would grow closer together. He studied and did his homework every day. His mind was focused on school like never before, and he was rewarded. He got on the school’s Honour Roll for the first time ever. As a matter of fact, he was one of five students in his grade that received an award for the highest GPA of that year. His parents could not put into words how they felt. They were so happy. This memory showed him that when he worked hard, not only did he feel contented, but others felt contented as well.
Finally, he recognized a memory that turned him from a boy, into a man. At 20 years old, he had been inspired by a quote from Mahatma Gandhi, “Be the change, you wish to see the world.” This saying influenced his decisions. He wanted to transform his society and change the world. He witnessed a crisis, bullying. He was walking home when he saw three older boys harassing a younger boy. The older boys grabbed the younger boy by his collar and threw him to the ground. They started kicking, punching and threatening this younger boy. Looking at this scene, he quickly called the police, and rushed to help that younger boy. He yelled at the three older boys, who they were eager to start a confrontation. He warned the boys that the police were already coming, which intimidated them, and they ran. He cared for this victim of bullying. He performed first aid by patching up the boy’s wounds with some gauze he had in his backpack. When the police arrived, they thanked him. The city council decided to commemorate this great deed he had done by giving him a medal of bravery. Upon receiving his medal, he learned about the virtue of serving others. He learned how to help the less fortunate in times of need, in times of hardships. This one action he performed inspired the rest of the community. People began to know his name, and they honoured what he had done. His great deeds were starting to become known. His legacy had begun.
The time was already 8:30pm and normally he would be getting ready for bed. He wanted to keep on reflecting. The best events in his life that he had enjoyed the most, happened in spring.
He looked out the window to find himself still looking at the blizzard. He was getting agitated. Why was it still snowing in spring? He wanted to continue reflecting on his life. He wanted to recollect thoughts of his adult life and what he accomplished as an adult, his remarkable moments in his life. His skills as a top-notch baker, his prize-winning gardening prestige and most importantly, the birth of his children, events that all occurred in the springtime.
But remembering wasn’t possible with the evening coming to a close and the distracting blizzard coming in his way.
He recalled one last moment. One of fear. A moment that changed his life. A moment of terror.
When he was 8 years old, he used to go sledding with his friends down a small hill that led to a frozen lake. One day after sliding down the hill, he went faster than usual and slid to the end of the lake. This part was thin ice, and subsequently, the ice cracked and he fell in the frigid water. He panicked. Only being 8, he didn’t know what to do. He was flailing his arms and screaming for help. He felt the icy water freeze his body. His friends reached in the water and heroically pulled him out. He would never forget this moment of near death for the rest of his life. The moment that scarred his love for winter.
Aside from that brutal memory, he still had a marvelous life. But even though he had such a euphoric life story, even though his legacy was great, he wasn’t satisfied yet. He could not remember any major events in the latter years of his life that were any close to the ones he remembered in his youth and adulthood. He wanted to take one last shot. He was ashamed of that one bad memory he had, and decided to change it. He wanted to prove to himself that he could conquer winter. He thought that in the glorious season of spring, he could defeat the dreadful season of winter. He was a fighter, a tremendous believer. He thought that anything was possible if you put in the effort, especially in spring when his best stories took place. And because it was spring, he decided to take action. He wanted his story to continue one last time.
So he got up from his chair, put on a sweater, grabbed his biggest winter coat and headed toward the front door. In his hand he held some tape and a piece of cardboard. It read “SPRING?” As he opened the door, a huge gust of wind pushed him back a couple of steps. He used lots of tape to stick the cardboard onto the front door, so that when the blizzard stops, everyone could see it. He then grabbed his gloves and toque, put them on and headed toward the back door where he changed into his boots. He opened the door to find himself once again pushed back by the wind. He felt a slight sense of adrenaline, something he hadn’t felt in over 30 years. He looked at his snow- covered plants in his garden, his most prized possession, and stepped outside.
With one step outside, he knew that he had overcome his lifelong fear. He could feel a sense of relief. But this would not last long, for a second later, the blizzard showed itself to him. It threw him down and he fell.
He felt the same feeling when he fell through the ice. He felt the cold air slowly eating his skin. His only line of defense, his clothing, seemed completely useless now. The snow quickly covered his face. His lips were turning blue, and his hands were numb. He thought this was the end. He wanted to give up. But, he still wasn’t satisfied. He tried to stand up, but he couldn’t. He couldn’t move a muscle. His frail body lay outside his house. He didn’t know what to do. His nose twitched and suddenly he had an idea. He remembered what his father used to tell him, “If you’re not sure what to do, breathe, just breathe.” He took a deep breath in, he closed his eyes, and then he breathed out his final breath.