One life to live

Haley Bunnell, Columnist

     She had a smile that radiated joy. Her purple hair glistened in the sunlight and filled her face with color. She grinned as I ran and jumped into her arms. Inside she was hurting. She wasn’t upset about a particular incident; it was just a chemical imbalance that set her off. She wanted to be happy or she wouldn’t have smiled. She was Aunt Andrea.

     Through the good times and bad I know my aunt struggled to survive. She wanted what was best in life; however, it was hard to find. It was after an abusive relationship with her ex-boyfriend in Chicago that she made her way back home to Marble Falls, TX.—back to people who truly loved her. At this time she made a better life for herself: no more drugs, tattoos or hopeless nights. She now had a secure job working for the city parks and recreation, and seemed to be happy.

     Our visits were always magical. Even though I was only 11 years old, we shared a common outlook on life, and our philosophical nature clicked. We spent nights talking about life and our hardships. One day, I called to see if she could come visit me. She didn’t answer, which was unlike her, because her phone was always by her side. I didn’t think anything of it until my mom sat me down for a family talk. She told me that Aunt Andrea had died that morning.  It was raining while she was mowing the grass at the city park, and the lawnmower rolled over her which dragged her down to the river where she had drowned.  

     After hearing those words, my vision got out of focus. I felt like the world was moving around me, and I was in a dream. I wanted to scream, cry, shout, but it was impossible. I was immobile, not there—it was almost like I had no emotions, which was such an empty feeling. I automatically ran to my room and went straight to bed. When I woke up, I called my aunt’s number over and over again, but of course there was no response. I only wanted to make everything okay again. She was only 24, and I couldn’t believe that someone that young could just die. She had so much going for her.

       A week after hearing the news, my mother and I took a four hour road trip to Marble Falls, where the funeral was to take place. I walked into my grandmother’s house which was once shared with my aunt. It felt so familiar, yet so different. I sat on the couch. The very same couch I had seen her last smile. The last time I hugged her. Just thinking about how one moment we were playing Dominos together laughing and enjoying the time, and the next moment, she is completely gone. It was definitely a hard thing for me to process.

     Hearing the song Angel by Sarah Mclachlan and holding my mom’s hand tightly, I walked into the funeral home room which was filled with about 200 people. Along with friends and family of my aunt, firefighters, police officers and other city workers joined to honor Andrea’s service for the city. It was truly wonderful to see the support, and love from so many people who were a part of Andrea’s life.

     It took me a few months to recover emotionally from the incident that took away from my closest family member. I finally started eating normally and spending time with my friends again. When I made my way back to the small town for the first time since the funeral, I visited the spot that she had died. In her memory, the city built a beautiful black rod bridge, with the words on the top “Andrea’s Pass.” The bridge went over the river and on the other side was a beautiful waterfall. As I walked through the park and sat on a granite bench engraved with my aunt’s name on it, I realized I only have one life and one chance. My aunt was a beautiful, wonderful woman, and I feel in my heart that she taught me that it is necessary to live and cherish my life.