I’ve spent the majority of the past 16 years trying to forget it happened.
I’m left with very abstract memories now. There was band. There were boys. There were tears. There were trips to the beach during school hours.
My first love was my best friend, Heather, who endeared me with acts like decorating my locker every year on my birthday. When she got married our second year of college I experienced heartbreak unrivaled by any before or since.
There were also bullies who taunted me, hit me, spit on me and terrorized me to the point of failing Algebra two years in a row.
I moved away two years after graduation. They say you can’t go back home.
That was okay though. Because I didn’t want to.
At one point I lived 14,000 miles from home. Can’t get much further than that, right?
If I’m completely honest with you, I’d tell you that there was a pang of regret when in my mid-twenties, I found myself sitting in my mom’s living room, absolutely shattered and unsure of where I was going to go with the next chapter of my life.
I had a list of places to “start over” in. The shortlist included; San Francisco, Pittsburgh , Miami, New York, Atlanta and Crystal River.
Crystal River is home, you see, and it’s true what they say about not being able to go home. It became quickly apparent that I didn’t fit anymore. That I had unlocked some sort of unwelcome inertia which propelled me anywhere else.
Anywhere else is exactly where I ended up.
Then came Facebook.
It’s a high school reunion of your own making.
I learned that some people I really cared for in high school were complete jerks. I learned that some people I didn’t give much thought to in high school were really amazing.
Facebook gave me what circumstance couldn’t…the chance to go home.
I’m an avid Facebooker. If you know me you won’t be shocked to hear that I enjoy sharing my life semi-publicly.
You might however be shocked to know that some of my closest friends are people who I went to high school with, people who I haven’t seen in 10-15 years, and who wouldn’t be in my life in any similar extent if were not for Facebook.
Through the years I have seen my classmates grow separately and together on Facebook. They have come out from all over the country to help me collect Happy Meal Smurf toys for Everybody’s Boy. They have helped me find freelance work. They have banded together to create Christmas in mere days for a complete stranger and her children in Memphis.
These Crystal River folks are kind of amazing. All things considered, I am proud beyond belief to call that place my home.
Over the past year we have watched our friend Alicia battle cervical cancer and go into remission, only to be told that it had metastasized and was terminal just months later.
I remembered Alicia well from high school, but I didn’t really know her until we reconnected via Facebook.
She’s a single mom of four beautiful children. She plays a mean game of Words with Friends. She takes the time to comment on even the most mundane posts of mine, helping me to choose a haircut when her own hair is gone from chemo, offering support to friends who are hurting, when she is in constant pain.
She is always smiling. She is always grateful. She fights with a dignity and determination that could invoke world peace.
She does all of this while fighting cancer for just one more day with her children.
I don’t even know where one channels that kind of countenance, yet somehow she does day after day after day.
Our community came together and held a fundraiser a few months back to help with the cost of medical bills, gas, missed work, and to try to raise enough money to give her one good vacation with her four babies.
It was a wonderful effort, but we have to do more.
Alicia needs our love and our support. She needs her friends by her side, but realistically her children and mother need financial help. She’s fighting hard, and god I would give anything to see her beat this, but that might not happen.
Either way there are four children and a grandmother going through unimaginable hell right now.
The last thing they need to worry about is basic needs.
I’m begging you to support Alicia. In stead of going to Starbucks today, instead of ordering take out…just for one day…give that money to Alicia’s family.
Take this one worry off of her plate so that she can keep smiling, keep fighting, keep loving her family for as long as she can.
Eight years ago when I returned home to start my life over again I too was diagnosed with very early stage cervical cancer. Eight years ago I felt a fraction of the panic and pain that Alicia must feel. My story had a different ending and for that I am eternally grateful.
I don’t have to wonder for a second that if I were in the same situation as Alicia right now, she would do the same (and more) for me.
Please donate. Please join me in proving that you can indeed go home, because home is community and community is anywhere.
We love you, Alicia. Keep fighting.