A few weeks ago, a blog post by WaveMedia was shared with me. It is an essay written by senior, Isabella Cipriano. It is a remarkable piece about the night when, as an 8-year old, her family suffered a terrible tragedy.
Her essay, That Night, speaks to hope and resilience and about empathy and a zeal for life. It is reposted here with her permission.
by: Isabella Cipriano
I am glad bad things have happened to me in the past.
This sounds crazy because, let’s face it, who likes pain, but I am glad for these experiences because suffering shows me a different perspective on the world and allows me to be more empathetic towards those around me who have also experienced pain.
Ok… so maybe I’m not entirely “glad” so to speak but I would not change anything I have gone through. I can show more kindness because I have been in hard situations and can better understand what others are going through. However, what has really allowed me to place myself in others shoes is not physical suffering (like my recent knee surgery) but an ache of the heart I received at the age of eight.
In one night, my whole life was turned upside down.
I became fatherless and almost lost both my brother and my mother because my eldest brother and his friend broke into our house while high on drugs. Armed with baseball bats, they gave my mom, my dad, and my other brother traumatic brain injuries. A TBI that killed my father, a TBI that still gives my mother debilitating headaches, and a TBI that took away my brother’s ability to speak and live independently; all while I watched as a young girl who woke up in the middle of the night to find that nightmares do not stop when you cease to sleep.
That night, a gaping wound was left in my heart. That night, a hole was left in my family that will never close even if it has grown to be more bearable. That night, I did not know if my family would survive and I thought myself an orphan, with just one brother left physically unscathed. Fortunately, since that night, my brother and my mom have made miraculous recoveries even if they still have long roads to go.
As for me, I know that I will never be “normal” again, but I also know that I no longer want to be.
I am who I am now because of that night, yet I do not define myself by just that night. I have learned how to handle suffering and pain. To be honest, it feels like I went to war. I saw some very bad things and I am still dealing with those memories today. However, the hardest part of my story is not what I went through that night, but what I have gone through since that night. I learned I cannot dwell on the past or just wish for suffering to go away; I need to face my grief and move on so I can still find happiness and peace. Now I can help and relate more to others, because eventually everyone will experience suffering, loss, and trauma. Everyone lives a nightmare at some point or another, and so the real feat is learning how to still dream, how to still love when you know the more you love the more you can lose.
Yet, we humans are on this Earth for just a mere short time and in that short time I believe that we must burn bright and live to the best of our ability by facing what haunts us and growing from that.
I will never fully move on from my emotional suffering just as my mother and brother’s scars will never fully disappear. Every day, there are constant reminders of our past trauma as well as the potential for new trauma. My brother has Epilepsy now and has a seizure at least once a month. We never know when one will show up and so we have to be on guard for them 24/7.
Every seizure could be his demise, and yet I cannot love him any less in fear of this because I will never get a second chance to love him any more.
In fact, it’s because of what I’ve gone through and what I still go through that I now know how to deal with these seizures as well as other stressful situations. This is why I’ve decided to go into the medical industry, even if my other brother keeps telling me there are better jobs in movies and TV.
All that I have seen and have witnessed has prepared me for medicine. I learned empathy and responsibility; I grew up fast. Sure, my life can be viewed in pity, but I do not want pity. I have experienced a lot of life and that is not something to be sad about. Sadness will get me nowhere and if anything, as I previously mentioned, I am glad bad things have happened to me in the past.
Because I believe they will help me achieve better things in my future.