By: Katherine Vu and Jenny Pham, staff writers
“I’m really sorry for your loss,” the man in the military uniform said stiffly. “Your mother died a hero.”
Andrea didn’t respond. How could she? She was frozen with shock. Andrea’s mom was supposed to come back from the war the next day. They were going to go out and eat to celebrate, and Andrea had planned on surprising her mother with her Mother’s Day card and a necklace she’d made herself while they were eating. It was going to be the best weekend ever, Andrea thought to herself. A small tear slipped from her eye and made its way down her face.
Suddenly, her vision was blurred with tears. They dripped quickly down her face as she cried silently. The man cleared his throat uncomfortably and glanced at Andrea’s grandmother, who was sobbing quietly in the corner of the living room, a wet tissue clutched tightly in her hands. Everything was different now that Andrea’s mother was gone.
After she heard the news, everything seemed distant and foggy to her, like a dream. The funeral, the crying, everyone trying to comfort her. Nothing seemed genuine. No one understands how I feel. Their moms didn’t die right before Mother’s Day. Andrea leaned her head on the cold car window on the way home from the funeral and stared at the people zipping by. They all looked so happy. Their lives hadn’t been changed by horrible news. They wouldn’t be spending Mother’s Day with their grandma, and no mother. Andrea sighed and closed her eyes, listening to the car rumble as they drove.
When they got home, her grandma unlocked the door and trudged slowly inside. She looked defeated and worn out, like life was trying to break her spirit, and it was winning. Andrea felt a pang of guilt. She knew that this was hard on her grandma too. She had just lost her daughter. I can’t be a burden, Andrea decided. She stepped inside and closed the door.
“Dinner will be ready in an hour,” her grandmother murmured softly, and shuffled to the kitchen.
“Okay, Grandma,” Andrea called, walking upstairs to her room. Once she was inside her bedroom, she closed the door and sat on her bed. A blend of emotions swirled around in her stomach. She tried to sort them out.
She was hurt that her mother had left her. Sad that she would never see her again. Worried that something would happen to her grandma. Angry that no one seemed to understand how she felt. Confused because, without her mother, she was lost. Despair added itself to the mix of emotions, along with grief. Andrea frowned. She knew that she had to do something besides grieve over her mother’s death. Mom would be so unhappy to see me like this. I have to be strong. For her, Andrea thought. I should do something.
She could have made her peace with her mother’s death and just moved on. But Andrea had always been strong willed and determined. She didn’t want to just sit there, feeling helpless. She wanted to do something that would make her mother proud, even if she was gone. There have to be other kids out there who have also lost their parents in the war. I can’t be the only one. Something has to be done to help them deal with their deaths. Andrea reasoned.
Minutes later, she had an idea. A fundraiser! Maybe something to support the kids who lost their relatives in the war and raise money for the military to help them get new equipment! It’s perfect! But how am I going to do this? Andrea sat for a moment, thinking. Maybe. . .flyers? Andrea shrugged. It was worth a shot.
She didn’t waste any time. Andrea worked for three hours straight, making the flyers by hand. We’ll have to meet somewhere public to discuss the charity. I guess the park will work for now. I
The next day she put up flyers everywhere. The library, the mall, random stop signs. She went to the neighborhood park and waited. After an hour, still no one was there. Andrea sighed. I was crazy to think this would work. I bet no one even saw the flyer. Why did I think that I could single-handedly organize a charity? Andrea heard someone walk up behind her. She turned around. Two teenage girls, both about fourteen years old, were standing in front of her.
“Um, is this the charity for the military thing?”
Andrea was speechless. She’d lost all hope that her charity idea would work out! Finally, she managed to speak. “Uh. . .yeah. Thanks so much for coming. I didn’t think anyone would.”
“Great!” the girl who had spoken grinned. “I’m Chelsea. Thanks for organizing this fundraiser and stuff. This is Miranda. She lost her brother in the war, and my dad is out there right now.”
“That’s cool. Hopefully this charity will help make sure he’s safe. But we have a little problem…” Andrea sighed.
“No one’s here?” Miranda smiled a little, finally speaking.
“Yeah. . .” Andrea managed a laugh. “Can’t save lives and honor the dead without people right?”
“I’ve got that covered,” Chelsea pulled out her phone and dialed a number. “Hey, Zach! Yeah. . .sure, I don’t care! Finish that sandwich and get over here! Chips? Fine, later. Now hurry!” She rolled her eyes and slipped her phone back in her pocket, but she was smiling. Andrea grinned. This could work.
About fifteen minutes later, a crowd of about 70 people stood in front of Andrea, talking, laughing, eating, and texting. It seemed too good to be true!
Miranda noticed her surveying the crowd and walked over. “Some people here just wanted to help. But most of the kids here lost someone in the war or have someone out there now.” Andrea nodded thoughtfully. Suddenly she didn’t feel so alone. These kids were like her.
Chelsea joined them. “You ready to start?” she questioned Andrea.
“Sure,” she paused. “But I’m really nervous. I’m not good at public speaking.”
“You’ll be fine!” Chelsea pulled a mic out of nowhere and handed it to her as she pushed her in front of the crowd. Andrea cleared her throat, then nervously began.
“Uh, hey everyone! Thanks so much for coming here. I didn’t think this many people would come. So. . .I started this fundraiser because I just recently found out that my mom died in the war,” her voice caught in her throat, but she continued. “I really wanted to come up with something to help out everyone who’s lost someone in the war, or has someone out there right now. Hopefully this charity will raise money to buy equipment for the military to help keep them safer out there. But I haven’t exactly come up with an exact idea on how to raise the money so, any ideas?”
“A bake sale!” someone called out.
Chelsea stepped up next to Andrea and tilted the mic towards herself. “Maybe. How many bakers do we have here?” Only about five people raised their hands.
“I think we need to do something else,” Chelsea stepped back.
“What about a marathon? Or like, a 5k run?” a redheaded girl suggested. She was tall and thin, like a runner.
“Hmm. You know, a run for the military might actually work!” Andrea said. “We could do a short marathon and have people donate and pledge money. And we could do it easily, at the beach or something.”
The girl who’d suggested the idea grinned proudly. “What’s your name?” Andrea asked her.
“Rachel,” she waved.
“Cool. Can you help us organize the event? You know, since it was your idea.”
“Sure,” Rachel shrugged indifferently.
“Perfect,” Andrea smiled. “We should meet here again in about two days to discuss the final details. Thanks again for coming. I’ll see you guys then!” As she walked away from the dispersing crowd, she felt better. And she was confident that her idea would work.
The next month was a blur full of planning and organizing the event. Before she knew it, the military marathon was there. People were standing on the sidelines, waiting to see their friends or family run for a good cause. She turned to grin at her grandma, but she wasn’t there.
Andrea was hurt, but she tried to reason with herself. Why isn’t she there? Wait, I can’t jump to conclusions. Maybe she just had to go somewhere. But how could she not be here? She was confused and lost in thought. Andrea shook her head. She had to focus. This was important. I can’t think about this now. I have to lead a marathon right now. For Mom.
“You ready for this?” Rachel appeared suddenly at her side, grinning.
Andrea nodded, managing a smile.
At the sound of a gunshot, everyone took off, with Andrea in the lead. She ran with a steady pace, one that should last for 5 kilometers. Everyone else was trailing behind. The run was long, but Andrea wouldn’t let herself slow down.
She had to do this for, not just her mother, but as well as other people who were lost or people who were still out there. And for all the kids like her. The ones who had felt the pain of losing someone to something as horrible as war. Who didn’t know whether their family and friends would return.
It had been a good ten minutes and Andrea’s pace was still fast and strong. Most kids were slowing down, but they still followed her. Andrea could sense them pushing themselves for their loved ones, leaving their pain behind and focusing on what was ahead.
Andrea was running out of energy. She was lost in thought. When she finally focused she couldn’t believe what she saw. Her grandmother was standing at the finish line and she wasn’t alone. With her was a news crew, and they were filming the finish line. With the welcoming sight of family, Andrea gathered up enough strength to stumble across the finish line. When she crossed it, she didn’t stop. She ran up to her grandmother and gave her a big hug.
“I thought you left,” she mumbled into her grandma’s sweater.
“I wouldn’t have left for the world,” Grandma smiled, smoothing Andre’s hair down. “I’m so proud of you.”
Andrea grinned. She felt so different. And not just because she’d run five kilometers. She’d made a difference, and she knew that her mom would be proud of her. I’ll always miss her, but I can’t dwell on the past. I’m ready to move on.
Later, it was revealed that the run had been a bigger success than anyone really expected. The money had been given to the military to help them purchase large supply of equipment. This had given them such an advantage that Andrea was asked to create more events like this.
That night as, Andrea lay in her bed, she looked up at her ceiling and sighed. “Wow, I really made a difference didn’t I, Mom?” She smiled, closed her eyes, and fell asleep, knowing she had made her mom proud.