Life Choices Can Affect the Rest of Our Lives

Debbie Centeno

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My Story

I’d like to share a story that has changed my life for the better. It involves my forever 20- year-old angel in heaven and I thought today would be a great opportunity to share since tomorrow, January 8th, is his birthday and also marks the anniversary of when I decided to take control of my life. It is one of those heartbreaking stories with a happy ending. The reason I want to share is to encourage others going through a similar situation, that there is hope at the end of the tunnel. You too can do it.

I once had to write an essay on the happiest moment of my life. I always thought the happiest moment in my life was the birth of my children. It was undoubtedly one of the happiest moments, but I discovered that there was another instance that made me very happy and involved my family. Unfortunately, it was following a tragedy in my life, however; it helped me find the peace that I needed.

I am blessed with three wonderful children: two sons and a daughter. On July 9, 2007, at 11:17 p.m. I received a call that no parent wants to receive. My oldest son was involved in a pedestrian accident and did not survive. He was 20 years old, a sophomore in college, and a good son. It devastated me. There is no pain worse than the loss of a child. I have often heard that the worst pain is giving birth. But that’s not true, because that pain turns into joy after having set eyes on our newborn. With the loss of a child, well, there are no words — nothing to replace the pain. I did not know where to turn, who to talk to, or what to do. For the following six months after my son's death, I lived in a zombie state of mind, taking antidepressants every day. I did not want to see or talk with anyone. I became a hermit in my home, hiding from my own children and husband. That was until the day of his birthday.

My Son Spoke to Me

It was January 8, 2008. My son would have turned 21 years old. I had requested the day off from work. I needed to be alone with my grief. My other two children and husband were at school and work. I slept in that day. I did not have any plans, so there was no rush to get up. After showering, I proceeded to the kitchen to take the antidepressants. I grabbed a glass of water and took out one of each pill. As I was about to pop them in my mouth, I heard a soft voice very close to my left ear say, “Mom, you don’t need that.” Those words stopped me from taking the pills. They were so clear. Somehow, I knew it was my forever 20-year-old angel in heaven who had whispered it to me and I responded, “You’re right Richie, I don’t need them.” I threw the pills away and emptied the contents of the pillbox in the trash.

I Have a Choice

That is when I realized that I had a choice. I could live in sorrow and continue to take antidepressants for the rest of my life, or I could live a glorious life for myself, and my forever 20-year-old angel in heaven. If I were to live for him, I had to see the world the way he did. He didn’t worry about things he could not control. He always said there was no such thing as a coincidence. He was a very positive, outgoing person who always found the good in every bad. He wanted to live life to the fullest. That was the day I made a change, and I vowed to live for my family with my son's views of life. I would do for him what he could not, and I would begin by returning to college to complete what he had started. I knew he would be very proud of me. He would have wanted me to take control of my life and live. This was my opportunity to make my son proud of me like I was of him.

Life Choices that Affected My Life

My first step was to attend grief counseling sessions. These sessions helped immensely, allowing me to vent my frustration and cry away my sorrow without judgment. Then on February 8, 2008, I enrolled in college to complete what my son could not. This was my tribute to him. Even though my son’s major was Business Administration, I majored in Accounting. As a full-time student and employee, I dove into my books determined, not only to complete my degree, but I would do it with top honors. It was also therapeutic for me since it kept my mind busy. In July 2010, I completed my Degree as a Suma Cum Laude and made the top ten of my graduating class. I knew deep within my heart that my son was proud of me.

The Day was Finally Here

It was Saturday, November 10, 2012. On this day, I was walking with my graduating class. I felt so proud of myself. We arrived early, parked, and proceeded to the hall where the ceremony would take place. We, my husband, daughter, and youngest son walked through the long corridor to the hall side by side. There was no one else walking by or near us. It was just us. I was at the far left next to the wall, my husband was at my right followed by my youngest son and daughter. However, there was a strange feeling of someone else walking by me. It felt as if my forever 20-year-old angel in heaven was there with me between the wall and myself. I glanced to my left and saw nothing, but I could feel and sense him — his perfume, his big smile, his happiness, his energy — right next to me. It was such a strong feeling, and it made me so happy. The feeling kept me company throughout the ceremony, even when I walked up to receive my diploma. He was there next to me. I knew it was him, my son. I felt he was very proud of me. And, even though he was not with us physically, he was with us in Spirit.

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The Spirit Never Dies

Therefore, when I think about the happiest moments of my life, I know that this was one moment that made me very happy. I was happy because I achieved a goal with top honors. I was happy because I was the pride of my children and husband. I was happy because my forever 20-year-old angel in heaven somehow showed me he was proud of me. He also showed me that even though our loved ones are not physically here, they will always be with us in spirit because the spirit never dies.

Originally published at https://debbiesreflection.com on February 11, 2018.

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My writing journey began as a way to cope with grief. I realized I enjoyed writing and began a blog, Debbie’s Reflection (https://debbiesreflection.com). I also enjoy traveling. Therefore, as a traveler, I began another blog, Traveler Wows (https://travelerwows.com), in which I share tips on places, landmarks, and reviews on airlines, hotels, and restaurants. Thank you for joining me on my writing journey.

Orlando, FL
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