I will never forget my junior year of high school; not because of the parties, the dances, or the school trips. That year does not stay with me because of the people I met, but rather because of the people I lost. The month before the school year began, I lost my father to a sudden and unexpected heart attack. I entered the school year already dealing with feelings of grief, but those feelings were only intensified as the year progressed. Five students died that year, three from my graduating class. Nights that my best friend and I should have been walking around the mall, talking and laughing, were instead spent attending the wakes of people our age, people who had been there one moment and were gone the next.
That year taught me that people deal with death in a variety of ways. I watched family and friends grieve over open caskets, some seemingly void of emotion, and others barely able to stand from the weight of it all. I remember one father fiercely hugging one of my classmates, crushing her to him after she said a few kind words about his daughter. During each of the wakes, myself and others constantly mentioned feeling like none of what was clearly happening was real; all of us realizing that the denial stage of grief is not always as obvious as insisting the death never happened, but that it occasionally manifests as the belief that you can see the person’s chest moving as you kneel at the coffin, or expecting that person to suddenly sit up and start laughing about the joke he just played.
. When I sat down to outline the story I would write for my Honor’s Thesis, I only knew that I wanted to develop a fictional piece that was driven by emotions. It did not take long to remember the emotional roller coaster I was forced to ride throughout my junior year, and I knew that I wanted to write a story about a loss that is so unexpected it strikes readers as grotesquely unfair.
After experiencing the deaths of family and friends, and watching how those deaths affected each person differently, I chose to write about a family that has to learn to cope with a sudden and heart wrenching tragedy. The goal of my thesis is to take readers on an emotional journey that explores the various reactions to loss and makes them question how they would react in a similar situation. I want readers to understand the fear that develops when a person is forced to realize that his world is far from untouchable. It is one thing to finally accept that a person is gone, but it is something else to finally understand that your loved one is not coming back; I want those who read my story to become aware of the fact that sometimes that second realization is worse. I hope readers will take something away from my story, even if that underlying message simply reinforces a lesson that has already been learned.
Cotten, Renee, "In An Instant" (2010). Honors College Theses. 87.