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  • Eternal Flame

Life-Changing Moment

By: Jolina Lopez


There are moments in life that change you for the better. Moments when you realize nothing will ever be the same and time is divided into two parts: before that moment and after that moment. Before that moment, sunshine flooded my soul. I had the biggest smile on my face thinking about the weekend to come. My life was not perfect, but I had two parents that loved and cared for me. My parents were teachers, but my dad was a teacher and a coach. I would never see him, as he would leave the house before I woke up for school, and return after midnight Albeit, for that particular weekend, he stayed home. Though he was home for a wedding anniversary, I was still looking forward to spending time with him. Being a carefree six-year-old, the only thing I could think about was how he and I would be able to have the rest of the weekend together. I was jumping up with joy while thinking about having his company. Once we got to the ceremony, I can only remember fragments.

Original Image By: Jolina Lopez

We were in a catholic church filled with many of my dad’s relatives. Once it was time to receive the Eucharist, time stopped. I only remember seeing my dad stumbling to get back to our seats. He went to receive the eucharist at the front of the church near the altar. Yet, he held on to the pews, as he could not walk down the aisle. Oddly enough, I only remember one thing, the face my dad made when walking back to the pew. He was in pain; he had so much trouble walking back to our seats that he could not make it. He almost fell, so people helped him to the back of the church. He had symptoms such as numbness on only one side of the face and difficulties speaking.

I did not realize it back then, but now that I know, I now realize he was having a stroke. After that moment, someone called 911. Then, I knew everything in my life was going to be different. My dad was now going to be home all the time, and being a six-year-old child, I could not tell if that was something to be happy about. Next, my mom left with my dad as he was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance. My dad had just become sick and I was left alone with relatives. I had so many thoughts running through my head. I was thinking about how my dad was feeling and what was I supposed to do without my parents? I stood frozen in place as I could only cry nonstop. I was finally placed in a car with relatives, though I was alone with only my thoughts. I cannot recall if I heard sounds of sorrow or nervousness.

The moment was all just a fast blur. Although I knew I was with my cousin, Rachel, I still felt lost. She took me once my parents were gone. I do not remember where we were going, but I assumed we were heading to the hospital. There is only one vivid memory I remember about Rachel and that is she gave me a heart-shaped pocket mirror. I do not know the reason why she gave it to me, but I still have it to this day. I did not realize it back then, but that gift was significant. Every time I look in the mirror, I see someone. I see a person who may have lost "Coach Lopez" but now has "Dad." My dad is my biggest fan and supporter. Growing up, he helped me from learning my spelling words to studying for the ACT. I would not be the person I am today without him by my side. I could not imagine where I would be without him pushing me to always do my best.

Original Image By: Jolina Lopez

I believe everything happens for a reason. Even though I do not know why my dad had a stroke, it happened for a reason. The stroke was considered a mini-stroke, but he had symptoms afterward that caused doctors to look at him more closely. This mini-stroke allowed my dad to become somewhat of a mystery to doctors. After lots of tests, he was diagnosed with a rare disease, Gitelman syndrome, that revealed itself due to the stroke. Based on what doctors found, my dad was born with a defective chromosome and the mini-stroke set everything off. Maybe God wanted him to find out he had this rare syndrome that was slowly weakening all his muscles.

Maybe knowing would allow him to prepare better for the day he would no longer have the strength of all his muscles. Maybe God wanted him to take a break or he wanted him to spend time with me and my family. Despite the fact that my life-changing moment could be considered unfortunate, I like to think positively. I think I am blessed to have a dad who will always be there for me. And even though he misses coaching and teaching, I'm pretty sure he likes being a dad better. Although doctors call him one in a million since he is the only one in Lubbock with this syndrome, I think he's one in a million because he's my dad.

Image Created By: Jolina Lopez

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