Learning to smile through tears

Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence.


It was two weeks before my 8th birthday and my little head was overflowing with dreams of Barbie’s, toys, cakes, and princesses. The invitations had been mailed, the pink cake had been ordered, and I was convinced that my princess-themed party was going to be the best day of my entire life. On October 10th, 1998, in a cruel twist of fate, my life changed forever and the dreams of princesses were quickly replaced with the pungent, antiseptic smell of hospital corridors and fervent prayers for my father’s health.

On the night of October 9th, 1998, I went to sleep in my own bedroom, but as was my routine, I woke up in the middle of the night and headed to my parents’ room. I used to quietly climb into their bed and fall asleep; I was never turned away. But, that night was different. When I got to my parents’ room, my father was standing next to the window breathing very heavily and my mother was standing two steps behind him. I can still remember very vividly hearing my mother say, “Salim, should I call an ambulance?” I could sense something was not right and I asked my mother what was wrong, but she agitatedly told me to go back to my room. Sleepy, dazed, and confused I simply stood there in the shadows watching them and within...

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