Students overcome tragedies

Jocelyn Dennis
Holding his hand tight. Traveling to find treatments.
Still grasping on.
Spending your days by his side, making each moment count.
Gripping on with all your might.
Hearing the news that will change your life forever.
Finally learning to let go. Life can change in an instant. When she was only 5 years old, sophomore Jocelyn Dennis learned how life can change in the blink of an eye. Her father passed away at the age of 38 after being diagnosed with a brain tumor before she had even graduated kindergarten.
“He was diagnosed a month or two before I was born,” Dennis said. “We would go to different states and different doctors for surgeries. He [went through] 7 surger- ies, 18 months of chemotherapy and 2 types of radiation.
Dennis said because she was so young at the time of his passing, she wasn’t fully aware of the repercussions, which made coping a little easier.
“I think if I had been older, it would have affected me a little more,” she said. “I think just because I was so young it didn’t really set in until he was actually gone.”
Dennis said her father’s positivity and humor never diminished, even through such a trying time.
“He still is a big inspiration to me
because he was so strong and positive during such a hard time,” she said.
Dennis said November 6, 2002 started off as a normal day until the principal called her out of class and drove her home along with her older sister who seemed to have a better understanding of what was going on. “My sister just all of a sudden started
bawling, and I had no idea what was going on,” she said. “Then we pulled up to my house, and I remember walking through my door, and all my relatives were in there all bawling. I was just so confused.”
Dennis said her mother said she had to say her last goodbyes to her father because she asked the hospice nurse to take him off the medicine due to his critical condition.
“She knew that it was going to be that day. I think she had a gut-feeling,” she said. Dennis said her mother was trying to hold it together and put on a brave face for
her daughters. “She was emotional, but she wasn’t emotional around me and my sister,” she said. “I think, with what I know now, she was probably a little depressed and trying to hold it together.”
Dennis said everything in her life immensely changed after his passing, and these changes put a strain on her relationship with her mother.
“It’s harder to get along with my mom sometimes just be- cause she has to be the mom and the dad,” she said. “It’s hard not hav- ing a second parent.”
Dennis said her whole elementary school was extremely supportive during her family’s time of grieving, and many of them even attended the funeral alongside her.
“My friends have always been supportive and try to make me feel better,” she said. “It’s always hard having to tell people that my dad died, and it always gives people a different outlook on me.”
Dennis said Relay for Life has become a very helpful and important event in her life because she is able to spread aware- ness about the effects cancer can have on everyone.
“Relay for Life is important because can- cer is a terrible thing, so raising money for the cause is a great thing,” she said. “When they were reading off the names [during the Luminaria Ceremony] and they said his, was when it really hit me, and I kind of lost it.”
Dennis said she doesn’t know if she will ever fully recover from her loss.
“I don’t think it’s really going to sink in until I get to places in my life that a dad would be a big part of, like my wedding, or those things you want your dad there for,” she said.
Dennis said she’s learned a variety of important lessons through her father’s passing.
“I know you have to make the best out of every situation, even if it’s crappy,” she said. “It’s just about making yourself happy and others happy.”
Dennis said her advice to anyone else who has lost a parent at a young age is to be positive.
“Try to see good in what he or she was when they were alive, and try to find the happy side of it,” she said.
Savannah Martin
Sophomore Savannah
Martin also dealt with the passing of her father when she was 10 years old.
Martin said her father was an excellent parent and stayed very involved in his children’s lives.
“He was around a lot and kept our family together,” she said. “He provided for us and was just really outgoing and happy all the time. We have the same sense of humor.”
Martin said he was diagnosed with lung cancer almost two years before he passed, and those years were full of treatment and appreciation for each remaining moment.
“When he had to be in the hospital, it wouldn’t be that bad because he would just have to get chemotherapy,” she said. “The only time it was bad was when he got really sick from the chemo, but that didn’t really happen that much.”
Martin said since she was a little bit older, it was harder to deal with the loss.
“I knew him well enough to remember a bunch of things, but it wasn’t really that long either, so it’s kind of a hard age to deal with it at,” she said.
Martin said they found out the chemotherapy wasn’t working six months before, so they were all preparing themselves for the inevitable.
“I heard my mom talking to the nurse [while] I was sleeping on the couch, and I heard her go in the kitchen, and it woke me up,” she said. “I heard her talking to [the nurse], and that’s how I found out he had died.”
Because her father provided for the family in many ways, Martin said after his passing, everyone took on new responsibilities.
“[My mom] started working again as a nurse,” she said. “She works full-time, and now she has to do taxes and stuff. She had to take on his responsibilities, so we kind of had to take over hers. [My brother and I] just pretty much
do a lot of housework, and she does the bills and stuff.” Martin said the biggest difference in her family now is
they don’t participate in as many activities as a family. “We don’t do as much family stuff anymore, like family
vacations, just because my mom works full-time,” she said. “We don’t do family meals, and we never really see his side of the family anymore.”
Martin said her classmates were very supportive even though they were a little too young to fully comprehend her situation. “I was gone for a while, and they all made me cards and stuff,” she said. “People knew it was happening, but I don’t think they really knew.”
Martin said through her father’s passing, she learned that life is short and nothing should be taken for granted.
“What motivates me to keep going is probably just that that’s what he would want us to do,” she said.
Martin said she and Dennis have formed a special friendship through knowing they’ve both lost a parent, and it has helped to know someone else understands her situation.
“We went through the same thing, and she just gets it,” she said. “We both only have one parent in the house, [and] it’s nice to know you are not the only one.”