Friday, February 21, 2014

Bright Before Sunrise: My One Night Story

Author Tiffany Schmidt, of the recently published young adult novel BRIGHT BEFORE SUNRISE, has asked various authors and bloggers to share their "One Night" stories in response to the book's tagline: One night can change how you see the world. One night can change how you see yourself. I decided to share my own One Night Story, digging a bit deeper into a very emotional time in my life.  Most of you know that I lost my mom to cancer awhile ago.  I've shared bits and pieces of that time in my life and how it's affected me now.  But for this particular assignment, I am going beyond the surface and sharing a very personal moment, one that I immediately thought of when I read this book's tag line.

One night can change how you see the world. One night can change how you see yourself.

It was the fall of 2003 and I was 22 years old. Most of my friends had just finished college and were on the cusp of starting their career. I, on the other hand, was still slowly making my way through school, not having a clue what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. But then, life threw me a curve ball, one of the biggest plays in my lifetime that I will ever see.

My mother was diagnosed with stage 4 vaginal cancer that had metastasized to her lungs. There wasn’t a cure, we were told. All that was left to do was to make sure she was comfortable. One day I was beginning classes at the community college, and then the next I was listening to doctors tell me that my mother only had months to live. There are moments in your life when time feels as though it stops, yet speeds up all at the same time. I found myself in a whirlwind tunnel of hospitals, doctors, IVs, vitals, and tears. Oh so many tears.

We had been in the hospital for about ten days. I say we because between my sisters, my dad, and myself, someone was always there with my mother. Most of the time she was pumped with so much morphine through her IV that she probably didn’t even know someone was there. Looking back though, I know that was more for our benefit than hers. At this point we understood it was more about comfort, and each day there was a new task to battle, an oxygen level to maintain, or a protein count to make. I forgot about the outside world, sometimes sleeping in the same clothes I had worn the day before.

One night, it must have been very late, or very early in the morning hours, I remember my mother waking up. She hadn’t spoken a lot in the past few days, so at this moment I was just happy to see a reaction from her. I don’t remember what exactly was said, but I do remember her asking me what was on the TV. I picked up the remote, only finding an early morning news broadcast on and leaving it there. She then asked me to come lie with her in bed. So I slipped out of my flip flops and snuggled up next to her.

There we were, just mother and daughter, lying in bed that early morning. She was stroking her pale, fragile fingers through my hair. If words were shared, I can’t remember what they were. All I remember is that feeling of having my mother’s comfort next to me. I told myself to hold on to this memory, that it would later be very important to me. And I was right.

This is my last memory of my mother being my mother. Of her taking care of me, nurturing me, loving me. In the next few days that would follow, she slipped further into a comatose state, and then on September 20, 2003 she took her final breath. I have many memories, some nightmares, from the twenty days she was diagnosed in the hospital, to her final day here on Earth. But it is this memory I hold so close to my heart. It’s the way I want to remember her, even through all the bad days we saw there. This one night gave me strength that I could hold on to for the next few days, and eventually for the rest of my life. It’s impossible for it not to change my world, and it most certainly did. But I am ever so grateful for having this one moment to look back on and remember my last memory with my mother, as the woman who always protected me, the woman who unconditionally loved her baby until there was no strength left to fight.

My world changed that night, it shifted from fear of losing my mother, to a sense of peace, knowing that whatever happens next, as horrible as it may be, I’ll be able to handle it. And ten years later, I’m continuously learning how to handle it, constantly reminding myself that this has changed me, and will continue to change me.

Please visit Bright Before Sunrise's tumblr page to read other One Night Stories:  Their stories have been heartfelt, as well as humbling. It's amazing how one night can change so much in a person's life.

Bright Before Sunrise by Tiffany Schmidt
Published: February 18, 2014 by Walker Childrens

About the book: When Jonah is forced to move from Hamilton to Cross Pointe for the second half of his senior year, "miserable" doesn't even begin to cover it. He feels like the doggy-bag from his mother's first marriage and everything else about her new life—with a new husband, new home and a new baby—is an upgrade. The people at Cross Pointe High School are pretentious and privileged—and worst of all is Brighton Waterford, the embodiment of all things superficial and popular. Jonah’s girlfriend, Carly, is his last tie to what feels real... until she breaks up with him.

For Brighton, every day is a gauntlet of demands and expectations. Since her father died, she’s relied on one coping method: smile big and pretend to be fine. It may have kept her family together, but she has no clue how to handle how she's really feeling. Today is the anniversary of his death and cracks are beginning to show. The last thing she needs is the new kid telling her how much he dislikes her for no reason she can understand. She's determined to change his mind, and when they're stuck together for the night, she finally gets her chance.

Jonah hates her at 3p.m., but how will he feel at 3 a.m.?

One night can change how you see the world. One night can change how you see yourself. [goodreads]


  1. Wow. I've seen a number of these sort of posts over the course of the last week or so, but none half so inspiring, powerful or beautifully written. Thank you for being brave enough to allow yourself to be so open and vulnerable as to share such an important moment in your life. Thank you for being a continual inspiration and reminding me once again that no matter how difficult or challenging the situation, one can not only survive but triumph, even in the face of unimaginable loss. This post, but more importantly you yourself, are a testament to how special your mother must have been and how lasting her legacy still is, and I'm sure that she would be proud to see the women you've grown into today <3

  2. This is just amazing! Thank you for sharing something like this with us. I luckily have never been in your place but my two best friends have and I can't even imagine what it is like. To have that one memory of your mom is something very special and so awesome that you shared that with all of us. You gave me chills just reading this post and I have to thank you again. Without knowing your mom, I know she would be proud of you. ♥

  3. Ginger, you know from our emails that this story made me cry the first time I read it. It's made me tear-up with each re-read. You are such a powerful legacy of your mother and her influence in your life. I know when you're in the classroom with a group of your own students, you'll continue to be such a bright force in their lives. Thank you so much for sharing this One Night <3

  4. I've had this open for many moments, and I don't really know how to comment. I really appreciate you sharing this memory with us today. It's not even close to the same, but when I was a freshman in high school, our family went through a difficult time and there are little details like this that I still remember and are sad but still satisfying to remember. (Does that make sense?) Like everyone else above, I think your mom would be so proud of you for not only all your efforts to do well in your life and be successful but also to keep her alive in so many of these accomplishments, in the way you devote time to your sisters and nephews, and even the way you connect to books. (Like this one.) xo

  5. Thank you for sharing your most personal memory of your mom, Ginger. I know that must've taken a lot out of you and I wish I could hug you right now. But just the fact that you are able to write about it and share it shows how strong you were then and are today. I think that when the day comes that I have to suffer such a loss, I'm going to think back on this and on you and know that I too will make it. :) Thank you.

  6. I agree with meg. No words, just tears and hugs. Thank you for sharing such a memory.

  7. This brought tears to my eyes. It's so important to hold onto memories with our loved ones, and I think most of us (I'm guilty of this) take times with people we care about for granted. I know we've never met, but I can say with confidence that you're such a strong person, an inspiration, and beautiful inside and out. <3

  8. This post was incredibly beautiful, raw and poignant. I can't imagine how much courage it must've taken to write and share such a private moment with your readers. While cancer took your mother away, you triumphed over the grief that ensued afterwards. I've lost family members to cancer, too, and while the pain and grief never fully goes away, I'm living forward, remembering the happy, good moments. Like so many others, I'm sure that your mom would be proud to see the person you are today, kind, generous and caring as well as the accomplishments you've reached. Thank you for being an inspiration and many hugs. xo <3

  9. All my love, hugs, and support XOXOXOXO

  10. Oh G. Thank you so much for sharing this. What an absolutely beautiful memory to have of your mother.

  11. Ginger, your "one night" story made me cry. Thank you for sharing this precious, precious memory of your mother with us! I seriously don't know what else to say but that your mom would be so proud of you and all you've accomplished, and that I am sending you all my love and hugs <3

  12. Such a beautiful post Ginger...thank you so much for sharing. My story is kind of like yours in the sense that being there for the death of my father in 2010 changed me so completely and the memories (though painful) of being there as he took his final breath will always be with me. Hang on to the memory of love that was present in that room between the two of you and your family. My father was never conscious while I was with him in that hospital room (never left his side in the 2 days he was there) but I know he was aware of my presence and it was such an honor to be there holding his hand as he passed. Such a powerful and life changing moment. Hugs! xo


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