Editor’s note: This article contains mention of family death.
It was the morning of my 11th birthday, April 6, 2013. My size six-and-a-half feet grazed the floor as they tried to locate the pink slippers which would mute the frigidness of the hardwood floor. The slippers shuffled almost as if a puppet was controlling me — some kind of abstract force pulling the strings of my arms and legs for pure enjoyment. I splashed cold water on my face like the lead character does in every high school movie, I brushed my teeth and I locked eyes with my reflection in the mirror. “Happy birthday,” I told myself. Unbeknownst to me, this would be a day that would change my life forever.
The skies were gloomy. They perfectly embodied what you missed that one class period in 10th grade while reading “Great Expectations” because you dozed off. Remember when the weather would change depending on Pip’s emotional state? When something unfortunate was bound to happen? Foreshadowing was what your teacher was emphasizing. The skies on that dismal day mumbled to me, but I couldn’t quite make out what they were trying to say.
I walked downstairs and counted each step in my head along the way. “One, two, three, four, five, six, seven … fourteen.” Strange habit, I know. I took note of the rain droplets racing down the glass of my front door as I walked by. The one on the left won. My mom stood with open arms in my orange-toned and slightly outdated kitchen. She stretched her arms and her unconditional love a hundred miles wide, or at least that’s how I viewed her wingspan while giving a hug.
“One year closer to the teenage years, Liv!”
We chatted for a bit over a slice of ice cream cake for breakfast. I felt so happy to be 11, but something still felt off.
I hadn’t known then that in the early hours of this April 6, my 22-year-old cousin Cody had been struck in a car-pedestrian accident in State College, Pennsylvania. My memory of this day is clear yet hazy at the exact same time.
Through my mother’s muffled iPhone 5S speaker, I heard the trembling in my father’s voice while talking to my mom after he had just spoken to his sister, Cody’s mother.
“I just talked to Linda. They don’t think Cody’s gonna make it.”
“What do you mean he’s not gonna make it? There’s no way.”
I remember feeling those same water droplets that were racing down the glass door, but this time they were racing down my cheeks and onto the floor. There were far too many to determine a winner this time.
As I reminisce through my writing, it has been 2,715 days since that dismal day in 2013. It’s been 65,160 hours, 390,9600 minutes, seven years. Somehow, I can relive that day with such ease, almost like it was yesterday. Since that day, though, I’ve started and finished high school at Scranton Preparatory School — the same high school Cody attended. I’m just four years short of the age Cody was upon his passing. These bone-chilling facts run through my head daily as I pen my gratitude in my journal.
There is a quote by the Dalai Lama, which goes as follows: “There is a saying in Tibetan, ‘Tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength.’ No matter what sort of difficulties, how painful an experience is, if we lose our hope, that’s our real disaster.” This quote flawlessly captures the aftermath of Cody’s death. He was known for his exuberant and magnanimous spirit — a spirit that could not be forgotten. As a result, the Cody Barrasse Memorial Foundation was established by my cousin Joe, my Aunt Linda and a plethora of Cody’s friends. Cody posthumously donated his organs to eight individuals who remain on this earth today. These individuals, who otherwise wouldn’t walk this earth today, live through the beautiful gift of life. Since 2013, a 3-on-3 memorial basketball tournament has taken place, which raises a full four-year scholarship to Scranton Prep for an incoming freshman. Through the teachings of St. Ignatius, Cody was indeed “ad altiora natus” — born for higher things.
Amid heartbreak and tragedy, there are no words that ameliorate the pain. There is no magic wand to wave that allows us to revert to the past. There is no pill or potion to take, and there is no Hollywood secret to follow. This is what life is aiming to teach us: how to recover. Our lives are like the works of famous artists; that is, we are never quite finished. We are never complete, yet we are canvases which house more than just a “finished” product. If the paintbrush had been put down for the last time, what would our purpose be?
I recall asking God, “Why me? Why us? Why Cody?” Though there is no explanation for this tribulation, I think of how blessed I am to be part of such a beautiful organization, one that focuses on the magnificence of Cody’s life, one that aids in giving people another chance at life and one that presents awareness.
We must learn to adapt. We must learn to grow from devastation. We must realize that we are here for something greater than ourselves. We must use tragedy as our source of strength through poise and lightheartedness. We are to live every day like it’s our last, free of resentment and abhorrence. We are not guaranteed every day, and to remind myself of this, I wear my green Donate Life wristband each and every day in Cody’s memory.
Go to donatelife.net to register as an organ donor.