When life hurts you, remember the hurt.

Dear Ashley,

It’s me. Well, you. Well, us. But I am you two years in the future. I know this may seem impossible, and your head may be filled with questions. Before you panic, I am writing to you because you are about to go through a big life change. You have no reason to believe me, but after all I am you. I know that right now you are obsessed with editing videos, guess what? I still am. But that’s off topic. I know everything about you, obviously, including what you are about to face. I am here to guide you and support you. Everything will be okay even on the days when you are gonna wanna give up. Life will give you and the family a big test, especially you. In order to pass you are gonna have to hold on and have hope. There is probably nothing you could have done to avoid what is going to happen these next few years, which is why you need to remember that you will be fine, your family will be fine. The sun will rise again.

It’s August 2018, right? You are about to start a new middle school—the one you never imagined going to—Our Lady Of Charity. I know you feel frightened that things will go wrong, and all you desire to do is be at the middle school all your best friends are attending together. All you want to do is be back in Ecuador with your family. I can’t assure you everything will be easy at this school because these next two years most certainly will not. You will face bumpy roads. I will not get into detail, but you should listen to what I will say. You will lose friends, go through what you feel is the end of the world, but you do still have your entire life ahead. And you will make friends. I know that being alone might be a big fear. Your teachers will be unforgettable, and most importantly, you are gonna be just fine. Remember that most days are just one bad day, not a bad life. It’s okay to be feeling like your heart is racing just thinking about the first day. Seventh and eighth grade will be the fastest, hardest but most achieving years. Keep a positive mindset. I know that is very hard, but please try. You know how you thought you wouldn’t make it? You know how you thought one bad grade would prevent you from getting into Nazareth Academy? Guess what, you start Nazareth in a month! You graduated at OLC as the valedictorian who gave a pretty inspiring speech at a graduation in the middle of a pandemic, but I am getting way too ahead of myself. You will learn in two years all about that. Another positive thing is, remember that scholarship that your new history teacher you do not like told you about? Yes, that one you are thinking of. That scholarship became yours because you pushed through and showed the best. You are a Daniel Murphy scholar. Be proud of yourself. And hold on because this new school is not everything that you will fight through these last months of 2018.

When you get to October, yes your birthday month. I think you may wanna sit down for this part. You see, once you get to this point, the impossible seemed to happen. Again, I will not explain every single thing, but Jencarl was getting some fevers, getting sick, and Mom and Dad didn’t know why, neither did his pediatrician. Then the house will have some trouble. Causing you guys to stay at a hotel for the weekend. Which led to that Saturday. This weekend you guys had to arrive at the emergency room at the children’s hospital. These next few days will be hard, while Mom stays at the hospital with Jencarl while they find out what he has, while dad works and while you have to stay at Tia Alex’s. It’s gonna feel like a long week, but all this time that you feel like you have wasted will all be explained. On October 25, you woke up just like any other day and went to school and celebrated both of your new friends’ birthdays. Then Dad picked you up and said you guys needed to immediately head to the hospital. You’ll go to the hospital, afraid about what will happen. Once you get there, Mom will leave you with Jencarl while they talk to the doctors. I want you to be prepared for this moment before life changes. When Mom comes in crying and Dad takes you to the side. Take a deep breath. Life will be okay, even when you are about to have your heart crushed. Even when Dad tells you the worst thing anyone can say to you. You guys will be okay. At this point you know what I am talking about now, at least you will. I know right this second, you feel your heart at your feet. I know you feel your heart racing and your mind being filled with questions on how and why? You feel the guilt in your heart. Was it your fault that your brother had just been diagnosed with Leukemia? How could this happen? This was the scariest thing. I know you do not know how to feel. I know life is about to change, I know. You guys as a family will suffer through a lot. I know you might feel like this is more Jencarl’s battle, but starting the day he got sick not only did he get sick, all of you guys got sick. You are gonna face terrible days. Days where you feel like you lost your parents. Days where you feel selfish for wanting some of your parents’ attention when you know Jencarl needs them the most.

The worst feeling is knowing Jencarl is sick and deep down wishing it had been you so he did not face this pain. Yes, our little baby Jencarl. The one that seemed like you were holding in your arms two days ago. The one you saw lose his first teeth. The one that you wanted to protect forever. Even the first few days when you were mad because you wanted a sister. I know he’s your world. I know you care, I know you love him, I love Jencarl with every bit of my heart, I know it is very rare to find a good brother and sister relationship but you guys are different. So hold on to that. He is the same person you have taken care of for the last five years. He has not changed. He is your favorite person, your special person. The one that you rely on even if he is eight years younger. The only person you feel can cheer you up when you have a frown on your face. He can be the only person who stands up to Mom for you. He is your Jencarl. But this is a time to be strong for him and your family. Hold on to Mom when you see her crying and praying. Be there for Dad, too. He may not show it, but he’s heartbroken. If someone got to talk to me when this happened, I wish they told me that things will be fine. Even if they did, I wish I believed them. God has a plan for the family. He does everything for a reason. I hope you know that this is not your fault. Nothing you have done has led to this moment. God does what he does not to hurt you but to teach you lessons, He gives his toughest battles to his strongest warriors. Listen to what Mom says when she says she loves you with her whole heart and so does Dad. You will have bad days by yourself and together. But you need to focus on school right now even with everything going on, focus on that because it will all be worth it. Jencarl might be in treatment for the next four years, and the next two years might be hard but they will go by faster if you stay together as a family. 

If past me knew what I was telling you, things would go smoother. Just to stay strong.  This will also be a good time for you to build a relationship with God. A time to learn how to be the strong one, but you can break at times. Nobody is stopping you from breaking down. Everything will fall into place. Jencarl is two years closer to ending treatment, you are starting high school like I mentioned. He is clean and no cancer cells detected for almost two years now. You still have a lot going on, but hey, things have improved since two years ago. Your effort will be rewarded, in both life and in school. Bad days are like rainy days—they come and eventually go and after that sunny days arrive. Do not ever give up, wait for the sun. Just do not mess up the way I did, change the way things went. Do not lash out on your friends or on your mom and dad. They are not to be blamed for the way life has planned out. Nobody can be blamed for all this, but like I said don’t make the same mistakes I made by hurting the people you love, because it may not seem like they are, they do get hurt. Many people are going through what you go through, you’re not alone. Rely on family and your new friends the most. I know this must be scary to hear from a future you and even scarier knowing that this battle with Jencarl will last to 2022,  but it’s only gonna make you stronger. The hospital will become a second home. You will have help and you guys will make it through. When life hurts you, remember the hurt. Let it make you stronger.

Ashley Ponton – Nazareth – DMSF