This is for anyone who believes, or aches to believe, in Something More. This is for the girls and boys who almost died. For the ones who wasted themselves away. This is for headaches at three a.m. and hollow stomachs. This is for anyone who’s ever been held hostage by disease so badly it overtakes all the joy, energy, and love you’ve left to give and offers you a shell of a life in return.
This, this story, is a new day.
God smacked into me. I was standing in my living room, holding a remote and turning off an otherwise muted TV. I’d been sitting in the kitchen for hours, forgetting that the TV had even been on, and pressed the power button.
Before it flickered off, I caught sight of a girl onscreen.
Something told me to turn the TV back on. I needed to hear her story.
So I did.
And within 30 seconds, it became clear why.
Mariah Pulice was 19 years old. She had spent most of adolescence chained to the belief that she would never be able to starve herself enough. In high school, she lived on a slice of American cheese a day. She forgot how to love anything. She forgot how to laugh, how to sing, how to experience anything other than emptiness.
And she lost friends. She lost herself. She lost pounds and pounds.
I waited for her sister to say the words that shook me to pieces: “She wasn’t Mariah. Mariah’s always fun all the time and she’s always energetic and goofy and… she didn’t want to do anything.”
Because I knew that girl. That energetic and goofy girl who just got the wind knocked out of her and could do nothing but lie in bed and text her roommate to tell her she thought her heart was going to stop beating.
I prayed she could sing. And she did. Let It Be by The Beatles.
But what broke me clean in half was when they told her she was going to Hollywood and her sisters and her mother and her whole family came running in and smacked into her. Almost knocked her onto the ground. And they were crying because she was alive and because someone believed in her second chance the way she believed in her own life.
And her mother, through inconsolable tears, just falling over her crumbling daughter, could do nothing but thank the judges for this moment.
Because that’s what we do when the people we love make it through unconquerable storms: we get scared, downright terrified, that they will not survive. We play the scenarios in our heads, the really bad options and the good ones, when we’re able. We think about the future as this gift we won’t get to open because life has taken us down this irreconcilable path.
And then, one day, we wake up and dream. We start to let the cracks of sunlight through the slats in our dusty attic of a head. We start to be alive again.
I meant it when I said God smacked into me. Standing there, breath lodged in my throat, shoulders shaking with silent tears. Because she was alive. So am I. So are the hundreds of thousands of others who may or may not ever get a chance to see the sunlight peek through the darkness.
She had won.
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