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Imagine for a moment all the people who mean something to you in a room together. Think of everyone who's changed your life, taught you something valuable. Remember the little things, the dancing, the laughter, and the manically overwhelming moments of complete and total assurance that everything will be okay. Who made those moments possible? Put them in that room.

            What is your room like? Mine's full of faces. Some are worn and tired, some are bright with youth, and others still are blurred by time. There are many I know and many I will never meet, and yet I recognize them all. Despite drastic differences in age, experience, and background among them, they all share one thing in common: in their own ways, they have each made me smile when life was easy and helped me feel less alone when smiles were terribly hard to find.

            Sometimes, the people in that room are all you have.

            Recently, we found out, after weeks of seemingly inconsequential discomfort, that my mother had a seven inch tumor somewhere around her lower abdomen that was entangled in her intestines. For two weeks, this was all we knew, as no definitive could be reached until after surgery. Countless hours of sleep were lost between my father and I, and it was as though I couldn't take a breath until we knew something, anything. All the while, mom joked, giggled, and reassured us. Us. She even addressed the tumor in question as Fred, as every goldfish she's ever had by the name of Fred (so, all of them) bit the dust within a week of bringing it home from the pet store. She was being impossibly positive, and it helped to take some of the edge off of something so foreboding and dreadful.

             If only I could have been so calm. No matter how many times I asked her to promise me she'd be okay, regardless of how many times I told myself so, I just couldn't quite believe it. Ever since I can remember, I've worried about my mom more than anything else in the world. I can recall many sleepless nights as a fragile four year old spent only in fear of losing her. Suddenly, my childhood fears were becoming a possibility. I didn't dare talk about it. I couldn't. This was something I simply had to deal with alone.

            That's where I was wrong.

            Only during the past two weeks have I truly realized the power of my room full of people to bring me out of the muck. My family immediately received a downpour of love like I had never seen before in the form of flowers, food, and company. My close friends became even closer, giving comfort and places to stay while mom was in the hospital. It's been amazing to watch these people going about their daily lives drop everything in order to offer absolutely anything needed by my mom and us. All of a sudden, I could take a breath. I was petrified, you see, but I wasn't alone anymore.

            Soon, time by myself was no longer wasted in worry but spent finding solace in the photography, poetry, and music I knew like the back of my hand but in which I could still find an infinite amount of meaning- when I needed it. I can't even begin to tell you how many moments of panic I've defeated by closing my eyes and listening to a familiar voice's sentiments or simply by dancing like a fool in my bedroom.

            Before long and not without countless prayers, mom's surgery was over. There had been no complications, and we found out Fred was benign and able to be entirely removed. She's really going to be okay. I couldn't stop saying it, noticing the way my lips formed the words and how everyone's voices seemed to lilt a little more than usual when sharing the good news, because it was finally true. A collective sigh of relief amongst the friends and family that had helped us get this far could be heard from miles away.

            This isn't the end of it, and we still have quite the stretch of road ahead of us. Recovery takes a lot of time and probably too much patience, but I'm only thankful. I have no choice but to believe that these times in life not only test our strength but reveal to us the inexhaustible positivity and comfort found within the those who impact our lives, the people with whom we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Imagine your room. We all have one, and, whether we know it or not, we are all a part of many. No matter what faces are in yours, never forget that they're always there.

Madison R.