I started my freshman year of high school in 2017. It was an exciting time for me because it was high school, and I was looking forward to a fresh start. I joined the football team over the summer and created solid friendships with my teammates, so the first day was a breeze. The first few weeks went smoothly, and soon the football season was underway.
Unexpectedly, my uncle, who had recovered from bladder cancer two years prior, was re-diagnosed, but this time, the prognosis was terminal. When this happened, my life changed drastically.
My uncle played football in high school and college; he also played in the Fireman’s football league during his 30 year career. He was always big on sports and fitness and his body was in top shape. When I told him I had joined the football team, he began training me. We spent the whole summer together getting ready for the season and our bond became stronger. In many ways, I was the son he never had.
My uncle was my mentor, my trainer, and my best friend. Sadly, the disease began to take a toll on his body. I would visit him every day after practice and he would ask me how it was going. He wanted lots of details. However, seeing him that way began to take a toll on me too, and I had difficulty focusing and completing homework assignments. There were nights where I couldn't sleep because of the constant fear that my uncle could die at any moment.
I'll never forget the day of October 13th, 2017. As usual, my mom picked me up from practice, and she seemed a little off. A few moments passed, and she said, "Uncle Dre passed away." Words can't describe what was going through my head at that moment; all I could do was cry. My mom reminded me that he was no longer in pain, he was in a better place and he was with me in spirit.
My uncle was a man of many words and now, I realize he was teaching me life lessons that continue to motivate me. Shortly after his passing, I felt hopeless. I was in a depressed state of mind, but I had my family there to lift me back up, since we were all healing together. I started focusing on my goals and studies. I finished my final semester of freshman year on the honor roll by achieving a 3.75 GPA. To date, I've continued to maintain my honors GPA status. I joined the National Honors Society and will be graduating with a Specialized Art Diploma. I have learned that we all have obstacles and challenges to overcome. God doesn’t put obstacles in our way that we can’t overcome. When we get knocked down, we have to get right back up; just like my Uncle Dre always did.