Is my college essay too tragic?

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Discus: College Admissions: March 2004 Archive: Is my college essay too tragic?
By Ilcapo (Ilcapo) on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 04:01 pm: Edit

Racing through the house with my sister, smiling from ear to ear, no one but my mother could understand what had happened in such a short amount of time. From the chest pains she listened to him describe, to the ticket she received on the way to the hospital, to the shriek she let out when the doctors told her, and now, to the home where her children waited for her, all in a matter of two days. She was a widow, my mother, a widow at the age of thirty-five, left with two kids.

When a widow is thirty-six and her two kids are under the age of five, things come into the spectrum that would seem almost unthinkable. When my mother returned home from the hospital, her house was the same as it had been when she left. Her two kids were still playing, her bed was still unmade, and her husbandís clothes were still on the floor. The only difference was that now she was not picking up the phone to call her best friend and tell her about her long, tiresome, day, but instead calling a babysitter she never thought she would need. It must have been odd, I imagine, telling a teenager you had never met before that you needed a babysitter so that you could attend your husbandís funeral. It must have been ever stranger, though, to think that for the rest of your life you would have to tell people that you had been to the funeral of the one person you loved the most in the world.

Unfortunately, in my life I will never be able to share in the grief that my mother felt that day. To some extent I wish I could, I wish I could feel the suffering she felt when the doctor held her hand and told her he didnít make it through surgery. I wish I could feel the way her hands trembled, her heart beat out of her chest, her stomach twisted into knots, and her hands slicked with sweat. Or I wish I could feel the tears roll down her face when she drove past her home, the home she had bought with her husband, and saw her two kids dancing in the leaves that had fallen onto the lawn.

Today, I look back and wish that I could have bottled her emotion and consumed it for just one day. For just one day I wish that I could mourn the death of my father like everyone else mourns the death of someone they love. I wish that I could feel a knife piercing my heart and I wish that I could blame someone for what has happened. Instead, though, I must struggle with my own, separate emotions.

It is rare to find someone who has ever lost their father before they got a chance to know him. Some nights I lay in bed and try to imagine my life with him as my dad, throwing me in the tub as a toddler, playing catch as a 3rd grader, reading me a story other than one that the psychologist gave my mom on death and dying. I see him teaching me how to drive, yelling at me to brake and screaming when I go through a red light. I see him standing next to me in front of the mirror on the night of my first school dance, telling me I look handsome. It is these times that I look to him for the strength to do what I do in life. On the first day of high school, I found myself imagining him walking in with a video camera and telling me to ďgo get em!Ē When I want to yell at my mom, I imagine him sitting me down and telling me not to disrespect the person who brought me into this world. Whether any of my imaginations are anything like the personality he had first made me question my sanity. Why was I pretending to know someone that I did not? Of course, people told me he was a great man, but what if he wasnít? It wasnít until recently that I realized what matters is that I grieve the loss of my father in my own way.

Seeing him beside me now, as I write my college essay, I know that he is proud that I am doing something he never did. I will be the first one in his family to go to college, and it is strange now to see what I have wrote and wonder what I would have written about if he hadnít died seventeen years ago. My father has made me the person I am today. I am no longer a boy struggling to understand the death of my father, but a man who looks to his dad when lifeís toughest questions comes his way, and then finds in himself the answers. If there is anything that my Dad has taught me in life, it is that I must always do what my heart and soul tells me is just. I live by that idea every day, and no matter where I go to school or what I make of my life, I know that my Dad will always be by my side and inside my soul telling me that I made the right decision.


By Ilcapo (Ilcapo) on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 05:33 pm: Edit


By Ariesathena (Ariesathena) on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 05:49 pm: Edit

Um... I would not say that it is too tragic, but I would say that it is not focused. You start with your mom (which you describe as if you were there recently), then move on to growing up without a dad, then move on to speak of him in spiritual terms.

Personally, I would not use an event which happened before I could remember anything as the subject of a college essay. If you really want to write about this, then focus instead on how you have adapted to living without a father, how it has influenced your relationship with other family members, or how you have learned to find father figures elsewhere. Talk about his parents (your grandparents, if they are still alive) and their relationship with him.

The best advice I can give you when you are writing is to write about what you know. That is the opposite of what you are doing.

My parents divorced when I was two, and the first thing that I remember is my mom explaining what would happen. In some limited way, I can see where you are coming from (I never remembered my parents being married), but there are thousands of other experiences I've had which more define me as a person than that lack of a two-parent household.

I am not seeing you in this essay. I'm not seeing your mom in it, either. What I am seeing is how you imagine a person who is no longer with us would be.

By Ilcapo (Ilcapo) on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 06:27 pm: Edit

Ok thanks for the advice - it definately helps. So let me see if I can sort of explain to you what I was going for. Yes, it's definately choppy and disjointed, but I think that the actual topic is something that I need to write about. Sure there have been other things in my life that have more significantly changed the person that I am, but nothing has really built my character in the same way that not having a father has. I want the person who reads my essay to understand how hard it has been for me to not be able to mourn the death of my father. The point of writing about not being able to remember it is because the moral of the story is that just because I can't remember it doesn't mean that it hasn't effected me and made me question the person I am today.

By Ariesathena (Ariesathena) on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 06:31 pm: Edit

Specific examples are good. My dad always came to every track meet I ran in - how did it feel to do things and not have a father around? Specifics of that would be good.

Do not forget your mother in all this. From what you've written, it sounds like she is very much NOT a part of your life at all. Beware of that. You are handling a difficult topic, and there are few (if any) ways to really do it well.

By Woogiewilly25 (Woogiewilly25) on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 06:37 pm: Edit

Hey...I wrote my essay on my father's death too, so I feel you on this...I wouldn't say yours is too tragic, but it's focusing on the sincere sadness...insead of talking about what you WISH you could do, talk about how you grew and what the death meant to you, how you overcame it....or at leat thats what i did, for my maryland essay i wrote my own question "When do people crossover from childhood to adulthood? when do you feel you made this cross over?" and i wrote about giving the eulogy at my father's funeral...overall I think it's a good choice for essay, but just put a diffrent outlook on it. =o)

By Virgo007 (Virgo007) on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 06:52 pm: Edit

I'm so sorry about your dad :(

By Slowloris (Slowloris) on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 08:38 pm: Edit

"...I think that the actual topic is something that I need to write about..."

this is understandable, but perhaps you should reconsider your audience. this essay is well written, but its main problem is that it is about your father and, secondarily, your mother. an essay about your father's death does not have to be about you, but a college essay about your father's death most certainly does. either rewrite it so that it reveals more about YOU, or choose a different topic.

By Mommydog (Mommydog) on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 09:17 pm: Edit

I'm sorry about your Dad, however, I think that your essay is a bit mauldin. It talks about something that happened to you, but really doesn't tell the reader much about you, and that's what is most important.
Let me give you an example--
The best college essay I ever read was about the death of a father when the writer was 14 years old. However, he approached it by discussing what he learned about his father after his death and how it affected him. Specifically, he wrote about going to his father's office with his aunt the day after his father's sudden death to clean out his things. In one of the drawers they found a short story that the father had written, along with literary journals and books on the writers' market. The father used to joke about how boring his job was, but no one in the family had any idea that he aspired to be a writer. This led to the heart of the essay where the student wrote about how much he loves to learn different things and is passionate about finding those things that interest him the most. He wrote that in learning about his father's secret ambition to be a writer, that he was more strongly motivated to find his own passions, and would not, like his father, defer his dreams.

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