Zachary Duff by Alecia S., Horseheads High School

What I remembered most about Zachary Duff’s funeral was how much it rained. I know, super cliché, right? But that’s what happened. We were an odd sight, the lot of us, dressed all in black and carrying great big umbrellas. Looked like vultures, we did. By we, I mean Avery Ross, Bennett Anderson, and me. Jack Wilde. We were the only ones at the funeral. No one else knew Zach enough to come, not even his own family. The rain was pounding down so loud we almost couldn’t hear the priest as he said a prayer over Zach’s grave. Not that any of us wanted to. But we did, and I guess that’s when it really hit us that Zach was dead. He was dead, at only eighteen years old, and there was nothing to be done about it. I think that was the first time I ever saw Avery cry.
Zach and I had never been real close. It was mostly Avery and Bennett he hung out with. But I loved him like a brother all the same, spending as much time with him as my busy schedule would allow. But every time I saw him, he would be in the happiest mood I saw in a human being. I never knew just how happy a person could be until I met Zach. His blue eyes would always be aglow with mischief, a huge grin on his face, as if seeing me was the best thing that ever happened to him. He dressed real nice too, kept himself tidy with his white button up shirt, dress slacks, fancy sneakers, and his coffee hair combed back. I don’t go that way, but I couldn’t help but notice that Zach was the handsomest man I ever did see.
The day I got the news was just like any other. Avery, Bennett, and I were waiting in the park for Zach after school, just like we always did. Avery was throwing little pebbles in the crystalline lake whilst Bennett and I were trying to calm him down. Avery always threw stuff when he was worried. That was his way of releasing stress, he’d say. But anyways, while we were waiting in the park a nice, fancy, black Lamborghini pulled up. We were all shocked of course; as far as we knew, there were no rich people around. Out of that car stepped a man who looked almost exactly like Zach, just three times older. He asked us our names and we told him of course, thinking he was an FBI agent or something. Turns out, he was just Zach’s dad, the jerk he always told us about. After he was sure we were really who we said we were, Zach’s dad broke the news to us. Zach had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
The next few months were chaotic for me. Zach’s parents practically disowned him after finding out he was going to die. Said they wanted nothing to do with a dead son, that it would blot the family name. I hated them for that. I stayed with Zach as mush as I could, reading him books or helping him out with his homework. Despite everything that was going on, his faith in God and his good attitude remained. I marveled at his strength and his ability to be himself throughout all the pain he had to put up with.
It wasn’t until the last few weeks of his life that Zach began to panic. He’d have fits where he’d thrash around, screaming. I had to hold him down so the doctors could give him pain meds. That’s what they said was happening; the pain would become too much for Zach and he would freak out. But I knew that wasn’t it. Zach was too strong for that! I refused to believe the doctors. After his first fit, Zach never spoke to me. He just stared up at the ceiling every time I came to visit. Bennett was the only one who could get him to talk, or even smile. I felt jealous of course, but I hid it. I couldn’t be selfish; not when Zach was in this state. Avery couldn’t visit. His parents thought he would get depressed if he saw Zach. Zach missed him a lot.
The day Zach died was quiet. The nurses wouldn’t let any of us in his room, telling us it would hurt him more than help. I went into a fit of rage then, yelling at them all to let us though. They stayed calm and insisted that only family could be let in. The three of us were all angry then. We insisted that we were the only family Zach had in the world. Finally, they let us in when Zach heard us and started bawling his eyes out, saying he wanted us to be there. I felt a sharp pang in my chest when I heard and saw him crying, although I didn’t know what it was. Avery climbed into the small hospital bed and wrapped his arms around Zach, shaking slightly as tears began to fall. Bennett and I knelt beside the bed. I gripped one of his hands whilst Bennett rested his head on Zach’s shoulder. Zach’s smile returned for the first time in months and he looked around at us all, grinning from ear to ear with tears streaming down his face. “Thank you,” he’d said. “For staying by me.” And then he just… stopped breathing.
I’m not sure who reacted first. All I remember was feeling empty. I felt no emotions as my eyes rested on Zach’s lifeless form, but I could feel the tears running down my cheeks and dripping onto our still-intertwined hands. Avery was a sobbing mess, clutching Zach to his chest and begging him to come back. Bennett was a lot like me, staring at Zach and Avery with the tears falling down. It was then that the pain in my chest became unbearable and I started sobbing, burying my head in my hands and shaking so violently I almost thought I was having a heart attack.
I visit Zach’s grave whenever I can, leaving daffodils, his favorite flowers. People say that heart break is a girl crying over losing her boyfriend, or a couple breaking up. That may be one way, but it’s not one I’ve ever experienced. True heart break is when you lose someone you love, and you feel so empty and you’ve cried all the tears you could cry. It’s when you’re left with only a shell of who you once were and you can’t get it back. Yeah, I know what heart break is. No one can tell me I don’t, that I’m too young to know.
Zach and I had never been real close. It was mostly Avery and Bennett he hung out with. But I loved him like a brother all the same.

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