By Jessica Fanelli

In the average human life, one takes approximately 28,880 breaths a day, 10,541,200 breaths a year, and about 672,768,000 breaths in a lifetime. As I took yet another breath, I choked back despair, sorrow, and numbness. Rain fell outside the window, but I was too paralyzed to notice the weather. My heart pounded; my hands quivered; my breathing stopped. I stepped closer to the window, observing the clouds as they poured out their built up sorrows: they reflected my emotions. I then let tears stream down my face, falling down my cheeks, much like the raindrops sliding away from the roof and across the window pane: if only it was that easy to let this moment slip away.
    Never would I be able to properly prepare myself for this day. What my father believed to be a slight cold had escalated to become pneumonia, and then to a serious lung disease.  Because my dad had been a heavy smoker since he was a teenager, his body simply couldn’t fight off even the smallest of viruses, leading him into a critical condition. He needed a respiratory machine to breath while he awaited surgery in the morning that would install a tube into his torso to constantly pump out the fluid that surrounded his lungs.
    Overwhelmed in my own worries, I caught my breath, and stared blankly at the gray, overcast sky, consciously praying for the first time in my life: this was my breaking point; my absolute last resort. Flashbacks of my father were suddenly all I could think about—teaching me how to tie my shoes, fixing my batting stance during softball, driving a stick shift with ease—I swore my dad could do it all. But the truth is, his past had finally caught up with him. On this day, my father had to face the consequences of the fate he had always been promised, yet he hadn’t recognized until now how intertwined his thoughtless decisions were to those all around him.
    We had all overlooked the inevitable. With every cigarette, we knew he was wasting away, but none of us were brave enough to mention the reality of his self- destruction. Maybe, we had come to the conclusion one day, someday, everything would just workout: somehow dad would always be perfectly fine. Possibly, we wished he would be the only man in the universe who could remain unaffected by the dangers of this deathly habit. Looking back, I know we were all simply ignorant, seizing to let ourselves look far enough into the grimness of the future that was bound to come.
    As Aldous Huxley once said, “Most human beings have an absolute and infinite capacity for taking things for granted.”
    From then on, the entire world seemed different: the rain fell harder, the clouds seemed darker, the cold was endless. With this moment, moving forward I would learn to intake every breath with purpose, and to exhale with the consideration of my future. Living would be full of thrill, spontaneity, and experience; nothing would simply pass me by. I now cherish every breath, knowing that I was given the gift to take it.