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Loss of father in Iraq helped make teen stronger

Chelsea Kinlow was one of four winners for Thomson in the Laws of Life Essay Contest. Chelsea Kinlow also was 4th runner up in the state, and will have her essay published in the state's Georgia Laws of Life pamphlet that is given out to all schools. See next week's edition for other essays from the contest.

Chelsea Kinlow

Thomson High School, 9th grade

At the tender age of 10 I learned the true meaning of Friedrich Nietzsche's quote, "That which does not kill us makes us stronger." My mother sadly told me and my brother those words on a hot summer afternoon.

I will never forget feeling that I would not be able to live past July 24, 2005. That was the day that she came home from work accompanied by two military officers and delivered the worst news of my life. My father had been killed in Iraq by a roadside IED (Improvised Explosive Devise).

As soon as I heard the news, I ran down the hall to my room. I simply could not breathe. I felt a huge burning sensation in my throat that prevented me from even swallowing. My mother came down the hall and pulled me back into the living room with her and my brother. We all stood there in the middle of the floor, holding each other as tightly as we could and sobbing uncontrollably. I just wanted to lie down and die. I wanted my Daddy!!! I wanted him to walk through our front door like he had done so many times before and give me a great big hug and kiss.

Needless to say, he never did. He didn't walk through it when the hundreds of friends and family members came by to offer their condolences. He didn't walk through it when the media came to interview our family because his death marked the first time in many years that the Georgia Army National Guard has experienced such a casualty. And he didn't walk through it when the limousine came to pick us up for the funeral.

I remember the ride to the funeral at my father's home church in Lincolnton, Georgia. My brother and I didn't say a word all the way over there. We just sat in the back of the car. My mother sat between us and held our hands. My stomach churned with knots as I felt certain that I would pass out before we got to the church.

All three of us wiped tears in silence until my mother finally spoke. She told us that we were all each other had from here on out. She said as long as we stuck together, we could get through anything. And lastly she added, "We will make it through this, because remember babies, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger."

The church was packed from wall to wall. I can vividly recall seeing my father's casket draped with the American flag. It hurt me to see all of my loved ones in so much pain. The graveside service was more horrible than the funeral. The 21-gun salute nearly scared me to death. I remember my heart pounding with every booming gun shot. I sat in 100 degree weather, in great despair, while sweat poured down my back.

Ever since that day, those words my mother spoke in the back of the limousine have governed my life. I have suffered several other hurts and disappointments since then. After making the cheerleading squad in seventh and eighth grade, I failed to make the cut for ninth grade. I was devastated. I cried all night long after I found out the results. However, the next morning I dried my tears, squared my shoulders, and went out to face another day.

I have even lost other loved ones. My dear, sweet great-grandmother passed away last year. I knew that I would miss her terribly, but I also knew that I could make it through. I thought losing my father at any early age would certainly kill me, but it didn't. It helped prepare me for other losses, and it definitely made me stronger.

Web posted on Thursday, May 13, 2010

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