I pride myself in my ability to create long, elaborate sentences, full of eloquence and beauty. But sometimes, you just need to state the facts, plain and simple.
Yesterday, February 19th, Harper Lee died. I found out when I was on Twitter at lunch. At first, I didn’t believe it. You never really think that you’ll read about the death of your hero on any old day. When I realized it was true, I cursed. Then, I went back to class in a daze. I forgot all about the 98 I got on my chemistry midterm, and the fact that my least favorite teacher was absent that day, so we had a sub. I had to stay in school. I couldn’t focus on my work, and I found myself staring off into space absently. In my last class, a few nice people talked to me, distracting me just enough to keep me from crying. Granted, they thought it was stupid that I was so upset, but that’s okay, because they were still nice to me. I was able to forget for fleeting minutes, but once I remembered again, it was like someone had hurled a rock at my stomach. I didn’t cry in class, though. I just felt sad and hollow. This isn’t going to be an obituary for Harper Lee. I just wanted to tell people the profound effect she had on my life.
I read To Kill a Mockingbird for the first time when I was in the fifth grade. My mom and I would discuss it; I sat in the purple recliner and my mom sat on the couch. Ever since then, my hair hasn’t gotten longer than my shoulders. I got my parents to buy me a pair of overalls. I tried to play with the boys in my neighborhood outside. We climbed trees and pretended we were Greek gods and wrestled in the grassy field across the street from my front porch. I remember watching the black-and-white film and thinking that Gregory Peck was the greatest Atticus Finch of all time. Honestly, when I was younger, I thought Atticus Finch was my hero. As I got older, I realized that Atticus wasn’t the saint I believed he was, and that my real hero was actually Harper Lee. I wouldn’t be in this class if it wasn’t for her because I wouldn’t have wanted to be the next great American novelist. “It’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” You have to live your life in a good way, you have to help the helpless, you have to do the right thing. That book taught me so many life lessons, and it still is. It may be a staple in high school classrooms and one of the greatest literary works of all time. But before that, it was a draft written by a young woman who showed some promise at writing.
A mockingbird died on February 19th, 2016. I’ll never forget my hero and my inspiration, or the profound effect her book had on my life. Thank you, Nelle Harper Lee.