From my first memories, the ones that cling like the last of the fall leaves on the branches outside my window, I can remember an open back yard, my brother there, the sun poking through the tops of the woods, and a long wooden sword in my hand twirling back and forth at imaginary foes, the servants of an incomprehensible force, which I did not yet know was evil.
This has been my life; sword in hand and adventure before me. But I have grown older, and the sword has gotten new meaning. To me the sword is the path to discovery of oneself, the disciplining of one’s heart and body, and a way of life upholding honor, chivalry and righteousness.
Standing around the kitchen, my family is preparing for supper, talking about their days. My youngest brother mentioned something that a teacher told him, he said, “That’s the best advice I ever heard”. We thought this was funny, seeing as his 9 short years of life had not yet been filled advice worthy of ‘the best advice’. The rest of the family followed with similar remarks.
I remained quiet, not knowing what to say. My mind darted through memories to find one I could call my own; it went back to a movie I watched when I was young, sitting on the couch with my brother, wooden sword strapped beneath my belt. It was called the Vikings, in it both the Viking Lord and his proud son die, both times they ask and are given a sword to hold as they passed into Valhalla. I don’t believe Valhalla is where I’m going, but I then added to the commentary.
“Best advice I ever heard was Die with a sword in you hand.” I knew this would not be met with understanding or approval, but I spoke my heart. My mom smile nervously and looked down to her food; my father looked at me disappointedly with blank eyes searching for a remark, but none could be found, so with a few motions that looked like a goldfish sucking water, he returned to his plate. But my brother, companion in battle for so long, made eye contact; clearly he understood what I meant. We sat through dinner without much more conversation.
The path of the sword has died in the modern age. The values it promotes does not motivate people who want to live their life without the responsibility of being aware of something higher than themselves. I will never forget what the sword has done for me; how it has made me and individual and the man I was born to be.
When I die, I will die with a sword in hand. And I believe that even though the world doesn’t understand, though it is hard to fight against the injustices of everyday life, I’ll hold onto that sword as tight as I can, stand atop a mountain, with my sword in the wind, the sun at my back and the world before my eyes, and I will know I deserve to go where I am heading.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.