Life Is Beautiful

Allyn - East Troy, Wisconsin
Entered on June 16, 2005
Age Group: Under 18
Themes: death, family

Shortly after my grandfather decided to go off of chemotherapy last January, I went with the family to see him one last time in his Connecticut home. I had never lost a loved one before, and I almost didn’t want to go, as if that could keep Grandpa alive. While there, however, I learned more about life, death, family and love than I’d previously learned in all my sixteen years (and seven months) of experience. And by being there, I’ve kept him more alive than he could have been otherwise.

By the time I saw Grandpa he could no longer speak, and the first time I looked at him, I must have recoiled in shock: all I saw was a frail old man on his deathbed. He didn’t look like the kind, vivacious grandfather I’d always known, and when I started crying, I hid myself in the bathroom. (I didn’t want anyone to see my tears.) When I’d finally calmed down, I returned to find myself looking into his eyes. That’s where I found the grandfather that I’d always known: the same hilarious “G-Pappy” who had done Pilate stretches with his granddaughters, the same old rascal who had cheated at bocce, the same loving family-man who I’d seen sitting on the darkened lakeside cottage porch with grandma, not touching, not talking, but so obviously in love.

While sitting by grandpa’s bedside at various times throughout those few days, we would talk to him–probably more for ourselves than for him–but as we reminisced, occasional smiles crossed his lips. At least, I think they were smiles, just as I think he would sometimes try to talk. I don’t think he realized the power of his eyes, dancing with love and life, as they spoke for him. Sometimes the dance was upbeat; sometimes gloomy or agitated, but it was there until the end.

Since January, I’ve reflected on the experience, cried some, smiled some, and come to some conclusions. I have many beliefs, but above all, I believe life is beautiful. I guess to a certain degree, I’ve always believed that, but never with this much certainty. The beauty is in the essence of our being, captured for a time in a borrowed body, a beauty that resides in the soul but dances in the eyes, a beauty that communicates what the tongue cannot but retains a veil of mystery, a beauty that leaves the body at death but does not itself die.

This, I believe, I’ve learned only because I faced the pain and fear of saying goodbye for the last time. I guess, too, though I did not know it at the time, I was really only saying goodbye to his physical presence because, in a way, he is more with me now than he has ever been. Whether in the form of a guiding spirit, in memory, or something else, I do not know, but I think this uncertainty is as beautiful and mysterious as life itself.