Living to the Fullest

Julia - Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania
Entered on March 29, 2009
Age Group: Under 18

One of the scariest things that I have experienced is learning that my grandfather had stomach cancer. The hardest thing that I have ever had to do was watch him deteriorate from a large cheery grandpa, to a frail pained man. Watching his illness I found my belief in living each day to the fullest.

My grandfather lived a very full life. He became the number one 50 freestyle swimmer in the country, and later joined the navy seals. All these things I know about him, however, other family members have told me. My biggest regret is never asking him to tell me about his life. While he was healthy, I was too shy to ask him, and I thought there would be an unlimited amount of time to hear his stories. By the time I realized how much I wanted to know, he was too fragile to speak for long periods of time.

He rapidly lost weight, was unable to eat, and became too frail to even move from bed. Every day I had a constant fear of learning he was gone. I made sure to say “I love you” every time I saw him. I was trying to make up for all the times I hadn’t told him, thinking I would have forever. If I had known that the time was much less than that, I wouldn’t have wasted a moment, due to being shyness, or thinking that it wasn’t important.

Possibly the worst moment of my life was being woken up on a Saturday morning by my teary-eyed mother telling me that Pops had passed on, and that I needed to wake up if I wanted to see him and say goodbye for the last time. I could already feel the hole that his death created in my life taking the five minute car ride to their house. A hole that I had never known existed. Simple things like seeing his empty armchair, or seeing any tiny present that he had given me could bring on a fresh wave of tears, and make my heart feel heavy. If I had known how much he affected me while I was alive, I would have told him all the things that I wanted to, and let him know how much he meant to me.

I believe that every day of being alive is valuable, and that no day should be taken for granted. I believe that nothing should hinder saying or doing something that should be done. Even when he could not say the words, he taught these ideas; which I’m sure he wanted me know. Because of him, I try to live a happy life, and to live every moment to the fullest that I can. I never want to waste a moment, because at any second your life can change.