This I Believe

Kathyrn - Montclair, New Jersey
Entered on November 28, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: death
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When I was younger, I believed life would go on forever. I took everything for granted and rebelled. I scoffed at Catholicism and its threats of damnation. I ran away from home. I got a tattoo, and shaved half my head. I became a truant and barely graduated high school. One night, while my parents ate dinner, I swallowed a bottle of aspirin to end what I believed would never stop on it own.

When I was 19, I was told that my Dad was dying. His sister donated part of her liver to him in what doctors would later call the most successful transplant surgery they’ve ever seen. Sure he was sick, but he was still over 6 feet tall and just under 200 pounds. From what I had absorbed from life thus far, I assumed that this inconvenience would work itself out. Life’s problems were always magically solved. After all, I came back to open arms after I ran away from home. My parents learned to laugh about my hair and tattoo. I graduated from high school, and I lived through my suicide attempt.

Two days before my Dad was due home, his heart stopped, and he died. The last time I saw him, he was gasping for air and he looked petrified. He squeezed my hand, and I took off, overwhelmed by fear. Moments later, he was gone, too. In an instant, everything that I thought I knew was gone. I was now a Daddy’s girl with no Daddy. The realization came to me that all of life’s lessons that I had so adamantly rejected were meant to be taken seriously. I had just learned the most excruciating universal lesson. Life does not go on forever.

So, following the erasure of my previous understandings, and several years of recovery, I have a new belief. I believe in life after death.

But not in the literal sense. I believe that it took the rupture of my Father’s permanent absence for me to start living. I believe that I would never have learned how precious life is unless I lost someone irreplaceable. Today, my relationship with my family is so strong that now we’re friends, too. I stay healthy because I appreciate my body’s fragility. I enrolled in and graduated from college to gain knowledge previously ignored. I teach individuals with Autism to give people opportunities to live better lives. I’m getting married because I have found my life partner. I love being alive!

My father never got to experience the new me who was molded from his death. I am the product of his passing. I am a living painting, drawn by an artist whose work may not have been complete if he was still alive. Now, everywhere I go, and in everything I do, I believe in my life after his death.