Live Like You Were Dying

Jena - Tumwater, Washington
Entered on June 9, 2008
Age Group: Under 18
Themes: carpe diem
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Birds sung their harmonic songs into the soft summer breeze. The dazzling sun was sharing her alluring warm rays of happiness while sweet June air contained an ambiance of tranquility and contentment. As we relaxed on the fragrant grass, discussing the conclusion of school and our exhilarating plans for the next three months, our tight naïve group of friends was the true meaning of lighthearted freedom. We were lounging by the outfield fence, grape popsicles staining our tongues that distinct shade of purple, vaguely watching our younger brothers practice baseball when all of our lives changed forever.

Three years back, my family shared a magical summer with four other families, one to cherish forever. We were already a tight knit clan – sports teams “we” participated in were known to, by the end of the season, still not be able to tell which parents belong to which children or which adults were the married couples! The older siblings –Rylee, Alex, Tayler, T.J., and myself – quickly became the best of friends and with a bond of siblings we were always there for one another, in the splendor of success or darkness of failure. However, on that fateful June day, our combined strength was put to the test. When Tim, T.J.’s dad, had an inexplicable, unforeseen seizure, we became T.J.’s pillar of support, while we wondered, worried, and prayed ourselves.

Tim described the final moments before his seizure as a dizzying experience. A foul taste filled his mouth and, moving toward the dugout fence, he staggered off the field. Soon his body clenched as he was overcome by what we would discover was a grand mal seizure. The whirlwind of confusion and commotion will forever be resolutely etched in my mind as if I watched the crystal clear scene unfold before me a myriad of times before. My dad saved Tim’s life by quickly completing a way to get Tim’s airway clear, and as Tim was swiftly whisked off to the hospital on an ominous stretcher I knew nothing would ever be the same again.

The doctors’ report told a grim story, yet it was a story of which an entire community managed to discover, and feed on, all possible hope. Tim’s seizure was the result of a growth in his brain – a growth that was to be surgically removed at the end of the summer; Tim refused an earlier appointment because “he couldn’t leave his team!”. The summer that followed was a time of joy, optimism, and delight. Us girls were able to formulate a scheme that caused T.J. to forget his worry and we had the time of our lives!

However, entirely too quickly, August was over and we were forced to face reality. The day Tim went in for surgery was one I will vividly remember forever. Although I was familiar with the fact that brain surgery was time consuming and unpredictable, the hours lagged on painfully and slowly throughout the day. Prayers were repeated and hope was clung to. We were by T.J.’s side when the report came that Tim’s growth was a cancerous tumor, giving him 5 – 10 years to live. Tim battled, remaining positive and optimistic; however less than one year after the initial seizure, Timothy Scott Gartner passed away. I recall burying myself in my mom’s arms and crying until I fell asleep. Trivial, insignificant things that take me back to Tim – his favorite song being played on the radio, Sour Gum at the grocery store check out line, and Jeep’s – serve as gentle reminders to be thankful for life as it may be gone far too quickly. I believe in living as if you were dying. Spending time with those who are the most important people you will ever know – family and friends. Doing what you love, simply because you love it. Spending days at a time without looking at a clock. Giving back to that and those whom have given to you. I believe in living each and every moment to the fullest for “life is not measured by the number of breaths you take, but the moments that take your breath away”.