I Believe in Appreciating Life

Kathleen - Harrisonburg, Virginia
Entered on February 24, 2009
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: family, gratitude
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I never really thought about the value of life until recently. It’s a subject that typically isn’t on the minds of most 19 year olds. Mostly, I think about surviving the next two years of college and starting my life. But I never really thought about what value a life actually holds.

I got a firsthand experience with death working at a wildlife center in high school, and it is strange how while that moment startled me it took until this summer for it to actually hold meaning to me. One day I picked up a sick bird to see what was wrong. As I whispered soothing words to him I felt something warm seeping into my hand, he was coughing up blood. Before I could rush him to the front room he let out his last breath and died.

It is strange watching something die in front of you. It jolts you a little, even if it is something as tiny as a bird, something so seemingly unimportant. I tried to convince myself it was just a bird, and his life held no weight or importance to me, but it still shook me up. I managed to let the incident go, it was just one of the many stories I had from working at the wildlife center. It went along easily with all the other scars I acquired there.

This summer started out like almost everyone before it, and then one day something terrible happened. Doctors found an aneurism in my dad’s stomach, operable but very dangerous. Now, my dad is old considering I am his youngest, he is in his late seventies. This used to embarrass me when I was younger, having a dad who was old enough to be my grandfather. However, now I have bigger things to worry about than whether people call my dad my grandfather.

I remember all the times my dad told me stories, as he has many of them. Was I actually listening to them? No, I wasn’t. In fact, I used to find them irritating as I had heard them numerous times. Now though I listen to his stories and find myself asking questions, and wanting to know more. I think we are all guilty of not actually listening to people or appreciating what they have to say, and thinking only of ourselves and our own problems. But because of my dad’s health condition this summer I have learned to appreciate everything in my life good or bad.

Life can change in an instant, and while my dad is healthy now, that won’t be the case forever. All life is valuable, whether you are my dad or that little bird I picked up three years ago. It should not go unexplored, unappreciated or taken for granted. After this summer, I constantly remember the experience I had with the fragile little bird. I’ve learned to appreciate what I have in my life because you never know when it could be gone.