A Life Well-Lived

Aria - Trabuco Canyon, California
Entered on September 12, 2010
Age Group: Under 18
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I heard a quote recently that struck a chord with me: “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.’” While utilizing your talents is certainly something that should be strived for, upon hearing this quote, I could not help but think that qualities such as bravery, humility, and compassion were far more important to exercise throughout one’s lifetime. These thoughts then brought me to my dad, who passed away from cancer almost a year ago and was the epitome of every aforementioned quality.

The first quality, bravery, was perhaps the easiest to recognize in my dad. I had never seen true bravery in action until I witnessed my father battle for his life. Although he was afflicted with cancer, like so many others in this world, my father was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a very rare and painful form of it. A year ago, when the prospect of his survival was grim and my dad was hospitalized, I visited him in the hospital multiple times each day. The first time I saw him and realized that the man lying before me did not even look like my father, I began to cry. My dad, however, looked at me and asked, “Why are you crying? Everything is gone to be fine.” Everything was not going to be fine and everyone knew it, except my dad, because he simply refused to give up.

The second quality, humility, is always one that is exemplified more subtly, but is admirable nevertheless. Until one has lived with a cancer patient, or has experienced cancer themselves, they cannot truly know the daily and constant struggle that these patients undergo. My dad, however, remained incredibly humble throughout his battle. It would have been easy for him to gain sympathy from everyone he met, but self-interest was not in his character. I remember when we used to run into old friend and they would ask how he was doing. Instead of telling him about his diagnosis, he would simply provide them with a normal response about his kids, the recent golf game, etc. I used to ask him why he didn’t tell them that he had cancer, and he always responded, “Oh, I don’t know.” Eventually, I figured out why. He was not a man who needed another’s sympathy to make himself feel better.

The last quality, compassion, comes in many forms. Perhaps the most admirable form, however, is compassion of sacrifice, of which my father could have been that spokesperson. After my dad’s diagnosis, I realized how simple it would have been for him to just give up and let nature take its course. My dad, however, fought for three years against all odds to be there for my mom, my sister, and me. We were the impetus behind his fight and the reason he got up each day, and for that, I will be eternally grateful.

I believe, therefore, that a life well lived is worth far more than a long-lived life. Like my father, I strive to live my life in the service and interest of others so that, were it to be cut short, I could leave this earth knowing I left a positive impact on others. Despite the fact that my father passed away when he had almost an entire half of his life to live, I feel confident that when he stood before God a year ago, he looked Him in the eye and said, “Lord, I have not a single bit of bravery, humility, or compassion left. I used everything you gave me.”