By Valkyrie Ice
I have often been asked why I desire to live indefinitely. I’ve been told by many that they simply cannot understand why I would want to continue living when the world is so full of pain. And in some ways, I can see their point.
Life is sadness, it is pain, and it is suffering. In the words of the Dread Pirate Roberts, “Any one who says differently is selling something.”
But life is also joy, and beauty, and love. Light and Darkness, Ying and Yang, Good and Bad. We need them both to be able to experience life fully. If we never cried, we would never learn to smile. If we never lost, we would never appreciate winning.
I have lost loved ones to death, and none of them will ever walk this earth again. I have lost friends. I have lost casual acquaintances. I have seen them suffer, and I have seen them go in the blink of an eye. I have watched as Alzheimer’s claimed first my grandparents on my fathers side and then on my mothers. I will never be able to taste my Nanny’s chili pie, or shiver at the delightful flavor of my Grandma’s Malt Chocolate milkshakes. I will never again be able to go fishing with my Uncle Joe, or be able to show Papa and Grandpa how much I’ve grown as an artist. I will never get to sit and talk with my buddy Walt, or be able to debate politics and world events with my Mother in law. I will never again be able to watch my father build things just because he could. Before long, even my Grandmother in law will be gone.
All of these people touched my life in ways I cannot repay, and never will be able to, no matter how long I may live. They gave me hope, and love, and kindness. They taught me how to laugh and how to hold my head high and be proud of being myself. They taught me how to live and more importantly, they taught me how to appreciate being alive.
I have enormous reasons to be depressed, but despite the hopelessness and despair I sometimes feel, one thing and one thing alone has kept me faced forward to the future.
And those are the words of my Nanny, my father’s mother. “There are always going to be good times and bad times. But no matter what, no matter how bad the bad times are, they won’t last forever. Sooner or later, the sun always comes out of the clouds.”
And that wonderful, kind, and loving woman fought death tooth and nail. Three heart attacks, two strokes, and Alzheimer’s couldn’t slow her down. She held on for nearly ten years after the doctors said she had a year to live. It took pneumonia to finally kill her — congestive heart failure in her sleep.
In all my family, she’s the only one who really understood me. As much as I loved and am sad that I will never see all the others I have lost, she is the one I miss most. It is her voice I hear when the darkness is screaming loudest, when the world seems so hopeless that I almost despair, when I look ahead and see the horrors we could inflict upon ourselves. I can hear her whispering to me, telling me the Sun always comes out of the clouds.
She survived the Great Depression, and both world wars. She survived an alcoholic and abusive husband, finally getting him to stop drinking and abusing her. She raised seven children, and got to see their children and grandchildren. She celebrated her fiftieth wedding anniversary, with over a hundred members of her family attending. She saw the Berlin wall raised, and she got to see it fall. She watched the first man on the moon, and the first shuttle launch. She got to ask who shot JR, as well as wonder who shot JFK. She raised roses and citrus trees and kids with equal kindness and care and grace. And she lived life to the fullest right up to her very last day and died with a smile. Even when she could no longer remember me, she was still overjoyed to see me.
Did dying give her life meaning? I know for a fact that she never thought so. Living was what gave her life meaning. Living and loving and laughing; through good times and bad; through happiness and sadness; living for the simple joy of being alive. She never gave up, and never gave in. She never let life break her and never let it get her down.
She was 92 the day she died, and if it had been up to her, she would have lived 90 more, and 90 beyond that, and so on, ad infinitum. She would have laughed and loved and spoiled her great-grand kids rotten when they came to see their Nanny, the women who always had a smile and a special something she would make just for them.
And I will never forget that most important of all lessons she taught me; to look beyond, to see the next step, and the one beyond that and the one beyond that. To see that nothing ever stays the same and even the bad can result in good.