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I Have My Donne This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category.

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      My mind was racing, my childlike ingenuity forcing my imagination to exaggerate wildly. I walked down the corridor of the hospital and was hit with apprehension; never had I experienced the grim task of visiting a dying loved one. Bracing myself, I entered his room, but rather than encountering the gloomy scene I expected, it exuded a profound serenity.

“All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language,” slipped from my grandfather’s aged lips; a gentle, contented smile shone from his face. He died the next day.

How was he so calm as death approached? Did he not fear or even grasp the extent of the unknown path before him? What did the quote he knew so well mean to him? The beauty I beheld in that sterile hospital room did not reveal its importance until years later, but that scene of a peaceful death held a precious secret that has come to affect my very being.

When I turned 16, this memory struck me and forced me to wonder what was the key to my grandfather’s peace. When I asked my mother what he was thinking on his deathbed, she answered with fond reverence, “He was reciting the poems of John Donne in his mind, going over the lines he’d studied a thousand times and could never forget. He always loved his books and his poetry, they held a special place in his heart. He devoted his life to them. Does that help?”

I left the room before she had finished this last sentence. Books, literature, poetry - these had granted my grandfather a consummate life. I rushed to my sister’s room and sat before her towering bookshelf. I recited the titles: Catcher in the Rye; The Bell Jar; The Brothers Karamazov; Siddhartha; Candide; The Great Gatsby; The Heart is a Lonely Hunter; Heart of Darkness; Madame Bovery; The Stranger; Gulliver’s Travels ... They all sounded so beautiful, so full of potential, so enticing, so fascinating; they held something I knew I desperately wanted.

On that day, I plunged headfirst into the world of books. A fresh crease in the spine of a classic was the beginning of a great day. I devoured pages, consumed ideas, and most important, found profound contentment in them. The cryptic lines were like a mysterious treasure to me. I loved everything about them and never stopped reading. A good book could lift me from the deepest depths.

When I visualize my future, I can think of nothing more fulfilling than following my grandfather’s footsteps and devoting my life to the study of humankind’s greatest treasure: books. Their magic fills up the blank spots in me and the more I read, the more I get out of them and the more my love for them grows. Furthermore, I dream of one day pouring my own soul onto pages, perhaps becoming the inspirer rather than the inspired. Ultimately, I desire to affect the same passion on others that my grandfather’s work has bestowed upon me.

Months after my epiphany, my mother approached me and said, “I remember something your grandfather said at the very end, perhaps it will help answer your question. He said, ‘I’m not afraid, I have my Shakespeare and I have my Donne.’” I’ll always remember that.

That line has since become the epitome of my life’s ultimate goal. As time goes on, and pages continue to turn, I can take solace in the fact that literature’s wisdom will undoubtedly satiate my life’s thirst and allow me to leave this earth with as much tranquility and sense of achievement as my very inspirational grandfather.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category. This piece won the April 2007 Teen Ink Nonfiction Contest.




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