The Fight For Life

March 5, 2008
By Amanda Austin, Simmesport, LA

“Higher, higher!” I giggled. I was five years old, soaring towards the sky with my blonde hair fluttering in a heap towards my face. I was scared, but then again, I wasn’t. I knew I was safe because of the hands that were guiding my blue and red tree swing. I felt so happy, so carefree. I trusted this person more than anything in the world, and I knew that she’d never let me fall. Every childhood memory that I can recall, from the most faint to the most detailed, one person was always present: my grandmother. As I spent almost every day with her for thirteen years, she taught me many valuable lessons that she wasn’t even aware of teaching me. The wisdom of an elder is worth the world’s weight of silver, but what is learned from them is as valuable as a universe of solid, pure gold.
Her name was Bonnie, but I called her Grammy ever since I was old enough to speak. Grammy basically raised me because my parents worked so far away from home. I distinctly remember cold mornings in December where she would wrap fuzzy blankets around me to carry me to her car to take me back to her house where I would fall back asleep in the warmth of her arms. When I woke up hours later in the warmth of her bed, I could always rely on the smell of fresh brewed coffee lingering through the air from my grandfather’s mug. She would sit me on her lap and make up stories about a beautiful princess named Amanda, making me laugh until I cried.

She was a beautiful, intelligent woman. Her smile had a certain sincerity that would make any stranger feel welcome. She was always so pleasant and cheerful. She could charm any person she came in contact with. She possessed the most positive outlook on life that wouldn’t be expected coming from a woman who has experienced so much turmoil in her life. By the age of five, I had decided that when I grew up, I wanted to be an exact replica of my grandmother.
The years of my youth flew by, as well as all of the fun times I had shared growing older with my grandmother. I was twelve in the seventh grade when one average day my Dad picked me up from school early. I didn’t remember any scheduled appointments or reasons to leave school hours too early. “Where are we going?” I asked, as soon as we were buckled inside the vehicle. “I have some bad news,” Dad said with a grim expression on his usually happy face, “Grammy is in the hospital.” Initially I did not know what to say. Attempting to make my voice sound stronger than it was, I asked him what happened. At first he did not respond, then as tears welled up in his eyes, he took my hand and said, “Grammy has cancer.”
My mind was a lake of confusion; I had so many questions, but I was crying too hard to speak. Daddy explained that the next few months were going to be extremely difficult, and judging by my current emotions, I knew it was the truth. I was scared. My world would be shattered without her. But, I knew that Grammy was as strong as a thousand seasoned veterans on the side of the winning army, and that she would be able to conquer the cancer.
In the beginning, the cancer wasn’t as vicious as I initially expected. It was said to be curable, so Grammy began long sessions of chemotherapy every two weeks. She fought long and hard, even though she was extremely weak from the treatments that just didn’t seem to help. She began to loose her beautiful hair, which was extremely hard for her. Through the challenging moments, she remained so nauseatingly positive. “Don’t you worry about me,” she’d always say when we’d offer help. She honestly believed that she was going to survive because she had faith. As months progressed, the cancer began to spread to her lungs. At this stage, not even chemotherapy could help her.
Five days after my thirteenth birthday, the light of my world dimmed. My Dad sat my sister and I on the sofa and dropped the atomic bomb; Grammy had died. I missed the first day of school my eighth grade year to attend her funeral, which is now nothing more than a blur in my memory.

Although she left me physically, mentally she will always be with me. She left me with a special gift. From her, I learned to always be positive; a positive attitude will make even the most difficult situations easier to handle. I learned to stay strong at all times, and to never give up. She also taught me to be selfless. Even in her final moments, only her family’s feelings mattered, and not her own. I learned these traits and more from her, without her even knowing it. Literally, she lost her battle; the cancer won. But in my heart, she didn’t lose. She conquered fear, despair, and lack of faith. I thank her every day for teaching me how to succeed in the fight for life.

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