Learning to Live Forever

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Learning to Live Forever

When you’re 12, you don’t feel or play with the idea of death on a daily basis. It’s like a fact you hold in your head for a final, but only remember it for the midterm and forget about it. Looking back, most of us—if it wasn’t with something meaningful—don’t remember when we learned we could die. Childhood isn’t meant cope with the idea you can go somewhere and never come back.

I believe it was a cruel lesson, a deception, or maybe fate doing a struggling family a favor. But the suddenly rapid detioration of a stable woman over a holiday break doesn’t happen simply by bad luck.

The string of my final days of Thanksgiving week is something that can teach a mind, mark souls, and makes them come out of the innocent fantasy that things don’t change.

I was oblivious to the depth of the damage my grandmother’s aging was doing to her. Ironic is the only thing you can call it. A woman who had held decades of pain and abuse was being brought down by her own body.

Last time I saw her, she was in a makeshift bed in the living room. I fixed her pillow. She grunted. Her toes were twice the normal size and she couldn’t even complain about it. The rusty life miniature oxygen tanks were closer to her than what her 6 daughters and 4 sons had been her entire life.

But there is something disturbing to confess at this point. I guess I had that feeling, the expectation that something bad is going to happen. A thought you don’t feel proud of thinking so you shake it off. People think the human subconscious has the power to predict. I don’t feel proud of proving that. I feel wrong. Wrong as in I shouldn’t have been the one to know she was going to die soon.

That’s when the line of memories clicks on and off. The next moment of vividness was the moment outside the hospital gate feeling a hunger that went all the way to the bottom tip of my stomach. But it didn’t matter if I told anyone. My grandmother was dead. She had died lonely in the hospital room in the early morning. Again, only oxygen tanks and plastic wires were there to accompany her. The beeping medical equipment was the last thing to hear her speak. The woman who raised 10 children had not a single hand to hold.

I will never know if she knew how much we cared for her. She might have felt her loneliest in that sterilized hospital ward. Maybe she left thinking she had done a poor job. She couldn’t raise children with enough dignity to show up in a time of need. The problem is that whatever we felt was not expressed before she left us. Kind messages and words to her on her funeral should have been said without the need.

For most of our lives we forget how lucky we are. We have the ability to touch the world with our fingertips. We can feel the subtle sharpness on the edges of a seashell; feel the inside of our softest winter coat. We can do the routine we love today, tomorrow. We can distinguish the pitches of each of those who we care about. If we have a small pain we have pills to take of it. We have the ability to write sentences that can stick with someone who can’t find a reason to struggle for a cure. We can love what we have and worship what we don’t. Our hearts hold that special power.

And what can really make us lucky is getting to reach centuries old. Humanity’s immortality doesn’t come in question when someone dies. We can live forever, leaving behind something. Like my grandmother. She left behind a whole generation. She doesn’t die when her heart stops beating, because ours still is.

I learned what it is to live an eternity. It is to live a life worth the thoughts of strangers. Telling someone you love them can mark the earth, and change the life of people you will never know.





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