VIEWPOINT: Living Life to the Fullest

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Emily Dickenson wrote in a poem:

“Because I Could Not Stop for Death,

“He kindly stopped for me—

“The Carriage held but just Ourselves and Immortality.

Somehow, we have forgotten that the end game of life is always death. Or maybe we’ve just distanced ourselves and think that death is “out there,” something that “someone else has to deal with.”

I grew up in a farm community and birth, living and death were taught as part of a cycle.

As much as we think we have control over our birth and our death, we mostly don’t.

There are no promises—I found that out when in the span of two years, my first husband, Ronnie Shakes, died unexpectedly at age 40, my best friend Andy Centerwall died before he was 35 and my father, George Sazama, died at age 69.

When a loved one dies, the sadness is overwhelming. For a while, tears drowned my life and blurred my vision and thoughts. I could barely make it through a day. I can’t even imagine the horror of losing a child.

Circling the News had a reader who wanted to know, “Why is it that 17 people in the Palisades have died of Covid and there have been no tributes to them or memorials in our papers for them?”

I responded that CTN is happy to run obituaries if a family wants to send one. We don’t know why more people haven’t submitted obituaries to the Palisadian-Post.

But this query raises a question: Do people deserve a tribute because they died of a virus/cancer? Or do they deserve tributes because of what they’ve accomplished during their lives?

Frank Shankwitz, an Arizona Highway Patrol officer who helped a terminally ill boy realize his dream of becoming a motorcycle cop and then co-founded the Make-a-Wish Foundation, died on January 24. He was 77. The cause was esophageal cancer.

In 1980, Shankwitz was on patrol when he was told to report to headquarters. A boy named Chris Creicius, who had end-stage leukemia, had said he wanted to be a motorcycle officer when he grew up. The supervisors decided to make his wish come true.

According to the New York Times, “Figuring he’d be brought out in a wheelchair, I was surprised when the door opened and a pair of sneakers emerged,” Shankwitz wrote in his memoir, “Wish Man” (2018). “Out stepped Chris, an excited 7-year-old boy who seemed so full of life it was hard to believe he was sick.” He was given a custom-made uniform and a badge.

Several days later, Chris was dead. A few months after his funeral, Shankwitz and five other people founded the Make-a-Wish Foundation.

Let’s celebrate Shankwitz’s inspired accomplishment. Let’s acknowledge that we don’t have an expiration date printed on our back and we need to make the most of the time we have to live.

All we have control over is what we do in this life.

Poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti said  in his 2003 piece ‘The World is a Beautiful Place:”

“The world is a beautiful place
to be born into
if you don’t mind happiness
not always being
so very much fun
if you don’t mind a touch of hell
now and then
just when everything is fine
because even in heaven
they don’t sing
all the time

The world is a beautiful place
to be born into
if you don’t mind some people dying
all the time
or maybe only starving
some of the time
which isn’t half bad
if it isn’t you

Oh the world is a beautiful place
to be born into
if you don’t much mind
a few dead minds
in the higher places
or a bomb or two
now and then
in your upturned faces
or such other improprieties
as our Name Brand society
is prey to
with its men of distinction
and its men of extinction
and its priests
and other patrolmen

and its various segregations
and congressional investigations
and other constipations
that our fool flesh
is heir to

Yes the world is the best place of all
for a lot of such things as
making the fun scene
and making the love scene
and making the sad scene
and singing low songs and having inspirations
and walking around
looking at everything
and smelling flowers
and goosing statues
and even thinking
and kissing people and
making babies and wearing pants
and waving hats and
dancing
and going swimming in rivers
on picnics
in the middle of the summer
and just generally
‘living it up’
Yes
but then right in the middle of it
comes the smiling

mortician”

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3 Responses to VIEWPOINT: Living Life to the Fullest

  1. Chris Adelson says:

    thank you for the lovely and inspiring LF poems-so timely and so true. Thank you

  2. Geraldine Clark says:

    Beauty is truth, truth beauty, that is all Ye need to know on earth, all Ye need to know.

    Ode to a Grecian Urn
    John Keats

  3. kane says:

    Thanks Sue, great stuff!

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