Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate November 2001

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The word death is seen by many, in a negative manner. To me, however, death has been a thing of sadness and bliss. One particular death that has greatly influenced my life and my view on life was the death of my neighbor, Jean.

A second third grandmother to me, Jean was an elderly woman of seventy-two; a beloved wife and mother of three, Jean was a caring, kind, and beautiful person. I visited her home daily to talk with her and her husband, also to listen to stories of the past. I have heard about the war, the Army versus Navy games, and other things. In the spring of 1992, Jean lost her husband to cancer. After years of struggle and heart, her entire world was dimmed. She lost that light inside that always taught me to believe. Although her husband died, she still kept on living. Not too long after her husband's death, Jean contracted the deadly illness herself.

This did not stop her from living her life the way she wanted to. Jean was an avid Bingo attendant at the local parish. She continually played, although not as frequently due to her condition after radiation therapy. These actions taught me the idea of hope and to live to the fullest. She also tended a wonderful garden. Its ironic how she tended to the lives of plants, hoping they would grow healthy and fruitful, yet her own being was deteriorating. After two years of suffering, the cancer finally reached her brain. The times I visited after the cancer reached her brain were the saddest moments I ever experienced. Bed stricken, Jean was completely changed. The simplest of actions such as going to the bathroom, eating, and even sitting up required the help of an aide. I recall one night I visited, in which I helped the aide lift her out of her bed. It was one of the most heart wrenching experiences in my life. The entire time she was screaming too help her get up in a slightly slurred and very frightened voice. However, the saddest thing about that night was the fact that she did not know who I was. Reality finally hit me, she was actually dying and nothing I could do would stop that. About a month later, she passed away. If I learned anything from her, it was that things happen that we cannot control, yet they are meant to make us stronger. Also, to have hope and live life to its fullest.

A person who influenced me was not a rocket scientist, nor a sports star, not an actor, nor a poet, just an ordinary person. Jean has been an inspiration to me in many ways. At first, I felt this was unjust, I have lost many and now another passes on. Yet, I now look at her life as an example, a model to help me succeed in my own. If I am to remember anything about Jean, it is that her strength and happiness is something to be cherished and remembered, not missed or forgotten.