The Reason for Living

The Reason for Living

From Chicken Soup for the Preteen Soul

The Reason for Living

Love cures people—both the ones who give it and the ones who receive it.

Karl Menninger

I’m only twelve years old, but I know sadness and the fear of death very well. My grandfather has been smoking since he was a young teenager, and now he has a terrible disease called emphysema that ruins the respiratory system.

Ever since my grandmother died, my grandfather has been depressed—mad at the world. He is a very ornery man and has said some hurtful things to nice people. But when he is around me, it’s like a whole soft side of him becomes exposed.

Recently, my grandfather got very sick. He underwent surgery on his throat and had to use a machine called a respirator to help him breathe. The doctors thought that his days were numbered, but miracu­lously he recovered. He was taken off the respirator, but still he couldn’t talk. It strained his voice badly to make the slightest noise.

While my grandfather was in the hospital, my mother and I flew to Pittsburgh to be with him. We were very fearful we wouldn’t see him again.

When we reached my grandfather’s hospital room, I was shocked by his condition. He looked so sickly. He was hardly able to even grunt. Somehow though, he managed to mumble, “I . . . you.”

“You what, Grandpa?” I whispered. He didn’t have the energy to answer me. He had exhausted all his strength with those two syllables, “I . . . you.”

The next morning my mother and I had to leave. I kept wondering just what it was he had tried so desperately to tell me. It wasn’t until I was back home in Georgia that I learned what he had tried to say.

A week after we returned home, my family received a phone call from one of the nurses in the hospital. She told us that my grandfather had said, “Call my granddaughter and tell her ‘love.’” At first I was a little confused, thinking why he would just say, “love.” Why not, “I love you?” Then it hit me. The day we were in the hospital he had been trying to say, “I love you.” I was really touched. I felt as if I was going to cry, and I did.

After many painful weeks, my grandfather was finally able to talk. I called him every night. Normally he had to stop after about five minutes because he was too weak. No matter what, though, every time we hung up he would say, “I love you” and “I’d do anything for you.” These, along with his moving words, “You’re the only reason I live,” are the best compliments I have ever received.

My grandfather is still very ill and I know our time is limited. I feel very honored that he has shared his feelings with me. I have learned a lot from this experience. But the most important thing I’ve learned is that a simple “I love you” is really not simple. It’s a reason for living.

Lauren Elizabeth Holden, thirteen

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