I've recently finished reading two books whose basic theme was, "when things get tough, give up on life". The first, "Broken Harbor" by Tana French, depicts a young Irish family trapped in a downward economic spiral and living in a half-built development teetering on the brink of becoming a wasteland. Brain wiring snaps and Dad and the two young kids are murdered, Wife wounded. It's a peculiar "who-dun-it" and the resolution isn't pretty. The second book, "Me Before You" by Jojo Moyes, takes us along on a potentially heart-rending saga of a care taker and her quadriplegic charge. Basically, though, it's the story of a desire to be euthanized. The formerly robust and multi-talented young man can't face life in a wheelchair.
To me, giving up on life, no matter the circumstances, somehow seems so unfair to those who grasp so vehemently to keep it going, no matter the circumstances...
I think of my friend, Jean Witt, who tended his Alzheimer-afflicted wife for many,many years, spoon-feeding her three meals a day at the end with the patience only true love could muster. This in contrast to the recent French movie "Amour" where both parties "give up".
I think of all our wonderful novels, fiction and non-fiction, where the struggle to survive is the theme. I remember seeing a true story depicted in the movie "Touching the Void". It recounts mountain climber Simon Yates' incredible effort to come back alive after breaking a leg and falling into a crevice, left for dead by his climbing partner. He basically crawls for miles on his elbows after he manages to extract himself from a virtual ice prison. Stories like this abound in literature and film and around us in our own daily lives. Heroes are plentiful in war and in peace.
I know it's easy for someone like me, healthy and basically happy to say all this. But, I mean, just one little good thing every day - the picture of a cherubic child's face in the Washington Post today whose father was receiving the Medal of Honor or - yes trite! - that songbird out my window - makes fighting on seem worth it to me.
I saw "The Impossible" last week which is about the South Asian tsunami and recounts the true story of one family's desperate efforts to survive and find each other against all odds. I may sound like I'm part of the movie's promotional team, but it's a heart-warming, tear-jerking story of endurance and love. I cried my eyes out, but in a good way.
There's a reason "It's A Wonderful Life" comes on every Christmas and has endured for 66 years. If we give up, what's left and what do we leave behind? Nothingness. But if we fight on, even if it's hard and means overcoming inner demons, the rewards are never-ending.