Danny Died Young
Once upon a time…
Isn’t that how all good stories start? Once upon a time in Marysville, or once upon a time in a land far, far away…
I don’t think tragedies start out that way. I don’t think Danny’s story had a “Once upon a time” on the first page, or even anywhere. I think it just slowly faded into existence, the same way it ended: with the fading memories of those he left behind.
But Danny’s story wasn’t always a tragedy; quite the opposite. In the eighth grade, Danny was the boy to be. He was good-looking, popular, and smart. He was funny and witty, and I know all of this even though I didn’t know him very well at all. I always admired him from a distance, as I was two years younger. But I knew him slightly through my older sister, who was in his grade, and from seeing him around school. I can remember being in the car when we dropped her off at his birthday party, and marveling at his beautiful house. I have a picture in my mind of looking at Danny from across the playground: his thick dark hair, the group of friends and girls around him. I also remember watching him walk down the graduation aisle with a girl in a pretty dress on his arm, and thinking what a stud he was. But when Danny graduated from eighth grade, he effectively graduated out of my life.
The Danny I knew didn’t die. The Danny I knew graduated from eighth grade with his good looks and his life ahead of him.
The other Danny, the Danny I never really saw again, the Danny I only ever heard about; his story ends in tragedy.
I heard about it through my parents and my sister and through the grapevine when Danny got sick. I heard about his diagnosis, his treatments, his friends coming to visit him, and how hard his parents were trying to stay positive. When they told me it was cancer I knew it was bad. When my mom told me he was on hospice care I didn’t react because I didn’t know what that meant. When she explained that he was no longer eating and he was preparing to die, I felt hollow inside.
At first I was enraged. How dare he give up, after all these months of fighting? It didn’t seem like him, to give in to death.
Then I felt numb. If Danny was dying, at eighteen years old, strong and handsome and popular and smart, what did that mean for me? I was from the same place, the same general background, and I was approaching the same age. Would my life end, too? And if so, would I have the courage that Danny had, to face his fate head-on, and with his friends by his side?
Now, as I approach eighteen, I think about his life, and his death, and I wonder if my life is worth any more than Danny’s was. Why do I get to live? Why did he have to die? Where is the justice in taking a life before it has even truly begun? I hope I remember Danny forever, and always remember to live life to the fullest, so that I can cherish the moments that he never got to experience. I hope that the reality of his loss sets me on a path to living every moment, because we never know how many moments we will get.