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Writing is life changing

Updated on May 13, 2011

Death be not proud and courage

Writing, meaning and understanding

When I think back to my youth I can still remember the very first book I read as a teenager that really influenced me and made me realize how beautiful and unpredictable life is. I read the book with a sincere interest and I could not put it down. I had to read it in its entirety and upon completing it I really felt the emotions, the joys, the heartbreaks and the love the author had as he related his personal experiences. I cried as I read the story because it focused on family, illness, inspiration, devotion, hope, tragedy and ultimately, heartbreak.

The title of the book is "Death be not proud" and the author, John Gunther writes a painfully honest story of his son who is diagnosed with a brain tumor at the age of 16 and how he lives his life and faces his impending death with a courage that inspires all including his parents. It also crushes them as they realize their son is very sick and is aware that he will die. As you read the story you understand the importance of family and faith. The father is very strong to face the prospects of losing his son but he chooses to spend his time wisely together with his son and make the most of it while his son lives and dreams of a future.

This book really opened my eyes and taught me some really important things about life and death. It showed me how a family stays strong admidst a crisis, it illustrated the love of a mother and father for their son and it reflected the inner courage of a young man, really a child who makes the best of his situation and lives his life with the same hopes and dreams that all young people hold on to despite his tragic illness that will claim his life far too young.

When I read a story that displays such raw emotion I wonder how the author can translate his thoughts and feelings to words with such passion and lead the reader on a journey and influence them in such a way that they feel the pain and sadness and can't help but cry. It is such a testament to the writer in how he brings the realistic portrayal of his own inner conflict and feelings to his audience. I was hoping as I read the book that the son would survive and that the cure the parents so desperately sought for their son Johnny would come to be.

If I could recommend a book to an adolescent to read I would certainly choose "Death be not proud" as it teaches us so much and it inspires us to live our lives and to be truly grateful for what we have. The reality is that John Gunther Jr, "Johnny" dies at the age of 17 in 1947 shortly after graduating high school. He was to attend Harvard University in the fall of 1947 but he died in the summer as the family was planning a vacation trip together away from home and the hospitals. The father maintained a journal through the time his son fell ill and he documented his feelings, the day to day experiences, the doctor visits, his son's thoughts and ideas, his son's hopes and dreams and the love he and his wife had for their son. The book was published in 1949 and a movie starring Robbie Benson aired in 1975 telling his story.

It is a story such as this that makes you realize how important it is to write. When someone is directly affected by such an emotional issue it is best they express their feelings and chronicle it rather than keeping it bottled up inside. It is a way to come to terms with such a painful reality and it also provides the writer a way of liberating himself and helping others by relating their personal experiences. It gives meaning and understanding to the pain one feels and it teaches us some valuable lessons of life, love and loss.

I have also learned to express myself through writing as I have experienced pain and tragedy in my life too and for me it is so important to be able to express this and come to terms with it. I sometimes feel there are things best left unsaid but in the grieving process we sometimes need to open up and relate our feelings because sometimes the pain is just to much to bear alone. My writing enables me to go to another place and get in touch with my feelings and express how I feel.

I have also been touched by my son who means the world to me and he has been diagnosed with autism which is so much more prevalent today. For me to understand what my son goes through and the courage he faces each and every day with, I had to come to terms with his condition and to be as supportive and nurturing as I can so he knows he is not alone. We are in this thing together just like John Gunther was in his fight for his son in his battle with cancer. It requires a great deal of faith, hope, love and courage each and every waking day and by writing about the feelings you have and the hopes and dreams you envision for your child you gain perspective and develop a way of dealing with the unknown and formulating a diary that is always there to go back to for clarity and peace of mind.

So as I write I will always know the reasons why I do and I will always remember the very first book I read as a teenager because it touched me and influenced me in so many ways. Thank you John for such a heartfelt book about your son who displayed courage and showed me what life is all about.

Thank you Matty for showing me such courage and teaching me each and everyday. You inspire me and bring out the best in me. I only hope I can do the same for you!



Edward D. Iannielli III    

Death be not proud poem

Death be not proud

Death be not proud - John Donne


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