Each and every day people give up on life, be it in some small way or in the most destructive and final of ways. Having just lost a close friend to suicide, I know what it is like when the light goes out of someone’s eyes. This is deeper than just your average depression or “blue” period. As you watch someone spiral into a suicidal depression it is almost as if you can watch the soul actually leave the body while this person is still alive.
But I have a secret. I know for a fact that this is never, ever going to happen to me. Not ever. Do you want to know why? Because of the light that has been brought to my life in the eyes of a little 8-month old girl named Courtney. She is my niece, she is a miracle, she is a joy, she is my everything. Every single time I see her she steals a little bit of my heart away, takes it close to her own and stores it away for safe keeping. She is the keeper of my light.
If you are a person who is never going to have kids (I am gay and HIV positive so I am one of those people), there are few greater gifts than the ability to be a part of the life of a child. I am blessed to have a brother and sister-in-law who are not only kick-*ss parents, but who recognize the importance of the “cool uncle” concept not only in my life, but Courtney’s as well.
When I have hit bumps in the road over the last few months (losing my friend, the death of my beloved dog Willow), the only true solace I found was in the face of little Courtney. All it takes is a short visit to my brother and sister-in-law’s house for that empty space in my heart to be filled by all the joy that is this little girl.
While I must admit I think she is going to be a baby genius/Olympian/pop star/famous actress/CEO of a major corporation, Courtney is still very much a normal human baby. She gets cranky when she gets tired (I am gay so I love a good drama queen), sometimes she spits up on my shirts and occasionally my off-key singing makes her cry. But when she smiles at me or dances with me to “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” on XM Satellite Radio’s “’80s on Eight,” there is no greater feeling in the world.
I have noticed since Courtney came along that I am sick less, I don’t get sad as often and my life has a true long-term sense of direction and purpose. For the first time in my life I am 100 percent sure I want to live as long as humanly possible. For many people that is an epic-sized self realization to make, and Courtney is the one who made that possible for me. Plus, as the “cool uncle” you aren’t ever called in to change nappies of the brown variety. It’s a pure win/win.
A lot of this desire to live comes down to the fact that I have promised myself I am not missing Courtney’s graduations, recitals and ups and downs through life. No matter what happens to Courtney in her journey, I want to always be there, standing by, as her “cool Uncle Jim.”