I first met Terry Smith on Twitter, back when I was offending the masses as “@Tragic_Pizza.” He’s pretty much my polar opposite: thoughtful where I am brash, gentle where I am offensive, kind where I am dismissive. He’s one of those people who doesn’t say much, but when he speaks, it counts. I am honored to call him my friend.
Back in December of 2014, when I had been dipping my toes back into caricature and political cartooning, he asked me if I’d do illustrations for his monthly article in “Aquarius” magazine. I jumped at the chance; when you read his work, you’ll see why.
Terry Smith has graciously allowed me to share his article from December 2015, with accompanying art that I am particularly proud of.

I was 12 when I first felt the sting of untimely death. It was 7 AM and my dad woke me up to tell me that my brother was in a car crash and he didn’t make it. Eight months earlier, my dad’s mother had died after complications with a stroke and a mere two months later my dad would lose his father. In the span of 10 months, my dad would lose a mother, a son and a father and I would lose two grandparents and a brother.

We talk about life cycles when we talk about abstract things that don’t mean much to us (plants mostly) but it’s harder to use such a cold term when we’re talking about the life cycles of those we love. Would we even use the term life cycle to refer to the life and death of the beloved family pet? This month at Aquarius, we’re talking about the meaning and mystery of death, perhaps in the vain pursuit that discovering more about death will make our lives easier to bear. Maybe conversations about the afterlife will help us cope with the loss of a loved one. Maybe conversations about the meaningfulness of a “good death” or a “good life” will help us deal with the trauma that we experience when someone or something we love is no longer with us.

In the past few weeks, I’ve lost a lady from church who I loved deeply and a dear friend who battled for justice and equality in the Raleigh/Durham area. Both of these folks were soldiers, in their own way. One was quieter than the other. One served on the board of one of the very few churches in this world at which I’d feel comfortable sitting through a service. The other made a heavy call to equality for persons who were differently abled and those who were queer. Both were good people and will be sorely missed. They both left damaged folks in the wake of their passing. People who loved them will be dealing with the pain of their passing for years to come, maybe decades. The main character in The Fault in Our Stars (a novel by John Green) stated that she was a grenade and when she went off, she would hurt a lot of people. She was dying from cancer and the end was inevitable.

That’s the meaning of death, if there is one. One day, your light will go out. You will close your eyes for the last time. You won’t wake up from sleep. It will be the end. Be a grenade. That’s the best gift you could give to the world. The girl in the novel didn’t want to get attached to people because she was afraid her death would cause them pain. Of course your death will cause pain, so when you go out, go out with a bang. Be a grenade. Cause some pain. Cause some destruction. Because the only good death is one that follows a great life. Don’t fear loving fully and recklessly out of concern of how it will end. Of course it will end and it will end abruptly, so be a grenade. Your loved ones won’t hate you or resent you for it. They’ll be thankful for getting to share life with you. Be a grenade. Live and love forcefully. Be a force with which to be reckoned.

I know there probably aren’t a lot of octogenarians reading this, but you are. I’m asking you, no I’m begging, live a life worth celebrating. Life a life that when you’re gone, there’s a hole in someone. Be a grenade.

 Kick Deaths Ass