A L I V E, Elyse (Vivi) Caveda

Not many people plan to spend the rest of their lives surrounded by death. I’m just a happy exception to that general rule. I try my best to let people know about the lively, warm type of person I am before all-else. It’s far too easy to conjure up the humorously morbid mortician stereotype, but people close to me know better than that. I would like to think that I’m now a passionate and motivated person with a lot of hopes and goals because of my choice to be a funeral services major, rather than in spite of it.

My friends call me “Vivi,” which happens to be the Latin word for “Alive.” This was no ironic choice on their part, but instead, an affectionate nickname. I’ve been obsessed with a character called Vivi from the popular video game Final Fantasy IX since I was eight years old. Since that age, I’ve fixated on him as the ideal friend. He was warm, compassionate, intelligent, and towards the end of the game, struggled with the concept of his own mortality.   I wanted to be the kind of person who could help others come to a comfortable place with that kind of reality – with mortality. Just like Vivi, I’ve always tried to be the kind of person that can be there to help somebody on possibly the worst day of their life. I try and exude a type of comforting aura, but I’ve still got a long way to go to be the kind of person I want to be.

At the end of tenth grade, I dropped out of high school. Most people seem to be at least a little surprised to hear that, but I think I saw it coming for years. I had a long run of psychological issues that culminated in an existential breakdown. Knowing that our time in this existence was limited, I became increasingly frustrated with things I perceived as a waste of my time. I wanted to be free, and live my life according to my every whim, even if that just manifested in staying home and playing video games all day. One day, I realized that I wasn’t doing myself any favors. That maybe being steadfast is a virtue on the path to actually living life to its fullest extent.

After three years of shutting myself in my bedroom every day, I opened my front door and stepped outside my house. Not just to take out the trash, or check the mailbox, but to embrace the world again.  I started by taking online classes, soon got my GED, and now sit in a college classroom as I type this essay. Now, I know that when you hit rock bottom in any sense, the only way to go is up. I intend to stay this path and I intend to become a respected and educated person.

My grandmother died due to heart failure three years ago. Despite all my talk of mortality and short life spans, I had never experienced the loss of a human family member until that day. I watched the funeral directors and attendants move from office to office in the funeral parlor where my weeping grandfather sat. I saw so much noble efficiency in how they carried out their tasks. I saw them exercising a perfect measure of sensitivity toward my family. I saw them utterly in their element.

When I got to see my grandmother in her casket, I was taken aback with how well they took care of her body. I was overcome with emotion; suddenly everything made sense to me.  I want to make that kind of a difference in someone’s life, and I want to restore a measure of honor to those whom’s time on earth has drawn to a close – to put the bereaved at peace with their loss. If I prosper in this career and make one person feel the way I did in that late spring three years ago, then my whole life would have been worth it.

I’m not a two dimensional caricature of a person, and there is quite a lot to my personality aside from what some might imagine after hearing what my major is. I’m a very lucky person. I have been blessed with a family that stands by me.  Each and every day is a fortunate day. I can appreciate the every day beauty that surrounds me more than ever. Mostly, I’m just glad to be alive to see this day. I’m glad to be Vivi.