“You die, but most of what you have accumulated will not be lost; you are leaving a message in a bottle.”~ Umberto Eco.
“I thought you had stick-to-it-iveness.” When I came to the USA from the UK, I was a recently graduated state registered nurse, the proud accomplishment rewarded after three years and three months of study and hard work (mostly at the bedside, it was a hospital based program). The exam that we sat was in essay format, we were given a situation and had to write our hearts out, pouring all of our knowledge onto the page. Or we had to draw and label the nephron, that amazing unit of filtration, reabsorption and secretion, a miracle worker that turns blood into urine! But once in the US I had to master the art of the multiple choice exam, if I wanted to be a registered nurse. I had a book of typical questions, but I was finding it was not that easy. And I was ready to quit when my future husband chided me, disappointed, reminding me I was not a quitter.
Years later he would use the same goading technique when I was ready to give up in the middle of childbirth, who needs another baby anyway? Each time I would tell him I couldn’t do it he would quietly mock me: “You said that the last time”. When I said I was never getting pregnant again, he would reply: “You said that the last time.” It wasn’t funny. But somehow it was enough to bring me back to earth, to the reality that sometimes you just have to push (literally) on through.
The period of time between November and January has taken on new meaning for me. Along with the lights and festivities of Christmas, my birthday, and the closing out of one year and the beginning of another come memories of three people who died around this time. My father died in December 2010; my mother followed him five years later at the end of November; and my husband, that annoying, goading, mocking, father of my children died in January two years ago. Those of us who are on Facebook have those handy reminders that pop up on our page, memories of what we were doing, what we were posting last year, three years, six years ago. We cannot forget even if we wanted to.
In my desire to be a writer I have developed a new respect for words and a need for ideas. My ride to and from work is usually accompanied by NPR, one of my suppliers of inspiration. Sometimes random trains of thoughts will send me on a google search. The other day I followed a thought and found a story of healing, about the football player Marc Buoniconti who was paralyzed from the shoulders down at the age of 19. The injury sidelined a potential successful career, but he says it saved his life. His family went on to raise millions to start The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis. But the amazing story of how he found his purpose in life was only part of it. Turns out at some point he decided to contact the other party in the injury, the player whose forceful tackle left him motionless on the field. That meeting led to forgiveness and opportunity later in life. Buoniconti helped Herman Jacobs enroll in culinary school; the two are now ‘best friends’.
In thinking about concepts of forgiveness and restoration; of life and death; I started the think about the residue of our actions, the fingerprints we leave on other people in our lives. I cannot see a beautiful flower, or stare at a skyscape without thinking of how my mother would love to see it. In my Friday morning messages I am continuing the legacy of my father, trying to incorporate light hearted tales into a more meaningful story, one which will resonate with someone, will perhaps open a door into a new way of thinking. And when I see my kids I see the impact that their father had on them. He was imperfect (as are we all), but had many strengths and qualities that will continue to be seen in his children and grandchildren.
My fascination with words led me to thinking about opposites. We have some words like unkempt and uncouth that we use easily. Yet we never say ‘kempt’ or ‘couth’! My mother could often be ‘discombobulated’. I wonder what it is to be combobulated? Some years ago we were worried to discover that we could be manipulated by subliminal messages, subtle messages delivered in a way we were not conscious of, yet that could affect our decision making. Ads were created to flash words so quickly that the brain did not register them, and yet they had an effect.
The word ‘liminal’ is quite beautiful. It is used to describe places where reality feels altered, a place where heaven and earth seem especially close. But the word comes from a Latin word meaning threshold, a place of transition between what was, and what will be. It is also defined in terms of perception, meaning the threshold at which something produces a sensory response. Have you ever been touched by a thought and felt goosebumps? Have you ever been hit by a memory so real it recalls smells and sounds and even recreates the way you felt at the time? I have been enjoying the thought that those who are gone still have the ability to provide liminal messages, some reminder that is powerful enough to elicit a response, a recognition that their impact continues to vibrate through our lives.
On this January Friday, I hope your year is starting out full of hope and potential. I hope that as you stand on the threshold of a new year, you can feel those liminal messages coming through, and recognize that though we all will fade away, we are leaving trails and fingerprints that will continue to vibrate after we are gone.
Have a wonderful weekend, Family!