Writing into the Light…

Finding my way with words…

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A Question for Memorial Day

It’s Memorial Day.  That statement elicits a multitude of meanings and implications:

  • The potato salad is made
  • The ribs are marinating

  • The watermelon is chilling
  • It’s time to dig out the white shoes and clothes because since I don’t live in a tropical climate it is only now “legal” to wear them until Labor Day
  • The current method of greeting friends and neighbors in my beach town is to whisper in hushed tones of “they’re back.”
  • Loud whoo-oops of “Yahoo!!” as favorite seafood restaurants and ice cream stands reawaken after a dormant winter
  • There is a parade in town today

  • If one is still in the winter doldrums, it’s time to “Get Over It!!”
  • Most importantly, it is time to pause, and in quiet reverence, remember those who have fought to preserve, protect and defend the freedoms we too often take for granted

That reverent reflection leads to one of my “deep questions” du jour for pondering.  What do I believe in enough to defend, to the death if necessary?

When I think about people I would classify as heroes I realize one thing they all have in common is the fact that they all have a deep abiding belief in a set of principles that causes them to invest everything they have in what they define as “the right thing to do.”  They do it not for notoriety, but because it makes the world a better place.  I’ve often wondered where the source of  defending “what is right” originates.  Is it learned from parents and caregivers?  Can it be learned from role models?  How can that level of integrity and commitment to being a light bearer for a belief system be nurtured?

The founding fathers of our country went against the norms of society.  They dared to believe that loftier ideals of who we are as a nation would take time and effort, but are attainable.  I lived through the civil rights movement and watched such groups as the Freedom Riders (who just celebrated the 50th anniversary of their mission) risk their lives to make us a better and more unified nation.  The struggle has been long and slow and progress is still being made.

Inventors and artists and others who challenge our belief systems about what is possible and what is just and fair and “right” have an admirable level of integrity.  They are authentic souls.  Authenticity, I believe, is not a matter of just “doing your own thing” or expressing your opinion.  To me, authenticity requires publicly living your beliefs through thought, word and action when to do so would bring a risk of alienation.  It is living with a set of beliefs that go so deep to the core of your being that the preservation and implementation of those beliefs becomes a driving life mission.

On this Memorial Day, I applaud all who have taken imagined dreams and taken the steps to make them reality.  I applaud all who have embraced those dreams and joined the cause of redefining normal.  I applaud all who have fought the battles against hatred, bigotry, alienation and failure to look around you and say “I see you.  I hear what you are saying and see what you need” to others.  They are all heroes who use their thoughts, words and actions to make the world better for all of us.

I think we should change the name back to Day of Remembrance  lest we picture too many hot dogs and burgers and white shoes and lose sight of the real message of Remembrance.  What do you believe strongly enough to defend with your life?


The Light Bearer

Acadia at Dawn

*Profound apologies for disappearing for a month.  Sometimes life presents us with “new normals” that require quiet reflection before they can be processed and assimilated.  This is perhaps a blog for another day.  Anyway, I’m back!

I have been thinking a lot lately about people I consider to be “Bearers of Light.”  Paulus Berenson (from my first blog entry) is a Bearer of Light.  My father was a Bearer of Light.  He guided me  to always grow toward the light and to use my light to encourage others out of the darkness.

One of the first people I met when I moved to Maine left this life a few weeks ago.  Ken Read was a Light Bearer.  Two months before I moved to Maine from the Philadelphia area (while here on a vacation/house hunting trip) I ended up in Maine Medical Center having emergency quadruple by-pass surgery.  Being a driven woman, the house was found and purchased, the arrangements were made and I moved right on schedule.  Before the boxes were unpacked, I was enrolled in cardiac rehab.

My first day in phase 2 rehab at the local sports and fitness club I met a gentleman in his early 80’s on the treadmill.  He was intelligent, had a broad base of knowledge, was passionately opinionated (as am I) and had a wicked good sense of humor.  I swear I could have walked the equivalent of a marathon while engaged in conversation with Ken.  My number one task each time I arrived for my rehab session was to arrange my stations to wind up next to Ken on the treadmill.  Those opportunities for dialogue became highlights in my week.

A Light Bearer is someone who leads quietly, by example.  They are usually very intelligent.  They are people who examine issues from all angles before making choices and when they do make those choices they will defend them with mind, body and spirit.  Light Bearers are people with strong principles and solid integrity.  By taking the time to quietly observe those around us, we will find the Light Bearers in this world.  If we are attentive, they will always lead by example out of the darkness.

Ironically, while sharing stories about Ken at his memorial service, his sons and granddaughters told tales of some of his holiday gifts which were usually a bit “out of the box” in a figurative sense.  Ken apparently kept returning to the theme of “lights.”  They had all been the recipient of sources of light in every conceivable color, shape, design and intended function from camping lanterns to lamps to be worn around your head to snake lights and lighted key chains.  I thought of my father, whose gifts of light were not quite so obvious and I thought of Jill Elizabeth, a jewelry designer who crafted this piece called The Egyptian Light Bearer.  Her work is created with a mirrored tile used in construction, beads, jewels and colored wire.

Egyptian Light BearerThe piece that tied all of this together was the memory of hearing Robert Fulghum speak.  He was relaying a story from his book, It was on Fire When I Lay Down on It.  It involved a shard of mirror whose sharp edge had been rounded and carried as a reminder of the meaning of life.  I read this story at my father’s memorial service.  It concludes:       I am a fragment of a mirror whose whole design and shape I do not know.  Nevertheless, with what I have, I can reflect light into the dark places of this world – into the black places in the hearts of men – and change some things in some people.  Perhaps others may see and do likewise.  This is what I am about.  This is the meaning of my life.

Ken obviously feared that his sons and granddaughters may, at times in their life, feel they had entered a dark place.  He wanted to be sure he had prepared them to find their way out of any darkness and back into the light.  I will miss his light…