This I Believe

Matthew - Clarkston, Georgia
Entered on November 29, 2006
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: death, family

I believe that without contemplation and reflection I am numb. Without reflection in my life, experiences sit on a shelf, generic, empty of color, lifeless and formless, available at wholesale. This I believe.

I do not own the experiences that I have, but have a responsibility to recognize the incarnation of these experiences in my life. A moment or longer to think about where I am, what I am doing, what I have done, or what has happened to me, turns existing into living.

The opportunities to give life to my ordinary and extraordinary experiences are endless, whether I’m sitting motionless and quiet beside the torrent of a secluded mountain stream, or playing in the yard with my dogs, or as on my father’s birthday eight years ago, lying in bed to the news that he has died, that the lung cancer was over and that he went with it.

Reflection is incarnation. Reflection is reincarnation. I believe my father’s death taught me this.

Perhaps there are experiences involving death or things worse than death which one doesn’t want to revive with reflection, experiences that are best forgotten. But I believe the pace of my life, the heel biting ‘to do’s’, too often keeps me from saving the life of many experiences of my past and present which are best remembered.

On April 24th , 1998, the morning after my twenty-second birthday my sleeping body startled awake to a terrycloth hug. My step-mother’s gesture silently confirmed

dad was now dead. Her calm hand was an unmistakable grip of finality, of release. News had come from the hospital. He had lived and died between bookends, April 24th being the date of his birth, as well as the date of his death. He was no longer suffering, but in my bed I felt a suffering begin. It shook me hard.

Now, eight years later, I can still suffer the same, as if bearing the brunt of the news for the first time. I still cry when I hear Willie Nelson sing “My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys”, and I will cry in years to come when those first chords draw me into this song that my dad loved so much, one he seemed to relate to in melody and verse, and one I sing today, my voice wavering. However, I have learned that by doing so I sometimes bear the death and the loss instead of lift up the life and the gain.

Reflection is incarnation. Reflection is reincarnation.

Losing my father to lung cancer does not mean that I cannot continue to connect with him. I can choose not to experience his passing with the look and manner of one who is dead himself, but as one who is alive, one who can reflect on experiences as pain or pleasure to keep my moments from being generic and empty of color.

When my mother passes, what will make me cry? How will we keep connecting? Only reflection will tell.