My Dad’s storytelling taught me we are a collection of our stories and understand life at the pace we learn from them—life long learning. When I buried my first student at 18, I found myself with 100 students, sobbing, unable to leave her. I searched my soul for help. “We all loved Sherry,” I began, “so let’s tell our favorite story about why we loved her.”
Slowly voices rose; the power of story was palpable. We cried, laughed, hugged and walked away, stories keeping her alive forever.
On Ash Wednesday, age 14, I sat in the empty church balcony with my best friend. Nearsighted and vain, we neglected our glasses and assumed no one could see us so we sat to chat. At the consecration, Father Parent spoke. “I refuse to continue until the two girls from the balcony come down.” The wrath of Father Parent did not equal my Dad’s; I was grounded for “40 days and 40 nights”.
I learned HINDSIGHT: to review the possible choices made, why I made the choice, what I might do differently and hopefully, learn from my mistakes.
With friends at 17, we were stopped by a policeman who found a lone six pack. His flashlight stopped on me. “You Loui’s daughter?”—the consequence of genetics He offered a deal. If I promised never to be so irresponsible, he would not tell.
A week later, I knew Dad knew. I spilled my guts but too late—grounded, not for the incident, but for not telling him.
I learned INSIGHT: to look at a situation, consider the options, assess the risks, review the possible outcomes, and make my choice. I learned the truth makes it unnecessary to hide.
The week I turned 40, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I learned that family and friends are more than money and materials; that I AM mortal; that each day is a gift; a rainy day is not an awful day but ANOTHER day; your hair DOES fall out with chemotherapy; a friend’s call makes mouth sores more tolerable; cancer is not someone else’s disease; it is GOOD to be a difficult patient; writing letters and saying I LOVE YOU is for now; to be spontaneous, I must have no investment in the outcome; Ma DOES make the best pickled eggplant ever; keeping something in my stomach for an hour is progress; interviewing my doctor is important because it’s an important job.
I learned that granting forgiveness can be hard and asking forgiveness harder but both are vital to the soul; that to live with integrity—who you SAY you are—must INTEGRATE with how you SHOW who you are. That the phrase “life is short” is truth; that humor is as crucial as the air you breathe.
I learned FORESIGHT: to look ahead and consider the possibilities but accept having no power to predict or control the outcome—only to do my best with what I know.
When doubt filters through, I struggle to look, for this I Believe, is how become the person I hope to be.