June 27, 2016–The Ripples We Create
by Marcia J. McKinley, JD, PhD, LCPC
My bookshelves and nightstand are stacked with books, mostly non-fiction. With each move I make, I try to purge at least a few books from my library; invariably the ones that go are fiction. But there are some works of fiction that I just can’t bring myself to part with. I return to them over and over, hoping that someday the lessons become internalized. Often these books are not cheerful, happy books, but they are meaningful and fulfilling. These are the books that sustain me.
Earlier, I wrote about how a passage of Little Bee, by Chris Cleave, embodied hope for me. Recently, I find myself returning to Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent. Often, I re-read the entire book as the characters and plot so engage me. At other times, I flip to the last two pages to read Diamant’s explanation of immortality. Through the narrative voice of the main character, Dinah, the author writes:
“I died but I did not leave them. Benia sat beside me, and I stayed in his eye and in his heart. For weeks and months and years, my face lived in the garden, my scent clung to the sheets. For as long as he lived, I walked with him by day and lay down with him at night.
When his eyes closed for the last time, I thought perhaps I would finally leave the world. But even then, I lingered. Shif-re sang the song I taught her and Kiya moved with my motions. Joseph thought of me when his daughter was born. Gera named her baby Dinah. Re-mose married and told his wife about the mother who had sent him away so that he would not die but live. Re-mose’s children bore children unto the hundredth generation. Some of them live in the land of my birth and some in the cold and windy places that Werenro described by the light of my mothers’ fire.
There is no magic to immortality.
In Egypt, I loved the perfume of the lotus. A flower would bloom in the pool at dawn, filling the entire garden with a blue must so powerful it seemed that even the fish and the ducks would swoon. By night, the flower might wither but the perfume lasted. Fainter and fainter but never quite gone. Even many days later, the lotus remained in the garden. Months would pass and a bee would alight near the spot where the lotus had blossomed, and its essence was released again, momentary but undeniable.
Egypt loved the lotus because it never dies. It is the same for people who are loved. Thus can something as insignificant as a name—two syllables, one high, one sweet—summon up the innumerable smiles and tears, sights and dreams of a human life.
If you sit on the bank of a river, you see only a small part of its surface. And yet, the water before your eyes is proof of unknowable depths. My heart brims with thanks for the kindness you have shown me by sitting on the bank of this river, by visiting the echoes of my name.”
This passage brings me peace, about those who I have lost, to death or breakups or life circumstances. I think of them with love and know that they have not died; they are still with me. And, it reminds me that we never know the ripples we create in the universe.