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We were on our way to somewhere. Traveling in a large RV through the countryside, we watched the sun dip below the horizon, and the bright greens of summer slowly become shades of black. I looked down to see the gas gauge floating at half-full, and I had not seen a gas station for miles.

Not knowing how far we were from where we were going, I turned to dad and said, “I’m going to stop at the next gas station I see to fill up. I’m a little worried about running out of gas.” Dad seemed lost in thought, but he turned to me and the familiar gaze indicated to me he hadn’t understood, or maybe had not heard what I had said.

“I’m going to stop for gas, soon,” I repeated louder. Dad nodded and smiled as if to acknowledge he had heard what I said this time.

A few miles later a white clapboard store appeared on the left. Several cars were on the lot in front, and a neon “open” sign pierced the dusk. As I got closer, I could see two old gasoline pumps in front of the store under a small canopy just large enough to protect the pumps, and maybe a customer pumping gas, from the day’s weather.

“I’m going to stop here, dad.” Dad just stared ahead and said nothing as I pulled in next to the pumps. I climbed down from the RV, opened the tank cap, pulled the hose off the pump, flipped the pump switch and began refueling.

It was dark now. The one fluorescent bulb flickering above the pumps and dim glow from the store window was barely enough light for me to see the gallon markers slowly roll by as I refilled the tank. The steady click of the pump gave way to the soft sounds of frogs and insects calling into the night. I took a deep breath and pulled in the warm, sweet air of summer in the country. There were hundreds of lightning bugs in the meadow across the road, and I wondered if I could catch enough in a jar to light my way home as I did when I was a boy.

The pump shut off with a loud click and pulled me back into the moment.

“It sure is a nice night,” I called up to dad in the RV as I replaced the hose. “The air smells so fresh and clean.” Dad didn’t respond. I was sure he hadn’t heard me.

I went into the store to pay for the gasoline, and as I was walking out, I saw dad get into the driver’s seat. I ran toward RV, calling out for him to wait. Without ever looking at me, he started the RV, pulled away from the pumps and onto the road, and then drove off in the direction we were going. As I watched him drive away, I wondered when he would remember we were traveling together.

I pulled the phone from my pocket and brought up his contact card. I’ll call his cell phone or text him, I thought before I remembered he probably wouldn’t hear his phone and if he did, he wouldn’t answer it while he was driving.  I put the phone back in my pocket and looked up to find the lights at the store, and the flickering fluorescent above the pumps was off.

As my eyes to readjusted to the darkness, I noticed the night was clear and the sky was full of the brightest stars. The lightning bugs in the meadow across the road were gone, and the frogs and insects were now silent. I walked back to the store and knocked on the door.

A voice answered from the other side, “Yeah? Who is it!?”

“I’m David Harkins. I was your last customer,” I answer. “My dad just drove off without me and….”

Cutting me off the voice said, “What do you want me to do about it?”

I didn’t know. If I could only remember where we were going, maybe I could catch up with dad somehow. Or maybe I could get him a message.

“Nothing, I suppose…,” I said. I turned around, sat down on the stoop and closed my eyes.  I wondered where I would sleep that night, whether dad would remember to come back for me, and how I would get home if he did not. As I thought about my situation in the silence of the night, I heard music in the distance.

The music grew gradually louder, like a car approaching with its windows down and the radio playing at its highest volume. A wave of relief flowed down my body. Dad must have remembered me! I wouldn’t be stuck tonight. I was so glad to know dad would drive again because I didn’t know where I was going! The music got louder, and when it felt in front of me, I slowly opened my eyes.

Soft morning sunlight streamed through my bedroom windows. I took a deep breath and rolled over to turn off the music now blasting from my alarm clock.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. The journey’s a little different without you.

Two fragile souls, forged
and reformed,
strong and weak
in places different, still
fractures feel harmoniously
aligned.

Spontaneous uncertainty, both
overwhelms and calms,
a heart racing, a brain
endeavors
constraint.

An arm, taken
a gloved-hand held, heat
felt, a fire starts
gentle first kisses, life
plans are made
again.

Quiet intensity, held
close breaks free again,
overwhelming a cautious heart,
breathe
deep and slow, dancing
in time, these two
fragile
souls.

Greg Henshall, Circa 1983. Photo by Brandon Walsh

I have always been interested in photography, and many of the earliest pictures of me show me with a camera. Whether it was the Kodak Duaflex III that belonged to my dad or the Instamatic-X35 I received as a gift just before my 6th-grade safety patrol trip, I loved the idea that I could capture a single moment in time. It came as no surprise to my dad, then, when I told him the summer of 1978 that I wanted a 35mm film camera.  I had saved some money, but not quite the $800 I needed for a camera and a couple for lenses.

I had morning paper route then, and dad decided it would be a good time to teach me about finances. He offered to co-sign a one-year loan for me at his company’s credit union so I could buy the camera equipment. Before I invested, though, he wanted me to learn more about photography from someone who worked in the field. He asked a photographer he worked with at Union Carbide to come by the house to give me a primer on photography and equipment.

It wasn’t long before Greg Henshall showed up with several camera bags filled with different cameras and lenses. Greg was in his late 20’s, loved people, loved photography, and was close enough to my age that dad thought I might listen to what he had to say. I liked him immediately and not just because we shared a common passion. Instead, I liked him because he was genuinely interested in me, a lanky teenager looking for a way to express himself.

Greg spent a few hours with me that night, teaching me the basics of cameras and offering his thoughts on what kind of camera I should buy.  Once I bought a camera, Greg showed me the technical aspects of photography—apertures, shutter speed, film speed.  A few years later, he was kind enough to let me tag along on a few of his freelance jobs—mostly weddings and portraits—where he taught me the importance of composition, viewpoint, anticipating the action, and the importance of “waiting for just the right moment” to release the shutter.

In high school, I was a photographer on the yearbook staff and at Greg’s encouragement began taking portraits of friends to practice technique. He loaned me lights and other equipment whenever I needed them, taught me darkroom basics, and gave me tips as I prepared to teach my first photography class for Adult Community Education when I was just seventeen. I took my first real job with WBPY-TV as a staff photographer in 1983 and Greg was there again to critique my work, offering suggestions on where and how to improve my technique. When I opened my own studio and processing lab in 1985, Greg was my first lab client. And when I burned-out on photography as a profession in 1988, it was Greg who encouraged me to stick with it as a hobby. That was the one piece of advice from Greg I did not follow; I put down my camera and did not pick it up with any enthusiasm again for nearly twenty years.

I lost track of Greg when I moved from Charleston in 1995, but we reconnected through social media in February this year. Through our new Facebook connection, I learned his wife had died in 2000, and he had retired from Union Carbide about the same time.  I understand he took assignments with FEMA documenting disasters for a while and more recently, he had become a “man about town” photographing events and activities for the local newspapers and his many, many, friends. I ran into him in Charleston over the summer, and the first thing he said to me was, “I’m glad to see you picked up your camera again. I enjoy seeing your photographs on Facebook.” We briefly caught up, and then he moved on to take another photograph. He was always anticipating the next moment. Greg never stood still for long when he had a camera in his hand.

From portraits to weddings, to natural disasters, to a night out with friends, Greg documented our lives with passion and empathy. He wasn’t just a good photographer we hired to do a job; he became a friend who instinctively knew what was important to us and did his best to help us achieve our goals. In doing so, he connected with each of us emotionally, giving a part of himself in a way that made that connection so special. That kind of relationship is something few photographers, in my opinion, ever achieve.

Late last week I was heartbroken to learn Greg had died unexpectedly. Tuesday many will gather to celebrate Greg’s life, and I am sorry I cannot be with them. But, I do want to acknowledge the important role he played my life.

I am thankful for Greg’s thoughtfulness and reassurance; he helped me find courage and self-esteem as a teenager. As a teacher, a mentor, and a friend, he helped me find a way to express myself when I words alone were not enough. For these lifelong gifts Greg helped me to find and foster, I find it ironic today that I can only pay tribute to him with words. Yet, words are the best way I can create a full image of Greg, one that truly captures how important he was in my development from a timid, gangling teenager trying to fit it, to the person—and photographer—I am today.

Thank you and Godspeed, Greg Henshall. You were one of a kind.

The work I do causes me to think a lot about how and why culture changes, how businesses change to respond to cultural change and how we, as individuals, adjust engagement and consumption behavior in reaction to an external disruption–that change in our normal state–when it is forced upon us. Throughout my career, I have helped many companies facilitate change, and the most important thing I’ve learned from it all is most of us hate change because it is usually something we are forced to react to, rather than participate in. This is especially true in our workplaces, with the businesses we deal with, and even with our favorite products. If you need an example, consider “New Coke,” or the attempt by GAP to change its logo.

I think everyone realizes change is constant and there is no rational choice but to embrace it, evolve with it, or at least find a way to adapt to the impact it has on our work. Embracing, evolving, or adapting is how most of us manage change in our personal lives, too. Although, we probably manage change in our business and professional lives much easier than we do in our personal lives.

My friend, Wendy Lou, believes most of us just want someone to change with us. I believe this, too, and I think this is why a change in business and professional environments, as painful as it is, can feel much easier for us than personal change. While each of us may approach change differently based on our background and life experiences, we typically experience workplace change with colleagues who are all moving, together, in the same direction. Change is much easier to navigate and appreciate if others are with us on the journey.

In our personal lives, we typically tackle change, at least self-change, alone and this is precisely why such change can be difficult. When we need, or desire, change of our own it’s often self-driven or created by an internal disruption and not directly caused by external forces. When we have people in our lives who are capable of and willing to change with us, we can grow together. If not, then, unfortunately, we will grow apart.

Facilitating life change is intensely personal. After all, not everyone experiences change the same way, or at the same rate. Unlike in the work or business world, we are not all moving in the same direction or toward the same goal, at least not at the same time, in our personal lives. While others might empathize and support us on our journey, no one will truly understand our new path because they will navigate the unique twists and turns of their own path at a different pace.

Change is inevitable. Accepting our own need to change and evolve is an especially difficult, but necessary part of what it means to be human. Acknowledging that we may need to experience personal change alone surfaces the undeniable, and sometimes painful, recognition that we are solely responsible for who we are, who we will become, and the happiness we choose to uncover in the process of living our own lives.

The boy, determined confidence,
a bundle of energy, buzz-cut cowlicks highlight
quirkiness only a child can embody.

The teenager, empowered,
in creative communities, artistic and musical, shy
and reserved one-on-one, afraid
of appearing foolish.

The father, loving and sentimental,
touched to tears often, children grown
desires to protect appear controlling, hard
to let go, but learning.

The man at mid-life, determined confidence
and energy still, lost and found
at once, boundless creativity, sleeping less,
alone, but love and quirkiness still shine,
breaking through an aging façade, revealing
a self-portrait of the boy, now refined.

© 2013, David L. Harkins

I watched you grow for nearly a year,
three hundred fifty-seven days to be exact
from conception, stretching, then growing,
then stretching again, showing yourself more
and more with each iteration.

Your birth brought warm hugs and toothy grins
from your new family and I, from a distance, watched
for signs of your distress, quietly
moving amid the happy laughter, hoping
to go unnoticed as I cradled you,
and calmed your cries.

One hundred-forty people, more, or less, saw
your first steps forward, offering oohs
and aahs while I weaved quickly out in front,
and then behind, removing obstacles, ready
for your first tear-inducing tumble.

In three days time, the family left, raining joyful tears
in appreciation of you, their souls filled with love and pain,
a deep, achy sadness from leaving you to blossom,
in their absence, another year, maybe two,
before returning to see how you have grown,
and stretched, and grown again.

We waved good-bye, you and me, before
I tucked you into rest, for a while,
to dream of courage and creativity, brimming-over
in future lives, and all because your first breath,
your tiny, tiny, breath did everything, or maybe just enough,
to bring the family together.

As I left you to rest, I stopped to look at you again,
and in the dark silence I knew, my heart
had seen your heart, too, in stolen glances
through those unknown fractures your birth
created in my soul, as the beauty
of your existence caused my distraction.

I turned out the light and walked away, leaving
you to dream, to become what you need to become,
while I watch quietly, for a year, not two, for you
to stretch, and grow, and stretch again, just enough,
to turn on the light, open the door,
and tell me it’s  time to begin, again.

© 2013, David L. Harkins

I sat with you,
exposed and aware
of the darkness and light
passing between us,
like two notes an octave apart
playing harmony I alone heard at once
misaligned and in unison.

Carried by the quiet ebb and flow of your voice
I traveled with you through time, told
by stories and poems of your life
and then of mine,
to places kept walled away
save for the words
we both use as keys, to open
a still beating heart, hidden
from all but those we believe are worthy
of the search, and those who possess
the courage for the journey.

Small cups stacked nearby,
remnants of the dare
that brought us to this frozen place
in time, serve as the only witness
to a communion of minds
contemplating new possibilities in the night
that now the daylight colors as forbidden,
and so I wrap those gentle moments in a cloak
of the past hidden from all, but our memory.
© 2013, David L. Harkins

I originally wrote this essay in February 2009 for Scout Sunday and shared the excerpt below on my business blog September 11, 2010.  In 2011, I decided to make this an annual post in remembrance. Every trip I have made to New York since 2002, I go down to the WTC site and pay my respects to Richie, an 18-year-old man who answered a call of service to others with such passion and commitment, he never saw his 19th birthday. In May 2013 I saw this, a more permanent reminder of his remarkable courage…

I hope you’ll consider joining me in a moment of silence at 8:46 AM Eastern Time today to remember Richie Pearlman and the nearly 3,000 people who died twelve years ago. 

From February 2009…


A few weeks ago, I was in NY and visited the World Trade Center site as I have on every trip to the city since 2002. This trip I was able to go to the museum for the first time and reflect on that tragic day. As I made my way around to the photographs of the three thousand or so individuals who lost their lives, I caught a glimpse of a familiar face. It was the face of Richard Pearlman. Suddenly, I couldn’t contain my grief. Standing there looking at that wall, at the picture of Richard, the tears streamed down my face. Although I did not know him personally, I did know his story.

In February 2009, I had the privilege of sharing the message for Scout Sunday at my church. My message that Sunday was based on the New Testament book of Luke 6:17-26, commonly known as the “Beatitudes.” I closed the message with a story about Richard Pearlman that I compiled from news reports. Below is the story and the message closing:

…let me share with you the story of Richard Pearlman. He knew a little something about making an effort and the responsibilities of taking care of others.

Richie joined the junior corps of Forest Hills Volunteer Ambulance Corps. When he was 14, working as a volunteer dispatcher. At 18, he joined the Senior Corps as a paramedic, where he immediately became a source of knowledge for new dispatchers and new volunteer members. He looked forward to starting his EMT courses and a career in emergency services.

Richie was a constant presence at the Corps. He was the regular Tuesday night and Saturday daytime dispatcher. He was present at every can shaking and blood pressure screening the Corps held. But he found his passion when became involved in the Boy Scouts of America, as an Assistant Scoutmaster for Troop 106, in Queens, New York. Richie was committed to both Scouting and caring for others. The summer of 2001, Richie was a staffer at Boy Scout Camp Aquehonga in Narrowsburg, NY. He served in the trading post, camp services, assisted the commissioners and as an office manager. While in the office, Richie found his calling and a new nickname, “Mother.” He earned this name for the way he doted on injured campers and staff. Richie was a trained in CPR and as a first aid technician, but his specialty was psychological first aid. He had a knack for calming down the most upset and injured Scout and Scouter alike.

Richie lived with his parents in Howard Beach, NY and was working as a messenger for a New York Law firm the morning of September 11, 2001. He was delivering a package to One Police Plaza when he learned that the first airplane had struck the World Trade Center not far away. He called his boss and told him he had gone over to help. His employer ordered him back to the offices where he would be safe. However, Richie knew in his heart where he belonged. He saw total mayhem before him, and his training kicked in. He shared that he saw people hurt and bleeding. “I have to stay and do what I can to help.”

Upon arriving, the 18-year-old flashed his gold paramedic’s badge #3754 and rushed into a building to aid in the rescue effort. Despite the chaos at the scene, Richie’s heroics were later confirmed on pages 16-17 in Newsweek’s Extra Edition of America Under Attack which shows a picture of Richie aiding the injured—helping a woman covered in blood, but alive, from one of the towers. After getting her to safety, he ran back in to find more survivors. Shortly afterward, the towers came down.

Richard Allen Pearlman, 18, an assistant scoutmaster with Troop 106, chartered to Trinity Lutheran Church in Queens, NY became the youngest victim of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. He received The Honor Medal, with crossed palms, the highest award given by the Boy Scouts of America for an act of Heroism at extreme risk to oneself.

“He used to always say,” his mother shared at his funeral, ‘I’m going to be a famous person one day, Mom. I’m going to help save the world. ‘You’ll see.’ “And he did save the world…at least the world for the one woman he helped escaped the towers that day.

Richie Pearlman was an exceptional man. He was a brave, courageous, tenacious, and strong. But, we learned that he was also loving, compassionate, empathetic, and kind-hearted – everything we hope for in ourselves and others. In our scriptures today, Jesus is clear about his expectations of us; that as His followers, we are held to a higher standard through this “code of conduct.”

Richie Pearlman was just the kind of person that God calls us all to be.

The Scout Sunday message closed with this video:

May God bless and keep the families of those who perished on September 11, 2001 (911).


If you would like to commemorate the life of Richie Pearlman, please consider making a donation to the Richard Allen Pearlman Memorial Annual Scholarship, providing scholarships for EMT or Paramedic Training.

It’s In Every One Of Us, by David Pomeranz, is used with permission. The photographs of Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Venturers, and volunteers leader shown in this video were photographed by David Harkins and are also used with permission.

For most of his life, dad has put the needs of everyone else above his own. My sharing the list of things I know he’s done would embarrass him, but I’m willing to bet the list of things he has taken care of without anyone’s knowledge would be twice as long. In this way, he taught me the principles of servant leadership—quiet service to others to build a more just and caring world.

I did not know my parents while growing up. I knew what they looked like and where I could find them every day because we lived in the same house. They were my parents, and I never saw them as individuals. I thought their job was to take care of me; to make sure I had food to eat and clothes to wear.  I think most children feel this way about their parents until they’re well into adulthood. As for me, my perspective changed the summer of 1982.

In 1982, my dad was on the board of directors for our community swim club and one summer Saturday decided he was going to fix a malfunctioning sump pump at the pool. He was up and out of the house early that day, as he usually was, with my little brother in tow. Mom was working. My sisters were sleeping. The house was still and quiet, making it the perfect morning for a 19-year-old college student on summer break to sleep a little later, too.

The phone rang about 11:00 a.m., my sister answered and then woke me to take the urgent call. When I picked up the phone, a family friend told me dad had been injured, and I should come right away. I grabbed a shirt, put on my shoes, and drove up to the pool alone, wondering what had happened and what I would need to do when I go there if I could do anything at all.

DadCarbiderPhoto

I pulled into the parking lot to see paramedics, firemen, and a crowd of concerned friends. They told me the sump pump dad had been working on was in a small well a few feet underground. He had his hands and arms down in the well when the powered-off pump released a residual spark, igniting fumes in the well, and sent a ball of fire shooting up and out of the top where dad and brother were looking in. It happened in an instant, they said, but somehow dad was able to get his face out of the way and move my brother aside.

Paramedics were treating dad for third-degree burns on his arms and hands, and second-degree burns on his face when I saw him. I talked to him briefly and he said he was okay, but I knew he was not. The skin on his arms had blistered, peeled, and rolled down around his hands. It looked as if he had been wearing arm-length latex gloves and had rolled them down around his wrists. My brother had a few singed hairs and some first degree burns—similar to a slight sunburn—on his face from the blowback.

The paramedic told me dad’s condition was serious. It was likely he would be airlifted to Pittsburgh to the regional burn center for treatment, he said. He also told me my brother wasn’t hurt, but like dad, he was in shock, and I should ride in the ambulance to the hospital with him.

Later in the day, Dad was flown to the burn center. After helping my sisters and brother settled with my grandparents, mom and I drove to Pittsburgh. We stayed for a little over a week while dad was stabilized, and then came home for a day. Mom returned the next and stayed for several weeks while dad was treated for his burns and had multiple surgeries for skin grafts. I traveled back and forth several times that summer.

On one visit, I was sitting with mom and dad in the room he then shared with a Rabbi, who had third-degree burns on his hands from a Fry-Daddy® explosion. Both dad and the Rabbi were being treated for pain with heavy doses of morphine, and while alert, they were anything but lucid.

“I used to be a Rabbi,” my dad called out to the real Rabbi in the next bed.

“You did? That is wonderful,” said the Rabbi. “Did you know, I used to kidnap little children for a hobby?”

My mother started laughing so hard—uncontrollably really—she had to leave quickly to find the ladies room. Of course, it would be in the moments after she left that dad would need the bedside urinal and I would need to help him because his hands were bandaged. It was at that moment helping my dad, when I realized my parents were people, too. They had hopes and dreams. They even had bodily functions at the most inconvenient times. Their life and their dreams were on indefinite hold now because of a freak accident.

When dad finished, and I took the urinal away, I needed to do something to take the edge of the awkward moment, so I asked him how to build an AC-to-DC converter to put on the starting buzzer I was making for pool swim meets. I wanted to lower the voltage of the power to the switch since the person tripping the switch would be closer to the water. I did not expect him to tell me. I didn’t think he was lucid. He described the circuit and told me how to diagram it. It worked flawlessly. Teaching me how to diagram a circuit while critically injured and under the influence of painkillers was not the first thing dad taught me. His first lesson was dedication and commitment to the task.

After graduating high school, dad did a short stint in the Navy where his leadership skills earned him an offer for recommendation to attend Officer Candidate School. He turned down the offer and was honorably discharged after three years of service. He moved back to Charleston, married my mother, and started a family. When I was three, he decided to get serious about his college education and began night classes, often carrying a full load each semester, while working full time and raising a family. Five years later, he had earned a B.S. in Business Administration and another in Mathematics.

For most of his life, dad has put the needs of everyone else above his own. My sharing the list of things I know he’s done would embarrass him, but I’m willing to bet the list of things he has taken care of without anyone’s knowledge would be at least twice as long. In this way, he taught me the principles of servant leadership—quiet service to others to build a more just and caring world.

Dad and David

Dad also taught me perseverance and the importance of perspective. When he was younger, he fell asleep while driving and was in a bad single-car accident, but walked away without serious injury. He was helping neighbors trim a tree and were knocked off the ladder by a swinging branch, and fell eight feet onto a pile of branches on the driveway and again, walked away unhurt. He was in the explosion at the pool, and he has had two heart bypass surgeries. Recently, he walked away from another auto accident without injury. My siblings and I encourage him to be more careful because he has used most of his “nine lives.”   He believes there is a purpose in his survival considering how frequently he has had brushes with death.

“I think there’s still someone on this earth I’m supposed to meet,” he says.

To the contrary, I believe many people still need to meet him. Maybe, just maybe, he was is a rabbi once.  of sorts.

Happy 74th Birthday, dad. I love you.

Self-portrait as an eight-year-old,
determined confidence in
a bundle of energy,
buzz-cut cowlicks highlight quirkiness
only a child can embody.

Self-portrait as a high school student,
empowered by the community of theater and music,
artistic and creative, shy and reserved one-on-one,
afraid of appearing foolish.

Self-portrait as a father,
loving and sentimental, touched
to tears often, “dad days” now too far apart, desires to protect appear as controlling,
hard to let go, but learning.

Self-portrait as middle age,
confidence and energy of a different kind,
hair falls and grows oddly, paint and songs return, sleeping less, alone, but love, and quirkiness trickle from
fractures in the facade revealing a refined self-portrait at eight.

Forgiveness and resurrection are not solely Christian concepts, nor a power and capacity only God possesses. Through her actions, mom proved to me we all have the power and capacity. In those three days of silence, I was forgiven and resurrected. Over, and over, and over.

My mother and I did not always agree.

As a child, I followed the rules and did what I was told,  but as an adult, I was prone to speak my mind. Once, at age 19, I chose to be too vocal within my mother’s reach and promptly had my mouth smacked. Stunned, I walked away in silence, not to rethink what I had said because what I said was the truth. Instead, I needed to consider the timing and delivery of my words and whether it was worth a pop in the mouth for being what she thought was me being disrespectful. I thought I was being honest and direct, not disrespectful. I struggled a lifetime to find that balance with my mom.

Mom shared my gift of impulsive honesty, which is why she likely did not like to be the recipient of the same. Often she would speak without thinking, saying those things on her mind before others were ready, or even needed to hear them.

My dad once told me, “Your mother thinks you should not say some of the things you say to her.”

She saw value in her trait to cut to the heart of matters and speak honestly; she was less appreciative of it in others, particularly when she was on the receiving end of the words.

We lived apart much of the end of her life, yet this did not stop our honest conversations. On the phone several times a year, in the silence of waiting for her response to something I had said, I would hear a “click,” and then a dial tone. Although the distance saved me from a slap across the mouth, I felt the sting just the same. Silence became my mother’s punishment of choice, or perhaps of necessity.

It was best to let mom take the time to think and regroup when she was angry. She always called when she was ready to talk again and rarely did she make mention of our last conversation.

A few years before she died I realized she had a pattern in those periods of silence. Each time she disconnected from me, the breaks would be exactly three days. She always called me on the third day, and I apparently was forgiven for whatever I had said in the previous conversation.

When I mentioned this pattern to my dad, he said with a smile, “And on the third day, the son rises.”

It occurred to me then, forgiveness and resurrection are not solely Christian concepts, nor a power and capacity only God possesses. Through her actions, mom proved to me we all have the power and capacity. In those three days of silence, I was forgiven and resurrected. Over, and over, and over.

For her love, for her lessons, for her forgiveness, and my repeated resurrection. I am, forever, grateful.

Photo Credit: “Fall Eye” ©2012 David L. Harkins

Big dreams
of far-off places
where knights ride
atop white horses
seeking still sleeping
hearts of beauties
never to be found.

Big dreams
of bright blue skies
amid pillowed clouds
upon which castles
once built with hope
endure quiet lifetimes
undisturbed and empty.

Big dreams
of eternal happiness
with love and passion
amongst quiet laughter
achieved magically
by daring instead
to dream big.

© 2013, David L. Harkins