A friend in high school once accused me of being nothing but an overgrown hippie.
The budding punk rocker in me was horrified at the time (and just to be clear, my hair never came close to hippie standards for length).
But in my dotage, I’ve come to accept there may have been some truth in that. Maybe this former Marine has a streak of Peace & Love hidden down deep inside.
Case in point: When my first daughter was born and I at last held her in my hands, I had one thing to say. Right there amid the business-like chatter of the nurses, I knew the first word I wanted this beautiful new creature to hear from me:
I grew up surrounded by a passion for the power and beauty of words, after all. My mother, a sometime Latin teacher, was a philologist in the purest sense: a lover of words. Her greatest joy seemed to be telling stories, stories that used words to spin laughter or sadness from her listeners. Devouring books and learning to speak other languages were the hallmarks of becoming an adult in my family. As a young child, I stood in awe of my mother’s ability to discuss me with my older siblings in French — leaving me completely frustrated and out of the conversation.
So when I stood beside the bed of my dying mother Friday morning, watching her peacefully slide away as her breathing slowed, I clung to only a single idea. I leaned over and pressed my cheek against hers, my lips just above the glowing red oxygen monitor clipped to her earlobe. I wanted to say one thing, wanted her to hear one word at the last.