Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Power of Story

My friend Maddie died the day after Christmas. For the record, she died sober—she celebrated 28 years in November—but succumbed to cancer.

We had a memorial service yesterday at an AA club that was packed beyond what the fire marshal would have desired—the chairs were filled, no standing room remained in the back of the room, and yet people still crowded in. We all loved Maddie, and we needed to console each other in our grief and share our memories of her.

She was a creative force in our lives, a warrior woman, with a grin that captured our hearts. Surely she would’ve captured yours as well had you ever met her.

We shared hours of stories. Recounting and reflecting on those memories, we began to grasp and appreciate the full impact she made in our lives. As one person put it, heaven received a beautiful angel while earth lost a lovely soul. Through our stories we nurtured our memories, keeping our beloved Maddie alive, in our minds, in our hearts. That is, after all, the power and le raison for stories.

The last time I saw Maddie alive was Dec. 12. She was in remission—or so we thought. She and I dined at a Vietnamese restaurant, sharing shrimp spring rolls and steaming bowls of chicken pho. I showed her photos on my iPhone of the Victorian home I’d purchased in a small town about an hour from Houston. The house is on Church Street, and we agreed I should name the place Church Street Retreat because my vision is to facilitate writing retreats for women there.

Even in death, she inspires me to embrace my vision. We need to share the stories of our lives with one another because in our telling, we will find our strength, our value, and our joy.

This blog is about bearing witness to the stories of people’s lives and reflecting upon the process. I’ll post every Sunday and hope the blog will stir your own memories, so you’ll begin putting your life stories in a journal, notebook, or computer file. In this way, we will begin telling our amazing stories together.

*Just so you know, TOAST is an acronym for Telling Our Amazing Stories Together.