It is a new year. I always have a sense of excitement and potential as our earth enters a new stage and, like many of you, feel a “beginning”. 2008 was a year of relative calm compared to the previous three. In December of 2005 I came home to find that our house had been broken into, dumped upside down and the possessions that were most important to me were stuffed into my own pillowcase and taken away, never to be seen again. Although none of my jewelry was of immense value it represented years and years of gifts and mementos from my loved ones and commemoratives of special occasions and journeys near and far.
I thought that 2006 would be a better year and the beginning of a new collection of memories and perhaps jewelry. But in February we brought our daughter Linea home from college in Chicago, barely hanging on with a severe depression. She was soon hospitalized in a psychiatric unit of Harborview Hospital and diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Our lives all turned upside down as she fought through the depression, suicide ideology, mania and, as she describes it, “when I went crazy”. By December of 2006 Linea was back in Chicago, managing to stay in her music program but barely hanging on as I tried desperately to find a way to keep her safe and tried to come to terms with the inability to do so. By December of 2007 she was back in charge of her life and her health. I begin to breathe again.
2008 ends with many changes in our lives and, a little new wisdom in mine. My insight came while listening to two wise women from diverse and far corners of the world. I was honored to attend two days of events with the 2008 Opus Prize recipients. The Opus Prize, hosted this year by Seattle University, was established to “honor the innovative humanitarian work of those dedicated to helping transform the lives of people facing a future with little or no hope, and recognizes and supports the winners' extraordinary life commitment to life-changing work.” There is a worldwide search to identify three amazing people to honor with $1 million and two $100,000.00 awards to further their work. All three recipients were inspirational beyond words but it was the two women who fell into my heart, dropping words into my soul that I will not soon forget. Their words became my necklaces and bracelets for 2008, available to pull out, touch and remember an incredible experience.
Krishnammal Jagannathan from Tamil Nadu, India, and Marguerite “Maggy” Barankitse, from eastern Burundi, Africa, both spoke from a place of peace, love and acceptance. Both had experienced horrors against humankind and continue on a daily and hourly basis to battle injustice beyond anything I can comprehend. Krishnammal, an eighty-two year old, 4’7” devout Hindu has spent her entire life working for a humane and just life for the Dalits, members of India’s the lowest caste and some of its poorest residents, previously known as “untouchables”. Krishnammal lives with the Dalits and owns nothing herself. She told us, “When you have too many things you must spend time caring for them.” She has chosen to spend her time caring for the “unique spirit, the unique soul, and the unique divine light” that is in all of us and makes us all, on the inside, alike rather than different. She does not worry about tomorrow. Marguerite, a bubbling, smiling fifty-four year old woman known as “Maggy” said to the room full of Seattle University faculty, “Why are you all so worried about the tomorrows? You must know that you have no control.” She laughed and went on to tell us that only by living every day with love and belief and hope do we have any possibility of affecting tomorrow.
I have held tightly to what I hoped was an ability to control my daughter’s future. I have been as vigilant as a mother can possibly be with the sole purpose of not losing her. I will always be ready and available to support her (and her sister and my husband and my grandson and my family and on it goes) yet I will wear this new bracelet given to me in the words of Maggie and Krishnammal…to live and love today. It is the only way to influence tomorrow.
To see the videos of Krishnammal Jagannathan and Marguerite “Maggy” Barankitse go to http://www.seattleu.edu/opusprize/recipients_marguerite.asp. The videos are a little difficult to find. These are located about halfway down the right hand side of the page for each recipient under “Learn More About” and the Opus Prize logo. Inspiring for a New Year!
Maggy and one of her many children