Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The power of stories

Alexandra Fuller, author of Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, said of writing, something like this:  When we are gone, all that is left of us is our stories. That may be why many of us can’t shake the writing bug.

I stand in awe of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s  Americanah which I just finished reading and put down reluctantly because I had come to the end of it.

I took it with me to Malibu, California where I spent a memorable weekend with family and friends remembering the life of Celestine Favrot Arndt an extraordinary woman whose oldest son is married to my daughter.

In all the years that I knew Cely, I seldom spent any length of time with her but somehow that didn’t matter. We had these children and grandchildren in common and we talked—on the phone--via email. We were friends.

We didn’t talk about the illness that eventually took her life. We had other things to discuss. Last Christmas she sent me a flowing white jasmine plant that hangs from my living room ceiling. Who knows how it survived the U.S. mail in winter, but it did, and I am so grateful to have it.

Cely stories poured out all weekend, from her brother, sisters, four sons, granddaughter, partner of 25 years and his son, and the wife of her oncologist with whom she had become a close friend. We heard stories from her workout group. We learned about her adventurous nature and time spent raising a family in Sri Lanka, Taiwan and India, and her falling in love with Bhutan. No one was surprised to learn that among her last words were, “Don’t send money. Just make sure you vote!”

Her life ended at home, with dignity and humor, surrounded by her children, all of whom have stories to tell that will go on for years.

I’m guessing that hearing about her life made many of us present re-think our own. 

Stories can do that. 

Telling Cely stories in an elegant setting.

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