Finding the right words

Here we are at the beginning of 2011, and our family is wrapping  up the end of a life today. The children are back at school, we’re back at work, and tonight is a memorial service For Ida Gibson, our hanai grandmother who died Dec. 18, 2010. Yesterday nine of us waited on shore while sister-in-law three paddled out in a one-man canoe to scatter her ashes in the ocean. We were at the beach down the street from her home in Waimanalo. It was windy, the water was lively, and I believe the cool briskness of the atmosphere was all about our Ida. Farewell.

Brisk and windy at Waimanalo Beach
Father-in-law watches as sister-in-law three paddles out with hanai grandma's ashes

Walking back from the beach to our vehicles, the family decided on lunch — at The Shack in Kailua  — and had several interesting conversations. Most significant to me was listening as sister-in-law two discussed how her second born is writing the required essays as he applies to colleges. Like his sister, he’s a talented musician and has got several irons in the fire, and schools are seeking him. As we listened to sister-in-law four and sister-in-law two, both college professors, I learned about the strategies potential students employ when it comes to writing their essays, to rise to the top, to earn acceptance and possibly financial assistance at the school of their choice.  Across from me were my daughters, ages 11 and nine, and I realized it wouldn’t be long before we’d be in the same deep pool, hopeful that their potential would be recognized. I guess we all want that, for our children, for ourselves.

Yesterday I also felt the sting of words. Individually limited in meaning, words are grouped to convey a message of either positive or negative impact. I use words everyday in my work, and here, at my leisure. I know too well how words can hurt, and I try never to use them as weapons. But every once in a while I wish to fling them back and pierce the source of my own pain. I don’t. My husband will talk me in from the ledge. I’ll feel better after a good night’s sleep. I start a new day. So now that we are at the beginning of a new year, I have made a commitment, more than a resolution, to use words as well as I can, for the greater good.