543 Day Writing Journey

We Ripple. Day 543.

This is Roger’s Facebook profile photo

It’s day 543, the last day of the writing project I have been doing in honor of Roger. I didn’t plan anything for it, no ideas to write about or a grand finale with patriotic banners and Walmart champagne. I thought about copying down his own penned words from a letter or something, but that seemed cliché. Although I didn’t plan anything special for this day, the universe did, and it began with a ripple. I wanted it to be holistic and that’s what happened. Maybe Roger had something to do with it, but I doubt it. He’s never been one to linger in the limelight, to manipulate, to talk loudly.

Before I realized today was the last day of this particular project, I asked Melissa Culbreth to have breakfast with me. She was the chaplain deployed with Roger in 2009, an intelligent and accomplished woman, yes, but more importantly, probably the most genuine human I’ve ever encountered. She’s a survivor of too much, a life coach, and my friend. She was there for it all, and by all, I mean right after it happened. She remembers going through the motions, tending to her duty, then looking at Roger’s wedding ring on his finger, and how it made her pause.

“That’s when I thought about the ripple effect,” she said.

The ripple effect is when an action creates another action, and if you dive into it you’ll realize that everything you do or say ripples, even if only a tiny bit. We all ride the rough salty waves of our own and other people’s ripples. We cause ripples all day every day. We’re supposed to.

When she found out the men died, Melissa knew there would be ripples, but Roger’s ring is the symbol that reminded her, jabbed her in the side, woke her up from the motions. They were unable to remove it from his finger right away. He never took that ring off. When we married, he weighed 155 pounds. His hands were thin and his ring fit correctly. After some years his ring became nestled into the depths of his hand, safely embraced by his skin. He never imagined he’d have to take it off. He was adamantly against it.

Today, Melissa and I talked over bagels in Benson, NC. Hers was bacon egg and cheese on an egg bagel, and mine was sesame with scallion cream cheese. We both drank black coffee out of Styrofoam mugs. Her pup, Lea, napped on her little bed nearby. We didn’t simply chat or catch up, we had a deep, deep conversation, a new connection. I said to her, “You went through it all, you were there right away. You saw everything. You had feelings, too, but you didn’t get the big ceremonies and recognition.”

She waved her hand and looked to the side, “Nah,” she said. It’s true, though. Melissa didn’t get a Gold Star pin or a folded flag. She got sent home with a pat on the back. But it’s what she would have wanted. She has never existed for the pomp and circumstance.

“I knew you’d say that!” I said, teasing her about her wave-off. Melissa was, is, and never will be one to feel slighted. She’s a giver, a true human gem.

“I feel like I should be over it already,” I told her. “It’s been over thirteen years.”

“Stop saying that word,” she said. She leaned forward and gently looked into my eyes. “Stop saying should.”

That was my favorite ripple today, Melissa’s word. Should. I flashed quickly and brightly to the past years and what I thought I should have done. I should have waited to date. I should have gone to all of the funerals and wakes of the other three who died that day. I should have worn my ring longer. I should go to the cemetery more. I should get over it.

Close your eyes and think of what you’ve done today. Don’t think of the significance of that action. Don’t grade it or rank it or rate it. Did you say something to someone? Did you purchase something or take a left instead of a right or eat the last donut? List your ripples. Little ones, big ones. Immerse yourself in them.

Be a good rippler. Be conscious of your ripples. What does a flick of your figurative finger into the pool of life do to the rest of us. To the environment. To each other. Does your ripple count?

I mourn a bit today on this last day, almost like I’m saying goodbye to Roger in a different way. I’ll miss it, the commitment, but I’ll also really take the break, let my eyes rest, and lean into my refrain from sharing. I’ll redirect my focus, not away from Roger, but more towards the next big thing, the next ripple. I’ll keep him with me forever as my cheerleader more than the one I lost, and not because I should, but because I choose to, because that’s what he would probably want.

1 thought on “We Ripple. Day 543.”

  1. Dear Teri,
    The “ripple effect” of your 543 Day Writing Journey was the sharing of your feelings, both good and bad, your outlook on life, your love for your children, (and your animals), and for your hopes and dreams…
    You completed what you had set out to accomplish, brought smiles to our faces, and tears to our eyes…
    Your boys should be very proud of you for leaving them something very special, to read, enjoy, and to remember you for many years to come…
    Uncle Lee 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.