After three decades, and there was nothing

We all die some day. I too will pass away, and I hope my wishes are honored, and my ashes are scattered when I do.

I recently visited the tombstone of a man who died three decades ago and who I never really knew. It was the first time I stood over his bones.

He impacted my life and that of my family in ways that I never could control as a kid, but what I could do was determine how I wanted to live my life at a very, very young age.

I also  decided that I would not carry a name given that did not reflect who I was in any way, and instead I would choose my own name, which honored my past and ancestors.

Others will judge how well I succeeded in being better than the family name on this headstone. I have worked at this for decades, and every day I ask myself, how am I doing? Am I living the life I intended to live and not making the mistakes I have seen around me? No one will ever really understand this quest but me, and there will be no rewards for this quest, for that is called living your life.

I also continue to be questioned by many who will never understand why I made my choices to not bear this name when I part from this life to whatever awaits us all. I am comfortable with that. I have been questioned for decades about my choices, and anything worth doing will upset people who do not have the imagination to comprehend a world they do not live or understand.

The power of redemption … it never, ever goes out of style

Patrick Stewart as Scrooge.

One of my favorite cinematic renditions of A Christmas Carol stars Patrick Stewart. Here is a photo from the 1999 version for television.

No holiday season is complete without seeing A Christmas Carol onstage. I just saw a nice performance in Portland by a group at the Portland Playhouse. Tales of redemption seem to be among my favorites. But good stories often involve change in our protagonist(s) and trial and tribulations that test the soul.

So, good reader, have you been tested like Ebenezer Scrooge, who was visited one Christmas night by four ghosts, trying to help him find purpose in his life? Do you need to be tested? Do you envision becoming a person who is fulfuling a better and higher purpose? Or maybe you have not fully appreciated what you have accomplished (in the case of our much tested George Bailey, from It’s a Wonderful Life)?

So here are four quotes from one of the greatest works ever written in the English language, A Christmas Carol, by the genius Charles Dickens, to help you contemplate the power of redemption and finding purpose. Merry Christmas!

  • First a description of Ebenezer Scrooge: “Oh! but he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.”

    A scene from the first spirit visiting Scrooge on Christmas Eve.

    A scene from the first spirit visiting Scrooge on Christmas Eve.

  • Scrooge, on Christmas eve, is confronted in his chamber by the spirit of his former partner, Jacob Marley, who describes why he walks in the shadows: “I wear the chain I forged in life….I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.”
  • When Scrooge tries to console Marley that he was a good person, who did good business, Marley replies back: “Business! Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”
  • After a harrowing night, seeing his past, present, and wretched future with no one to miss his presence after he is gone, Scrooge changes on Christmas day: “[Scrooge] went to church, and walked about the streets, and watched the people hurrying to and fro, and patted the children on the head, and questioned beggars, and looked down into the kitchens of houses, and up to the windows; and found that everything could yield him pleasure. He had never dreamed that any walk — that anything — could give him so much happiness.”