About 20 years ago I started reading memoirs.
I hungered to learn first-person accounts of how life could be lived, how it could be expanded upon, how it could become something more than mundane or ritualistic or habitual.
I wanted to taste the meat next to the bone.
Over the years I have probably read close to 300 memoirs and I have to say, it was the best decision I ever made.
That is not to say that I did not learn a lot from reading fiction, I did. But there was always between me and the fictional characters I read about so many pages of the book, and there came a time when I didn’t want to read what was on those pages—I wanted to read first person what had happened and how it happened.
I wanted to learn from those who had been there what it took to survive Auschwitz or what it took to survive being raped or what it took to survive abject poverty…or even what it took to survive fame or to survive the million and one things people survived and lived to tell about it.
I wanted to learn from them what they learned from their stories and how they wrote new narratives for themselves.
I was starving to know how to do it, how to overcome and become more than the small scared little girl I was inside and grow into the woman I might become.
I wanted to learn more than the Catholic Church ever taught me or my teachers ever taught me and certainly more than my dear parents were capable of teaching me.
So I read about people who had patience in the face of starvation and forgiveness in the face of torture, determination in the face of failure and hope in the face of hopelessness. I read about surrendering to the moment, about accepting what is, and about never ever believing a problem can’t be solved.
I read what Gilda Radner wrote when she was dying of cancer: “There’s always something;” what Frank McCourt said about living in the lanes, “The happy childhood is hardly worth telling;” and what Primo Levi said on surviving the holocaust, “It is important in life to measure yourself at least once; and today, I read, what Rebekah Gregory said, when she was talking about running the Boston Marathon after having had a leg amputated:
“This time…I show myself and the rest of the world that I am back, stronger than ever…and there is NO stopping me now.”
Today, I can add this young woman’s words to those of so many others I have read. I can use them as a beacon to light the way to just about any hardship I may experience in my lifetime. I can use her modeling, her teaching, her example and the wisdom taught to her by suffering, the greatest of teachers, to help me become someone who, no matter what I face, can also say, “there is NO stopping me now.”
Boston Strong. That’s who Rebekah Gregory is. And that’s who she tells us that I can be and that we all can be.
She has written her memoir on the pages of You Tube and on the pages of Twitter and on the pages of Facebook. More important however, she has written her memoir on the pages of our collective memory and on my personal memory. I will never forget the sight of her giving way to the ground the moment she stepped over the finish line in Boston.
“This is the day I take my life back. There is NO stopping me now.”
Video: Bombing survivor Rebekah Gregory crosses marathon finish line.
Author: Carmelene Siani
Editor: Renée Picard