There’s a life narrative that emerges from every person’s journey. It starts at our birth as a story seedling, sprouts through the soils of early childhood, then rises higher and higher as we traverse our legacy path.
Over time, its growth is nurtured by those who walk alongside us – family, friends, colleagues, brief acquaintances. Each encounter, all actions, every success and failure pen the greater meaning of this personal tale. It’s written exclusively for us, is individual by every definition, and impossible to plagiarize.
These past few days, I’ve been flipping through the pages of my mother’s life narrative. I’ve stumbled upon settings so far-reaching and accounts so vibrant, I’ve found myself lost in the plot at times.
Of course, it’s comprised of lines about jewelry making, writing, Italian cooking, opera, literature, community involvement, intellect, fashion, integrity, compassion, friendship, and deep-rooted love of family. But even more, there’s an over-arching theme that carries through right up until her passing on Jan. 2, 2017. It’s a message ingrained in the fibers of every page.
As Marita Therese Bon crafted her final paragraph with the thoughtfulness of a great wordsmith, she told us:
“There are things in life that will happen, they will be important, and they need to be written down. Sometimes, you just need to write.”
Mom shared many, many wonderful insights with us in her closing earthly sentences. This lesson, however, resonated most with me. Maybe it’s because I cherish the art of writing. Maybe it’s because she introduced me to – and taught me how – to harness that skill. Or maybe it has nothing to do with me, and everything to do with her.
See, mom appreciated the power of words. She knew that woven together in certain order, they could inspire and compel action. She also understood that messages without sincerity provide very little value to anyone.
So she listened to others. She related to their stories and experienced their emotions. She did so without judgment, offering up unconditional interest to learn more. Her friends and family knew that Marty was there to hear – and feel – their words. Rarely did we read her, rather she read us.
When she would sit to write a piece, her best prose came in the form of retelling other people’s stories with unequivocal accuracy. She painted the landscapes, called-up the main characters and drew-on the experiences of that moment. Her accounts epitomized “show, don’t tell,” and her consideration of audience was undeniable.
That’s what Marita brought to life. She was a master in human empathy as much as a gifted storyteller. So it’s only fitting we step back to the place where it all started.
Coming into focus is a prominent scene, one lifted from Marita’s childhood in the suburbs of Pittsburgh Pa. It’s the late 1950s, and Lincoln Avenue seems to run straight through yesteryear’s horizon. An industrial spring sky hangs low with a layer of smog, the product of some distant steel mill cloud factory. Brick row houses and craftsman-style cottages line up side-by-side, veiled in faint brown soot.
A young girl sits at the front stoop to one of the homes. She’s wearing a white sailor dress that draws to a bow at the collar, knee-highs, and two pink barrettes to hold back her curly-brown hair. She loves her parents, siblings, God, and is just discovering her adoration for classic literature. Oh, and she’s a writer.
In the notebook of her mind, she’s dreaming…jotting down something important – always important. She’s an author of imaginary novels. It’s clear to passersby that she’s brimming with artistic purpose and ambition, however right now, she’s happy being the little girl with dazzling thoughts.
From the kitchen, her mother Antoinette calls out to her. Marita. Marita. It’s time for Sunday dinner. The sound of her name drifts into the outside world, rising higher and higher towards the heavens. She quickly jumps up, brushes herself off and heads inside.
She does not realize yet, but her beautiful life narrative is just beginning.
Marita T. (Sciullo) Bon
Oct. 3, 1949 to Jan. 2, 2017