The Lanyard

Dr. Weeks’ Comment: Gratitude is the best immune enhancement and thought is the greatest asset we have if we can control it.   I know a man, who at age 64, still blames his now 91 year old mother for not loving him enough. Imagine that. He seeks to abuse and punish her – all transference of his own sadness onto her – by reprimanding her for not loving him enough.  It is so very, very sad.  I am not a mother, but I love mine more than I can express, though surely less than she loves me. I hope that this man can put aside his guilt and anger – his sadness – and feel the love of his mother and tell her that he feels her love before she dies. Not for her sake – mothers operate in a different economy – a gift economy – asking nothing in return but the happiness of their children  – but for his sake. Words are powerful and the time for redemptive speech and grace is dwindling for him.

Read this poem by Billy Collins:

The Lanyard


The other day as I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room
bouncing from typewriter to piano
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
I found myself in the ‘L’ section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word, Lanyard.
No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one more suddenly into the past.

A past where I sat at a workbench
at a camp by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid thin plastic strips into a lanyard.
A gift for my mother.
I had never seen anyone use a lanyard.
Or wear one, if that’s what you did with them.
But that did not keep me from crossing strand over strand
again and again until I had made a boxy, red and white lanyard for my mother.
She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.

She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted teaspoons of medicine to my lips,
set cold facecloths on my forehead
then led me out into the airy light
and taught me to walk and swim and I in turn presented her with a lanyard.
‘Here are thousands of meals’ she said,
‘and here is clothing and a good education.’
‘And here is your lanyard,’ I replied,
‘which I made with a little help from a counselor.’

‘Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth and two clear eyes to read the world.’ she whispered.
‘And here,’ I said, ‘is the lanyard I made at camp.’
‘And here,’ I wish to say to her now,
‘is a smaller gift. Not the archaic truth,
that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took the two-toned lanyard from my hands,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless worthless thing I wove out of boredom
would be enough to make us even.’


Watch the great poet read it aloud.

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