Hayner Branch Library Events
(OASIS Alton Center, Alton Square Mall)
“Memories: Each Day Radiant with New Meaning”
August 16, 2006
reading, talk, and workshop
Janet Grace Riehl, author
Sightlines: A Poet’s Diary
1 p.m. –Talk and Poetry Reading
2-4 p.m. Workshop: “Writing Memories”
Memories—and our choices in how we live with them—shape our lives. I’m going to tell you a story today about an event that rocked the life of my family. This event has now, blessedly, become a memory. I’m going to show you how I took this event and this memory and shaped it into a piece of writing, a poem, a work of art, if you will. The story I am about to tell you concerns one particular family, our family, but really, it is the story of all families and all people. We are each of us here for only a little while. Our stories all come to an end, and I’m willing to bet there is no one here who has not been touched by loss.
It’s curious how destiny leads us. I did not ask for this date to talk to you. I received a phone call from the library with a long-awaited confirmation of my program and they offered me this date. I paused a second and decided to say, “Yes,” to use the coincidence of the date offered with one that is of utmost importance to our family.
Today’s date, August 16th , will always live in the memory of our family as the day my older sister Julia Ann Thompson died in a car wreck in 2004. Some of you here today knew and loved my sister. Some of you are her friends and some of you are related to her. Today is the second anniversary of her death.
A woman ran a red light and changed the life of my family forever. Julia’s husband, Dave Kraus, was in the car and severely injured, as was my mother, Ruth Thompson. Julia and Dave’s young grandson was also in the car, but escaped physical injury when a Good Samaritan pulled him out of the car before it burst into flames. My mother and Dave made brave recoveries. Dave went on to reconstruct his body and his life and, miraculously to me, fearlessly drives on freeways. In a spiritual sense the entire family was in the car when it crashed. We went on to make of it what we could. I am a writer; I wrote a book—Sightlines: A Poet’s Diary.