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Dominoes falling

December 22, 2011

In 1975, Bob Speca appeared on the  Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.  He had lined up 5000 dominoes onstage in varying patterns, including a section that spelled out Johnny’s name.  On the count of three, Johnny reached out with a single finger and pushed the first domino over. One after the other they fell until none were left standing.  All because that single first one had been bumped.  Five thousand dominoes falling forever, in a matter of seconds.  It was fascinating to watch them fall, precisely, regularly, each leading to the next one’s fall, with no chance of stopping what had been started.

I think about those falling dominoes a lot.  To me they are a picture of loss and the grief that follows. Those dominoes remind me that our losses rarely happen one at a time.  There’s the loss we recognize, the first domino falling, bumping into the next and the next until we are buried beneath more loss than we believed could come to one person at one time.

Bob Speca’s dominoes weren’t in separate, straight rows.  There were intersections where dominoes fell in several directions at once, fanning out like the spokes of a wheel or weaving back and forth in a braid.  I could anticipate the direction and outcome of some of the falls, but was caught off guard by others.

Such is loss and the grief that follows.  Our losses rarely belong to us alone.  They intersect, weaving our lives and our grief together.  We may take comfort in the fact that someone besides us is feeling the weight of this loss.  We may be angry that others call this loss their own, when we feel sure it is completely ours.  We do our best to prepare for the losses we see coming.  We feel helpless and sometimes conquered by those we couldn’t anticipate.

We could say that this is the end of the story.  That in 1975, all of Bob Speca’s dominoes fell.  That our lives are defined and dictated by loss after loss.  That that’s all there is.  But we would miss the fact that for the last 36 years Bob Speca has been standing dominoes up, creating larger and more intricate patterns even though he knows they will fall.

Such is loss and the power of our own resilience.  To stand up again and again.  To risk stepping back into life.  To seek connection. To open ourselves to relationship.  To do all this, knowing that loss will come again.

“But there was no need to be ashamed of tears. For tears bore witness that a man had the greatest of courage, the courage to suffer.”   ~  Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Learn more about Bob Speca at Ocean City lifeguard is toppling records one domino at a time.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 23, 2011 8:42 am

    Very true and also very beautiful – well written Bill.

    • December 23, 2011 4:17 pm

      Thank you. It has been nice to read, hear from, and exchange ideas with so many well spoken, thoughtful people through the common stream of blogging. Paulann

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