Growing up in St. Louis, the Gateway Arch is a constant. This Icon of the city where I live is displayed on logos for city services, car dealerships, morning newscasts and beyond. More than a monument, the St. Louis Arch is an identity; underscoring our centralized location on the map, and our history as a center of commerce. It so happens that this date, 10/28/15 is the 50th anniversary of its completion, the day that the final section was eased into place with a margin of error of only centimeters. What an amazing feat to create this symbol of strength and progress.
Today is another anniversary as well; one smaller in stature but no less meaningful to me. On this date 17 years ago, I met with a surgeon to receive the diagnosis of breast cancer in my right breast. Although I could not have known it at the time, that day laid the groundwork for a new identity; a gateway to a different life than the one I’d been living. You might not have noticed if you’d been looking at me from the outside, although you would have clearly seen the hair-loss and the fatigue of the next months to years. You might have heard that I had extensive surgeries, but couldn’t have realized that I was blighted, razed and dug into like the riverfront earth where foundations were set deeply to hold a delicate yet powerful new form.
No, this gateway was more personal, an internal rebuilding without reference to the blueprint to make certain the new structure stayed on course. This rebuilding was haphazard at first, and had to be created along the way. There was no way to plan the outcome, and uncertainty about whether the whole thing might just collapse at any point along the way. I guess that could be said about each of us and our own personal gateway experiences. Even with the best of plans, we are all held by the hand of fate; architects of our own lives living in a state of delicate balance.
In the midst of the celebrations in St. Louis, I heard reference to DaVinci’s description of an arch as “consisting of two weaknesses which leaning one against the other make a strength.” These words strike me as a perfect description of life in relationship. The arch of my recovery has been propped against the equally vulnerable support of my husband and family, when the wind blows hard, and I wonder if I might just topple this time, I reach across to them, and find strength in the broken places. The further we get from the start, the more we need each other for support. Leaning against one another, we make a strength. Our gateway opens to a multitude of possibilities. We are symbols of progress.