I am a level-headed person; not prone to histrionics or vivid imaginations. Yet, I know that words can have a powerful effect on one’s reality.
Several years ago, I was nearly run off the road by a young man who was merging onto 826 in Miami Gardens. As he sped past me, I saw that he was quite young; he did not look more than 25. My first thought was not one of anger. Certainly, it scared me.
But I thought, “You’re going to die before I will.” Immediately, I felt that those words were real. That terrified me even more because I felt I had literally seen into the future to witness this. Of course, I never to my knowledge saw him again and I refuse to believe that any tragedy was visited upon him.
Yet, I do think words have power. I do not mean this positive thinking trend that is going on. I believe in that also. I mean that some words actually possess energy and this energy can put these words into existence.
I have a few examples that happened to me personally. I do not believe they were merely coincidental. I think the energy of these words were strong enough to put certain actions into play, all leading to one sad outcome.
On my thirtieth birthday, I asked my mother how old did she think she would live. She took the question very seriously. She answered, “Your daddy and I figured if we could live to see you turn 18, the older ones would help take care of you.” I am the youngest of six, so I thought the answer was perfectly logical. Then, she said, laughing, as she had certainly passed that milestone, “But, looks like I’m gonna live to see [you] turn forty!” We all laughed. Ten years may as well have been a century at that point.
On New Year’s Day, 1996, I awoke with the thought that that year, there would be a big change in my life. I was dating a man and I thought surely we would marry. It was about time. But a voice – and I do not mean I thought this, I mean a voice in my head told me, “Your mother will die this year.” Naturally, I rejected such a horrific thought and dismissed it, mainly because, though my mother did have a heart condition, she was doing great.
Earlier, I bought my mother a beautiful two piece suit in cream that she needed for a church function. Because of her heart condition, occasionally, she would retain fluid and her clothes would not fit. She loved the suit but it had gotten a little too tight. She told me to return it to the store. I reminded her that she had worn it and I could not. She said I should wear it. I told her that it was hers. She then said I should give it to my friend’s mother. I refused. So, she hung it in the closet, wondering what to do with it. I told her she would eventually lose the fluid and be able to wear it. Once more, a voice came to me and said quite clearly, “You’re going to bury your mother in that suit.”
This was now terrifying, as I did not think this. Something told me this. I again rejected such dismal thoughts.
The months went by and around the latter part of March, my mother visited me in my home. That may seem normal to some but my mother hated to travel and for her to visit without a pleading invitation from me was highly unusual. As we were talking in the living room, I wondered why she decided to visit me. The voice said, “She must think she is going to die.”
By Mother’s Day of 1996, my mother was in the hospital for another bout with her congestive heart failure. Eventually, she got well enough to return home. We were all relieved. But her stay did not last.
On May 25, she decided she must return to the hospital. I was scared and pleaded with her not to go. The feeling came to me that if she went in, she would not return home.
I will say now that I was born around 11:47 pm on May 25. At the hospital, I had to complete the paperwork for her admittance. I glanced at my watch and it was 11:47 pm. I thought, “Oh, I’m turning 40.”
On June 5, 1996, around 3:51 pm, my mother lost her battle with her heart condition. I had been 40 for almost 11 days.
She wore the suit I bought her once more. We buried her in it.
Thus, I frequently tell my students to imagine themselves as what they wish to be. Can they see themselves as that professional? They not only have to see it, they have to be it. I am a cardiologist. What is that inner voice telling you? Does it say, Yes, you are a cardiologist. Don’t think of the outside influences. Listen to that inner voice. But be prepared. It might say no.
About Rose Mary Stiffin, Ph.D.
Rose Mary Stiffin was raised and educated in Indianola, Mississippi, notably the Delta hometown of the blues legend, BB King. She received a Bachelor of Art degree in chemistry from Mississippi Valley State University in 1974, a Master of Science degree in organic chemistry from Mississippi State University in 1981. and a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Tennessee in Memphis in 1995. She did her post-doctoral work at the world-famous St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn and has written several grants, including a $1 million dollar grant from NNSA to start a radiochemistry program and a grant to support the development of its sister program, radiobiology, funded by NRC. She is currently chair of the Division of Health and Natural Sciences at Florida Memorial University, a small HBCU located in Miami Gardens.
Stiffin has written several short stories and had some of them published in the Imagine literary magazine. She also has been published in the Algonquin Quarterly (“The Water Buffalo and Pink Flamingo”) and in an anthology For Your Eyes Only (“Casino Blues”). She has written several novels, including “Walk in Bethel,” Reflections” and “Groovin’ on the Half Shell.”