A semicolon joins two sentences, two complete, related thoughts, together. They could have stood on their own as sentences with a period in between, but the emphasis that a semicolon lends to a sentence can’t be matched; it’s commanding.
It also represents a spot where the author could have ended his thought, his paragraph, the story… but chose to go on. “No, this isn’t the end,” he might’ve mused, mulling his choices over. “There’s more, there’s still more to be said.”
A semicolon is a symbol of moving forward, of pressing through, of choosing to go on. It’s a metaphor for life; we all need to take pause now and then, and a semicolon does that for the written word. The story is coming at you with veracity, and the semicolon brings you up short to catch your breath. The story isn’t over, and the world still may be crashing down, but a pause can save you.
And then, you must choose to go on.
This summer was a semicolon; it is the metaphor of my life, in that everything I have lived through prior to May 11, 2014 was the first sentence, and everything after August 9, 2014 is the second. My childhood, my adolescence, my wedding day, my husband’s deployments, the birth of our daughter is spun into the most breathtakingly beautiful and complex sentence because it is complete on its own. If my life had ended there, it would have been respectable. Short, but respectable. I had lived, I had learned, I had loved, and I had created a beautiful legacy to leave behind with blonde hair and blue eyes.
But, life didn’t end; there was no period. It paused, instead. For three months we paused, waiting to begin our second sentence. Waiting to fill it with whatever came next.
The wait was agonizing, because there was no end date. We couldn’t just take a breath and start; sometimes, I couldn’t breathe at all. The act of pulling air in made my heart ache from the helplessness. Days and weeks no longer mattered. Time didn’t matter.
Not until August 9 did time begin existing again.
On August 9, we could finally exhale and move on from our semicolon. We began our second sentence, shakily, but whole. All the pieces that had been in limbo during the pause were put back together, and we began our second sentence with our second addition: our son, who fought so long and hard during the pause to take his first real breath.
The semicolon has long been my favorite punctuation. I enjoy knowing how to use it, to pop it into place and watch it sit snugly, anchoring its neighbors together.
It has so much meaning to me, and it reminds me to go on. Always go on. Live a life of semicolons, pausing at times to catch your breath, or assess the gravity of a situation.
But, then always go on.
It was only fitting, then, that it be included in my first tattoo, and the only tattoo I will ever get. It took me 27 years to decide if I wanted a tattoo, and I’m grateful I waited and adorned my body with words that mean something in my heart.
This summer will never be forgotten; it changed me, inexplicably, as a mother, as a wife, as a writer, and as a human. My pause will stay with me forever, and we will continue to go on, creating the second sentence and completing our lives.