Take a moment and think about Halloween. It probably brings you back to your childhood, memories of costumes and haunted houses, of trick or treating and candy. Maybe you are one of the people who bemoan the holiday for its commercialism, or perhaps you choose not to celebrate it at all. It is the nature of belief and tradition that they are different for everyone, embodying both a respect and reverence for the past as well as the interpretation of the modern observer. The most incredible adventures are often taking the time to experience other traditions, to challenge your preconceptions and experience the world through a new lens. Tomorrow is Halloween, and so for this final connection it seemed only fitting to take time and share with a person who loves the holiday for more than scary movies, costumes and candy.
I first encountered Raine Mertz at a mastermind group in North Charleston, where I attended to share this project in its infancy and to see if anyone would want to meet with me. At the time I had miscalculated the end date to actually be Halloween (being of by one day is pretty solid). When I said that I saw Raine's eyes light up and knew she needed to be the final connection. She was so excited I could think of no one more perfect to end with. The resulting months have been spent generally avoiding communication beyond the basics and excitedly waiting for the chance to connect.
The first thing you would probably notice about her is the purple hair, which is actually incredibly striking in the sun of this Tuesday morning. Her eyes are almost catlike and her smile is warm, friendly, a touch mischievous and, frankly, quite incredible. You could look at Raine Mertz and see all of those characteristics, but you would not see the most incredible part of her. You would see beauty, you would see style and flair, but you wouldn't see the incredible wit and intellect she possesses, the remarkable wisdom nor would you see her incredible heart with its equal parts openness and fire. You would miss the fact that Raine and I are both veterans. She served in the Marine Corps and I was even more thrilled to realize this incredible woman is my sister-in-arms. Raine Mertz is a multi-facted crystal of a human being, reflecting light in countless ways.
As we walk around the graveyard remnants of Colonial Dorchester State Park, she tells me about Halloween, about the traditions and the parts we have forgotten. She talks about remembrance and tradition. This is a time of year where we traditionally remember those we have lost, and take a moment to help ease them in death, whether that is through leaving out some fruit or writing letters to them. For Raine these traditions are the real Halloween, the one she is intimately familiar with. She tells me about how many holidays we don't actually know the roots of, about how we celebrate some things we probably shouldn't and how we cast the most beautiful parts of other into the fire of consumption. As we walk by centuries old graves, she points to the language used on them, to the craftsmanship, to the history by our feet. For Raine, Halloween should have multiple parts, with kids trick or treating and then coming home to a family dinner and some time to remember the ones with lost, not with despair but with love.
We talk about belief. Both Raine and I hold a varied set of beliefs, uniquely our own though they intersect at many points. These beliefs have been tested, numerous times, and survived that experience, though we both know they could easily change. We are not fanatics, we are seekers. She is a mother and she tells me about the process of parenting, about the growth and the myriad mix of feelings and instincts involved in the rearing of a child. We talk of freedom, of kneeling before the flag, of hunting in Missouri woods, wearing shorts for Christmas, handmade gifts and family. Family is so important to her. We walk with her daughter as we meet. She is an attentive and loving mother, one who seeks to build traditions and knowledge, to build a life and a family for her.
As our time passes, the sun rises, and I feel renewed and refreshed. I wonder how I would have spent Halloween if I had not met Raine Mertz. When we meet someone and make a new friend, it is a gift, when that friend shares their world with us and thus expands our own, it is a miracle and a blessing. Raine has expanded my world, has inspired me to spend some time with those I would remember and to write, to sing with my voice on this holiday when so many chase candy and a fright. This day is now more special for me.
Driving back to my home in Charleston, I think about how to end this connection. I have now made 100 Connections and I wonder what to say as we end. What is the ultimate legacy of this? Raine has helped me with that as well. Before this began I would tell you I was a man in possession of many ghosts, but things change.
I am now in the company of a great many spirits, many of whom are alive and well, still joyfully travelling the world, and it is their remembrance, along with the love of those I have lost, that drives me now. My life is not one of sadness now, but one of remembrance, celebration and joy.
Thank you, Raine, and Happy Halloween.
Favorite Dinosaur: Raptor
Why: Intelligence, communication and team work.