“Man, that one swallowed the hook good.” A phrase I and my closest friends said countless times while pulling any fish dumb enough to bite our lures from any local pond or waterway we could get permission to fish. “Swallowing the hook”, as it’s called here in the South, is a reference to when a fish attacks a lure with such aggression and fervor that the hooks of the lure will be lodged as far down in the fish’s throat as it can get. The fish literally inhales the bait like it is the last morsel of food it will ever see or receive.
During a conversation earlier tonight with my wife, she made the comment of how much she really just wanted and needed me around. I knew where it stemmed from, but casually blew it off in a way I sometimes do with the remark, “You’ve got me. I’ve swallowed the hook. I ain’t gettin’ off.” She laughed like she (normally) does, and we said our good nights and went to bed. Now I lie here tonight writing this because my seemingly insignificant response kept repeating over and over in my head (“I’ve swallowed the hook. I’ve swallowed the hook…”) like someone else was trying to send a message. The significance finally hit me as to why that phrase stood out and I am thoroughly convinced that is EXACTLY what is happening and my job is to convey it the best I can.
Today (March 1, 2020 at the time I started this), one of the sweetest and most caring individuals I have ever had the pleasure of knowing and working alongside of passed away and went home to be with the Lord. Marian Horton was the type of person you could go to with your biggest secret or your lamest joke and by the end of the conversation two things would become quickly apparent; your secret was safe and you were the funniest human being on the planet. Whether she was horrified at what you told her or however terrible your joke really was, she never in a million years would’ve let you know otherwise. Her coy smile and infectious laugh lit up her quiet demeanor.
Cancer took Mrs. Marian from us. Over a year ago she had a surgery in an attempt to remove the cancer and the visible worry on her face at work a day or two before the procedure was heartbreaking. She knew it was serious. She probably knew more about how serious it was than she ever would have led anyone to believe. Just before she left work that day, I cracked a joke to her to try and put her at ease about how “If you’ve been married to Willie for this long and putting up with all of his shenanigans hasn’t hurt you, this surgery will be a piece of cake. I don’t know how you do it!” She laughed and laughed and said, “Oh I needed to hear that. You’re right. I swallowed the hook when I married him and I’m not getting off that easy! I sure do love that man though.” I heard her repeat the story a few times after she came back from her surgery to other coworkers at Barnes and always took pride that maybe I helped that day. I never thought much more of it than that.
Back to tonight. The same day we lost a friend and beloved coworker, I repeated almost word for word a seemingly insignificant line from a seemingly insignificant conversation to someone I care deeply for. It was Marian’s message to me that she is ok and that I helped that day. It’s a message to all of us on how to live our lives to the fullest and how to love the ones we are meant to love.
Be a fish. Always keep swimming. Inhale life. Attack each day with aggression and fervor like it’s the last morsel of this world you’ll ever see or receive. Swallow the hook.