East of Eden: Thou Mayest

89e420afa8fe6cd5e8b072ba8fbd1f7d“I don’t know how long you’ll live, Adam. Maybe a long time. Maybe an hour. But your son will live. He will marry and his children will be the only remnant of you.” Lee wiped his eyes with his fingers.

“He did a thing in anger, Adam, because he thought you had rejected him. The result of his anger is that his brother and your son is dead.”

Cal said, “Lee—you can’t.”

“I have to,” said Lee. “If it kills him I have to. I have the choice,” and he smiled sadly and quoted, “ ‘If there’s blame, it’s my blame.’ “ Lee’s shoulder straightened. He said sharply, “Your son is marked with guilt out of himself—out of himself—almost more than he can bear. Don’t crush him with rejection. Don’t crush him, Adam.”

Lee’s breath whistled in his throat. “Adam, give him your blessing. Don’t leave him alone with his guilt. Adam, can you hear me? Give him your blessing!”

A terrible brightness shone in Adam’s eyes and he closed them and kept them closed. A wrinkle formed between his brows.

Lee said, “Help him, Adam—help him. Give him his chance. Let him be free. That’s all a man has over the beasts. Free him! Bless him!”

The whole bed seemed to shake under the concentration. Adam’s breath came quick with his effort and then, slowly, his right hand lifted—lifted an inch and then fell back.

Lee’s face was haggard. He moved to the head of the bed and wiped the sick man’s damp face with the edge of the sheet. He looked down at the closed eyes. Lee whispered, “Thank you, Adam—thank you, my friend. Can you move your lips? Make your lips form his name.”

Adam looked up with sick weariness. His lips parted and failed and tried again. Then his lungs filled. He expelled the air and his lips combed the rushing sigh. His whispered word seemed to hang in the air:


His eyes closed and he slept.

East of Eden, John Steinbeck


I was reading the To Write Love On Her Arms’ blog this week, and Emily Van Etten wrote a beautiful piece about the power of “Thou Mayest” in both her life and John Steinbeck’s novel East of Eden. In my own life, Steinbeck spoke deeply to me with this final page.

There is so much hope in the words “Thou Mayest.” And so much forgiveness.


a5db0cff76db78f3f5bee9b2a8662e3cAfter telling me about timshel, Austin turned to me and asked, “I know this will sound like a weird question, but, do you know that you matter?”

I responded, “Sometimes.”

Austin shook his head and replied, “All the time.”

For those of you reading these words, I want you to know there is truth in them. No matter what you struggle with, and no matter the choices you make, you matter all the time.

“Timshell,” Emily Van Etten


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