I Am the Cup

One year ago today, June 28, 2008, I sat in a waiting room at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and heard those brief urgent words “I’m going, I’m going” — a moment of grace, a meeting of the minds, my husband’s and mine — and then a half hour later the surgeon rushed in and said, “We’re losing ground. Come now.” I’d asked to see my husband one last time, and that request was honored as I was hurried down flights of stairs and into the operating room, placed on a stool, and pushed up to the back of his head.

Arriving home an hour later, it hit me strongly. “Go read the story.” He wrote it two months earlier and put it on his blog, and it was slated to be published in my online journal in two days. I ran straight upstairs, pulled it up on the computer, and read the story of the styrofoam cup that was tossed about in traffic until it found its resting place. I knew immediately that this would be used in the funeral service, as it had dual meanings — consolation that he had found his resting place and some assurance to those of us left behind.

I read the story again yesterday. I understood, after a year’s groping at life, surviving, existing, pressing onward, trying to find me and meaning, that in the hours after his death, he was speaking to me. . . because I am the cup.

Kathy, David Rhodes - Tennessee River in Knoxville

Kathy, David Rhodes - Tennessee River in Knoxville

I found my peace at the Tennessee River across from Neyland Stadium yesterday as I released him into the current — freeing him, freeing me. And then an added perk as the stadium, under construction, was open, and I walked in and down steps to a goalpost, threw up my arms and shouted “GO VOLS” and left him there, where there will be cheers and rejoicing and hopefully touchdowns, and I could see and feel him laughing . . . laughing.

Neyland Stadium

Neyland Stadium

And now in celebration of the life of Winston Rand / Charlie Rhodes, I share the story again for me and for all who seek peace.


“Trudging through life, coping with the day-to-day challenges and turmoil, we sometimes need a reminder that we too can survive, even beyond all odds. Those little reminders come in various packages. Sometimes it’s a child with a serious affliction who is happy and smiling; other times, a warm, frisky puppy that has not a care in the world except to please you; and occasionally, it will be the totally unexpected. Such was the case one day last week.

Arriving back at the office in late afternoon, something caught my eye as I walked from the car to the office entrance. It took a few seconds for it to register that I was seeing an empty styrofoam cup in the center turn lane of the busy street out front. There was a push of air from heavy traffic in both directions, causing the little truncated cone to roll in an arc first one way, then the other. The occasional draft of a larger vehicle would move it up and down its chosen lane a few feet. Then more rolling in arcs around its new pivot point until another large draft moved it a few feet forward or backward.

Becoming quickly mesmerized, I stood for perhaps fifteen minutes watching the struggle, the close misses, the movement to and fro. At some point I realized I was cheering the little cup onward in its quest to survive against the impossible odds of the multi-ton monsters bearing down on it from every side. And then it occurred to me how much like life that is. Wishing the dancing traveler well, I went on into the office. Half an hour later after checking email, washing up, and shutting down for the evening, I emerged to find the cup still at it. It had moved about 20 or 30 feet down the turn lane and seemed to be slightly damaged, but not enough to keep it from rolling and arcing, performing its death defying dance. After watching a few more minutes, I had to leave the cup to its unique brand of madness, knowing full well that it would be flattened or completely gone come morning.

Imagine my surprise and delight to arrive back at the office the following morning to find the cup, not squashed by one of the many behemoths that passed this way during the night, but intact, resting gently on the grass a few feet from the street. It had a nick, but was otherwise alive and well. I thought of placing the cup back in the middle of the turn lane for another go, but decided it may prefer the resting place it had chosen and worked so hard to reach. Then I was tempted to take it in and leave it sitting on my credenza as a reminder. But such an adventurer needs freedom and would not fare well in captivity. So I left it where it was, and carried away the memory of its struggles and the lesson of perseverance it taught.”


7 Comments on “I Am the Cup”

  1. Kathy, this is absolutely beautiful.
    God bless!

  2. Chance Chambers says:

    So beautiful and powerful. I’m as moved by it now as the first time I read it. I think it’s wonderful that you honored him in that way, at the stadium. I know he would love that.

  3. COREY says:

    I have his story taped on the wall next to my cpu at work..

  4. Janie Miller says:

    Kathy, as said above a beautiful story. I am so sorry for your loss.

  5. Kathy…this is beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing. I am so glad I read it. Applause. Applause — for the sentiments your husband penned. For you having survived a year since his passing. You are strong. And beautiful of spirit (and body). Namaste,

  6. susie says:

    charlie wrote your story. you are the surviving cup. the story moved me even more this second time i experienced it.

    what a beautiful tribute for charlie from you and david. charlie will be in all his glory at the first home game. the cheers will be for him, you, the boys, his family and his Vols. peace…

  7. Eric says:

    …. I remember him telling me that story the first time that we met…… it was a remarkable tale from a remarkable man……

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