Almost related to a famous mental patient



I am taking part on the Scintilla Project, a fortnight of story sharing. During these two weeks I will be writing personal stories inspired by the daily prompts given by the project. For the inconvenience of other participants I will be writing in English. Find out more about the Scintilla Project at
http://www.scintillaproject.com.

This is a story inspired by Day 9 prompt:
What is the longest thing you know by heart (for example, a prayer, speech, commercial jingle, etc.)? Why did you learn it?

I don’t know if it’s a longest thing that I know by heart but it sure makes people stare at me a long time when I say it aloud. It’s a phrase that explains how I’m related to famous Finnish author Aleksis Kivi.

In Finnish it goes like this: “Isän äidin äidin siskon miehen siskon mies oli Aleksis Kiven veljenpoika Arvid Stenvall.”

In English: “My father’s mother’s mother’s sister’s husband’s sister’s husband was Aleksis Kivi’s nephew Arvid Stenvall.”

My aunt who has an astonishing ability to remember poems, verses, quotes and lyrics for every occasion taught this phrase to me. I don’t know how she ended up with this genealogy but I trust it to be true.
Aleksis Kivi

I like to explain myself that this somewhat far-fetched connection to a creator of Finnish modern literature explains my love for reading and for the art of writing. I love to think that there is a tiny bit of a writer in myself thanks to this distant relation.

This phrase has come in handy when playing “almost related to a famous person” with friends. But the last time I used it the setting was quite different. I was in a meeting of volunteers who give support for people going through difficult life situations. We had just talked about depression, burnout and mental health problems when I noticed a picture on the wall, Aleksis Kivi. Then I realized that the building where the meeting was held was situated in the lands of former Lapinlahti Hospital where Aleksis Kivi was admitted in 1871 for depression and for other mental health problems.

Maybe it’s not coincidence that I have always been interested in psychology and helping people to maintain their mental balance. This funny phrase means a lot to me since it reminds me of the heritage that I so highly appreciate. Aleksis Kivi suffered a lot in his life but he also gave people a great gift, a gift of expressing yourself freely and to be moved, touched and transformed by words. His last words were: “I’m alive”.

“The fire of love is drawn from the sky rather than the human mind.”
― Aleksis Kivi, Seven Brothers