Faith it

Faith Muscle

Simply No Other Way

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Faith-Full Tank

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To-Do List for Today

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One More Day … just one more day

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Notes to Myself

Faith Muscle


Photo by Caio on

Last month, my friend finished shopping at Trader Joe’s, and while the cashier was ringing up her purchases, the cashier in the next checkout aisle, handed her a bouquet of sunflowers.

“These aren’t mine,” my friend informed the cashier, we’ll call him Zack. She mistakenly thought he assumed she had left behind her flowers.

“You look like you can use them. I bought them for you.”

Literally as well as metaphorically speaking, need I say on a cold day, a sunflower bouquet is like a pretty arrangement that can blanket the chill with a soft layer of faith?

As we later discussed the incident, it turns out that my friend had seen the cashier before, speaking to him only in passing. All she knew was his age, 20. We had no idea if he was an agnostic, atheist, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or who-knows-what and who cares? All that matters is that Zack cared enough to pay attention to someone else. Buried in our busyness, it can be an impossible task. Little did he know that my friend recently underwent surgery and was dealing with a host of other challenges. In other words, the sunflower bouquet added the much-needed color on the drab, gray tablecloth that life laid upon her. Come to find out, sunflowers symbolize “power, warmth and nourishment.”

Somehow Zack had a sixth sense, a spiritual knowing that equates to nonsense in the rational world. God in skin, my 12-step community would label Zack.

My fellow Michael G. always said, “If a god embraces me with love, then that god is for me.”

If you aren’t debilitated from mental illness, and you don’t believe in a particular god or higher power or harmony or the spiritual realm of things, I hope you can still believe in GOoDness. Out of everything, GOoDness has carried me through on this 17-month grief journey.

And, the best magnet channel to attract GOoDness is to perform kind acts. For me, the gesture means breaking free from the bondage of myself and fleeing my tiny, sesame seed of a world, so I can pass on sunflowers to a stranger.

If sunflowers are out of season, extending an over-sized candy bar and a few singles to a stranger in the CVS parking lot might work. Wouldn’t you know this is exactly what happened to me this past Sunday? Earlier in the day I start to write this post about my friend’s experience and Zack’s kindness. Then, later I go to CVS, stroll outside, and I have a burning desire to dodge the toothless, rotund woman heading toward me like a frantic meter maid.

“Need help with your groceries, mommy?”


The last thing I want is an intrusion into my insolated bubble of a world, pandemic or not.

Journalist at heart, however, I want to probe: “Do you like your life?” “Did you ever think about ending it?” “Are you freer from the monkey mind, a jumbled hot mess of thoughts, than the rest of us?”

Why did she look so happy and carefree? How did she carry on? Why did others like my brilliant, gifted, handsome son throw in the towel?

“Tell me the answer!” I heard myself shout in my mind. “Tell me the answer to this awful, perplexing existence!”

The answer is to imitate Zack at Trader Joe’s. Reach into my purse and offer her a reason to believe in the kindness of others. If she didn’t believe I was a kind person and simply laughed at me behind my back, so be it, I had to believe that in this world drowning in cruelty and noise, solitude and love could win, and it starts with Zack. It starts with me.

She began to converse with me. My old self would have jumped headlong into an esoteric conversation with her. My new self wants the comfy privacy bubble.

“It’s a nice car,” she comments, beaming.

“My son’s.”

The minute, I say that, I can’t erase the PTSD flashbacks and the memory of my son telling me how unworthy he felt especially in the last 30 days of his life, and how he did not deserve to drive such a beautiful shiny sports car that he had purchased on a whim in those final days.

Dry eyed, I want to say, “This is my son,” in the same manner Mama Sandra said in the temple, pointing to the turtle in the glass case.

“This is my son.”

“This is my son, you know.””

But, instead, I don’t murmur a word.

The woman replies, “That’s nice, mommy!”

Even though I have his name on a teal-colored decal on the back window along with his birth and death dates, I do not point out the commemoration to the clueless pedestrian. Instead, I squeeze that solidary moment and derive the last sweet drop, as if I had sneaked out for a joy ride behind my living son’s back, as if death had not crept in, pilfered and shattered my sheltered world, and spring had sprung as it did in the old days, and the hummingbirds returned to drink fresh nectar in our backyard feeder.

“Can I have the twenty?” she asks, spotting the bill in my wallet as I handed her my dollar bills.


“You need it.”

“Yes. My allowance for the week.”

“Thank you, mommy!” she calls, satisfied with the singles. I climb in and veer the beautiful blue sports car, smelling like roses, out of the parking lot.

In the old days, I would have shouted, “Pray for me.”

Now, no words form.

I realize, this is our own kind of private prayer when I see her reflection in the rearview mirror, waving the dollar bills as if they are part of a beautiful bouquet. From her toothless grin, she heralds, “thank you, Mommy.”

Her toothless gums somehow seem as if they represent the GoODness of the world. Faith, after all, is believing in things you can’t see. For me that means missing teeth.

Later, I have a sense to beeline back to her and forfeit my sole twenty. But I stay on route, realize you can only give what you have, whether it be to pan handlers or your own flesh and blood. My PTSD subsides. My guilt dissipates. A sense of GoODness fills the air, and the road home opens before me like a smooth pedal surface.

Faith Muscle

Need Seed

My New Year’s wish list:

  • Hope for the hopeless
  • Voices for the voiceless
  • A sense of purpose, whether it is cleaning the sink or operating a business, for the bored and lost
  • Disconnection from social media and connection to real-life humans, see below
  • Inclusion for all, see above
  • The experience of one sunrise in the upcoming year that abashes the soul in its chorus of silence
  • Infinite Seeds of Hope packets to plant and create perennial gardens of aster, dahlia, goldenrod, mum, sedum and other vibrant and showy flowers that will illuminate the most pitch black soil

In fact, I think we can all be inspired by “Stars of Hope,” an art installation by Jane Ingram Allen at 620 4th Street, Santa Rosa, California, that was installed on November 25, 2020. The website states:

“In this time of a pandemic and an economic downturn, these stars of colorful handmade paper with seeds for wildflowers in them express hope for a brighter future in 2021. After the installation comes down in early 2021, these stars will be given out to residents to plant in their own yard or keep as a remembrance of this time and our hopes for a better world.”

  • Most of all, on the wish list is my hope for a better world. Always remember, even one positive change, albeit small as a mustard seed, can be the spark that inspires a “flowering” inferno one day.


Am I in the Right Room?

One grieving mom to another:

I just wait.
I know.
So do I.
I wonder what we’re waiting for?

The excerpt above is from a fellow blogger’s comments on one of my previous posts. It inspires further reflection.

What is this something? What do I wait for?

chairs-is this the right room

Image by ravensong7 from Pixabay

Five months, two days ago, I COULDN’T WAIT to rip into the day, regardless of life’s circumstances. I leaped out of bed like a child who had no patience to discover what was inside the gift box under the Christmas tree. It sounds corny, but everyday was Christmas. Twenty-four hour segments flew by, and I darted behind each day as if I was trying to catch up to an Olympian runner.

Now, five months, two days later, I feel like I’ve been dumped into one of life’s empty waiting rooms without a clock on the wall. So, I wait. What do I wait for? The day I reunite with my son?

My mom used to say, “Day after day after day, ‘til the last day.”

Has that aphorism become my epic battle song that I sing now during the darkest chapter of my life until I arrive at the end of the book? Then what? I close the book, and a trumpet thunders and signals my long aWAITed reunion with my son.

“You’ve arrived!” In my imagination, I hear Alexa’s voice as an angel proclaiming the news.

Or, do I just wait for my son’s toothy white grin to be on the other side of the front door’s window? I expect to catch a glimpse of his eager face ready to enter what was once his home. I grow more impatient than ever since that youthful, solid and towering presence once crowned my world like the North Star and kept me from getting lost.

When my mom lost her oldest son she told me she always thought he was outside sitting on his favorite chair on the front porch. Numerous times, she found herself calling out to him. Of course, the front porch remained quiet and empty.

Admittedly, when no one is home I beckon in a familiar tone, “Marshall! Marshall!”

I wait and wait. In the deafening silence, I catch the familiarity of the maple tree’s drooping branches outside the exterior door’s window. Like the maple, everything has changed, but I remain standing.

As others await the end of this pandemic so they can return to their ordinary lives and do things like reset goals and “arrive” at new careers and new milestones in life, I have arrived in the waiting room of life before and during the pandemic. Going forward, I believe, this is my last stop. Fortunately, the space is not noisy and crowded. It’s not stressful. I am not afraid. I crave nothing.

Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh’s profound words frame the room, “This is it.”

So, that’s it. Waiting. The question is, does faith live here?

Is this the right room

Image by Mylene2401 from Pixabay

Maybe the answer lies deeper in the same grieving mom’s additional comments on my post:

I am not going to say anything,
about how beautiful your son is,
and his mother.
Love to both of you.

Speechless, there is no response to those words because they are the words of hope, and their beauty cannot be contained under gift wrap. Subsequently, without faith, there can be no hope. Sometimes in the crux of waiting is the crux of our search. This is it.


Faith Muscle

Faith Fotos

Living in a new normal, I am still alive on this journey by flying on the wings of a small, select tribe. They hold me up when my legs turn to rubber. They stand firmly beside me despite the days when my words are thunderous and moods storm. When I am surrounded by dark, they are my light switch.

They infuse me with oxygen and hope. Faith has been called “the substance of hope,” and that is what my tribe extends to me the most.

In those first futile days, days after my world turned pitch black, my friend sister Anne, an amazing photographer, sent me the most glorious photographs that looked so polar opposite to the despair I was experiencing. As it turned out, they were part of my faith-fabric that sewed my unraveling world together.


Faith Foto2

Photo Credit: Anne Yoken

Faith Foto1

Photo Credit: Anne Yoken


“The sun always rises no matter how dark the night.” This is what my friend sister wrote along with her photos.

So far, the sun has risen. Ironically, the brightest, reddish, orangey sunrise (and the only one I was up early enough to witness) was the morning we buried my son. I still picture its splendor and wonder if underneath its robust spirited color, one could unearth a stairway to heaven.

Faith Foto3

Photo Credit: Anne Yoken



Faith Muscle