Sunday, February 14, 2010


I must confess I unravel easily.  Just ask any of my friends.  I try to hang on, 'get a grip', 'suck it up buttercup', and yes, sometimes fake it and sometimes eventually make it.  I even try the "in twenty years will this really matter" thing and still unravel.  But the good news is I admit it. Sometimes I laugh about it later and sometimes not and sometimes it isn't a pretty picture. 

I try and focus on the good stuff and say aloud, 'This too shall pass."  But the thread is pulled and the unraveling process begins.  This is when I should get centered.  I am not proud of this trait, nor of my lack of patience.  But I try.  Each time I try. I guess that is something. And everybody has to have something!!

This past week a phone call brought a bitter and sad disappointment that caused me to begin the unraveling process. Upon closer scrunity it wasn't really my friend's fault, rather mine, who had set myself up to be disappointed - which actually made me feel worse.  I couldn't blame him. This disappointment was followed by a soldier who shared with me that her fiance has brain cancer. It doesn't look good for him. I intensely feel her pain deep in my core. Later, I sat down for a pity party for her, for me, for everyone suffering, which wasn't too difficult with all the gloomy cold rain coming down. 

But yesterday the sun came out and I made eighty-seven omelets for the wounded warriors and their families at the Warrior Family Support Center at Brooke Army Medical Center.  I have this ability, good or bad, to look into eyes and know, words unspoken, what they are telling me. Several critically injured soldier's wives were there, 'eating their first meal in a very long time.' After receiving the 'bad news,' they are flown into San Antonio to meet their husbands in the hospital when they arrive from Landsthul, after being medivaced from Iraq or Afghanistan. They are in critical condition most of the time.  On this Valentine's Day, I think of the kisses and grueling goodbyes and farewells, as they deployed to protect us. And I think how often when they return they are in pieces, and the family is falling to pieces and praying for strength.

I asked one wife, whose husband is critical in the hospital, what would taste good to her.  She was too tired to answer.  I fixed her a plate and took it to her with a cup of hot coffee and some juice.  She couldn't speak, as the tears begin to come.  I handed her my card and told her, "If you need me call."  That was all I could offer.  She later came into the kitchen and asked if I would just hug her for a minute. 

I remember too a soldier telling me how he has had so many angels protecting him. He wasn't quite sure why or how he was still alive except for them.  He went on to tell me that when he dies, his angels will be retired because they had to work so hard to keep him safe.  "You see Penny (my therapy dog) has been but one."

I am centered by these soldiers and others whose pain is acute, whose story is not yet complete, whose lives are in chaos.  One soldier yesterday asked, as he does each week, for 'everything' on his omelet with extra ham.  He stood very close to me, as I prepared it and at just the right moment he handed me a plastic cup with pickled jalapenos in it to add to the omelet just before I turn it onto his plate. He always comes back into the kitchen to hug me and tell me thank you. 

Another soldier yesterday stood patiently in the long line to wait for his omelet.  He was soft spoken and  likely suffering from PTSD, as they most all are.  I watched as he went to the counter and ate.  I poured him a large glass of orange juice and asked if there were anything else he wanted.  He didn't look up, but quietly said "this is the first breakfast I can remember eating in a very, very long time."  About 30 minutes later, he returned, stood in line once again and asked for another omelet.  At that moment I realized that if I were on this earth for no other reason, it was to have nourished this soldier with two homecooked omelets made with great love.

So the moral to this story is what?  We all have moments when we unravel, fall apart. These soldiers are a ritual to me - a ritual that restores me back to myself.  Not just for me, but so that I may continue to be there for others - which is the task of my life. There is that 'center' in all of us -  that place where the 'divine' lives and is working through us.

So my disappointments or sad moments mean I need to listen, pay closer attention, look into those eyes so full of pain, despair, and fear...for the answer to all is hidden somewhere in there.  And perhaps, just perhaps there are blessings for all of us who persist.  For no matter who we are, where we are, what our success is, what others perceive us to be or not be, we are here for a purpose.


"What was my occupation?  I finally gave up and said "Person."

M.C. Richards

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