We are driving to Santa Barbara to a wedding of a student who did some of her clinical training with me about 20 years ago.
“How come you are so quiet today?” My husband asked.
“In a three hour drive, you have not said a word. That is unusual.”
“How do you feel about going to this wedding?
“It is amazing that she has invited you to her wedding.”
“Yes, that was exactly what I was thinking. To me, this is a miracle of human love and affection.”
My mind took me back to almost two decades ago. I was working at a clinic serving high maintenance clients with chemical dependency, mental illness, serious health challenges, none or very little support system and frequently transients. As a seasoned clinician, at times it was challenging to manage a heavy case load of clients who did not seem to get better. They were wounded souls, survivors of severe childhood traumas, violated in every way. What they had experienced was heart wrenching .Frequently the light of life was pretty much gone and the physical body was aimlessly living a purposeless life. Suicidal ideation and attempts to end the pain were frequent. One must only feel a “calling” to choose a path of service to those who hate themselves and everyone in the Universe related to deep pain and unresolved grief.
We had interns in training. I was cautious to protect them early in their training having chosen a sensitive path of service. One day, a beautiful young intern with the kindest eyes and the most radiant smile approached me. I felt as there was an angel visiting. Her outer beauty was breath taking yet it was her loving eyes and warm energy that attracted me.
“Hi, I am the new social work intern. I understand you do several groups. I checked with my supervisor and I like to know if it is possible for me to attend you groups.”
“Of course, you are welcome to join any group you wish. I’d like to share with you how I run the groups, introduce the clients ahead of time and the dynamics of each group, it that is OK with you.”
“Thank you. I’d like to help in any way I can.”
“What is your name?”
“Are you Persian?” I was surprised.
“My father is Persian and my mom is American.” She had a warm smile.
“Do you speak Farsi? and do you know the meaning of your name?”
“No, not really – only a few words here and there yet I love my Persian side of the family. Yes, my name means made of silver. My father named me and my twin brother.”
The emotional connection had formed instantly and her Persian heritage was the icing on the cake.
She came to all of my groups. I wanted her to feel welcomed, safe, valued and participate when she wished without any expectations on my part. Soon, every member of the group bonded with her. Her presence, her warmth, her honoring manner with the clients and her sincere desire to be of service was felt. She seemed to have a natural healing energy enabling her to connect with the clients who were much older than her; giving them hope and energy to live.
I was concerned that the deep wound and sufferings of our clients may be overwhelming for this young intern. She was petite, slim with an endless energy of love and compassion.
I looked forward to every group. Her presence was like fresh air. She became a co-leader much sooner than I expected. I was amazed about her wisdom and understanding of human psyche. I thought to myself where does she get such deep level of intuition as she is reading the mind of our clients and knows what to offer to lift their broken wings.
I was surprised when I learned that she is the mother of a two year old handsome boy. She looked younger than her biological age. When it was time for her to leave, all the staff and our clients were grieving her departure. She was not only one of the kindest human beings I had met in my life; she was a precious gift to the field of social work.
We exchanged information and I hoped she would stay in touch yet the reality was that she was in a highly demanding and vigorous training program, had a family and a young child, all major priorities in her life.
When I heard her son was diagnosed with Autism, my heart ached for her. I thought to myself, an advanced soul with advanced life lessons. I imagined her in my mind with her beautiful son as my tears were rolling down wondering about her aching heart.
Years passed, it was Christmas time and our doorbell rang. There was a package, a gift from Alaska. I read the name of the sender and my heart smiled. I opened the package. It was a beautiful angel made of wood, hand painted with a red heart on her chest. The angel had send me an angel for the holidays. The warm feeling of love went through my body. I felt she was the manifestation of unconditional love on Earth. The angel is on top of our fireplace at all times helping me thing of her daily.
“Hi, I have good news to share with you!” she called.
“It is so good to hear from you. I am ready for the good news.”
“We have a daughter now.”
“What a blessing. I am so happy for you.
“Guess what I named her?”
I paused; didn’t know what to say. I intuitively knew that, this was a mark in her life and so important to call me.
“I named her Ellie.”
Now, I was crying with tears of joy. This was such an honor. I was speechless. My tears spoke louder than any words. We were laughing. My words of gratitude could hardly express my inner landscape. I asked for a family photo knowing every moment in her life was precious. She was still working as a social worker and pursuing her passion with country music. She was a Wonder Woman.
Ten years passed. We were in touch with each other every now and then. I received a call from her.
“How would you like to come to Alaska and meet my family?”
My immediate response was “of course, I love to see you and your family.”
“I have been telling Ellie, I named her after you.”
“I would love to meet all of your family. Let me consult with my husband and I will get back to you.”
The possibility of seeing my dear friend filled my heart with much joy and excitement. Before I knew, we were on our way to Alaska with our daughter; a first time experience.
After so many years, she was just the beautiful young woman I remembered. It was hard to imagine she was the mother of two children. I feel, having been able to witness her with her son was one of the sacred times in my life. No one can imagine the daily life of a mother with a child with unique needs, unless being present with them for a long period of time.
She was patient, respectful of his boundaries, and in tune with his psyche. They lived on the water where at times could witness the whales passing through. Her son spent a good part of his free time on the water, soothing his soul. She bathed him with love; read him bedtime stories as he was entering puberty.
Ellie was a beautiful, active, energetic child who successfully took me on their huge trampoline. That was a first time experience for me next to this 10 year old acrobat doing cartwheels.
For the whole week, she and her family showed us the beautiful nature of Alaska, the breathtaking wilderness. We had many first time experiences including seeing wild Salmons in natural environment spanning. A boat trip to a beautiful island with natural mineral baths was a memory to cherish for a lifetime.
When we were alone, we had a heart to heart talk. Yes, she was concerned if her son would be self-sufficient as an adult. What would his life be like? He was a gentle soul. Caring for him was the first priority, taking much of the parent’s energy. They seemed to be able to manage the high stress of life. I was wondering how they nurture one another throughout the challenges of life. They sent us home with packs of frozen wild Salmon that would last us for a year.
“I have something to share with you.” When I got the call, I could feel the sadness in her voice. I made a prayer for her instantly.
“We are in the process of a divorce.”
“How do you feel my friend?” I knew her loving heart was aching.
“We are simply very different people. We love our children. We are still living together. We have different paths.”
The parents’ commitment to the well being of their children was remarkable, even though they were no longer a couple; their priority was being there for their children. How often, when parents divorce, the pain of the loss of marriage consumes the adults and the children get hurt in the process. I felt deep respect for the parents with all the grief in their journey together. They wanted the best education possibility for their son that required a move to Austin, Texas.
“Hi, we are in Austin and spent the Summer in Alaska.”
“How is your life post divorce?”
“The father of my children has a girlfriend now and they seem to be really compatible being in nature, hunting together. I am happy for them.”
“How are you doing?” Is your heart open to a possible partnership?”
“Our children are my first priority. Any possibility of having a man in my life would mean accepting the whole package. I don’t know if that is a possibility.”
I was thinking to myself, her love is deep as an ocean and any man who would have the honor of having her in his life, will feel the spirit of this angel. It would be a matter of finding her soul mate.
A few years forward, I got a call.
“I am engaged! Her voice was filled with deep joy and happiness.”
“Who is the lucky man? I like to hear all about it.”
“We met at a fair. I was there to promote our country music radio program. It seemed like a coincidence at first, a casual encounter.”
He lives in Hawaii, works for the Coastguard and has a daughter. Our connection was amazing. His family is from Sweden. We are going to have a wedding in Sweden and one in Santa Barbara. I like to invite you to come to our wedding and meet him. Oh by the way, he is a Pisces too.”
My heart was filled with gratitude. I sure wanted to meet him.
“We will be there my friend.”
If you have one friend with whom you can be totally yourself without any veil, you are blessed.
I feel, regardless of the frequency of our visits, phone calls, emails; the beautiful angel in our living room represents her presence in our family, always. She is a friend forever.