“Haven’t you forgotten something?”

It had been a rough few days. I’d sent my stepbrother, Grant, an email with the sad news that my dear dog Jubi had passed away. He replied, “Jubi was a constant source of entertainment and joy and affection for so many…. It was a great give and take of love and caring….” I smiled, then dissolved into more tears.

cc-jubi-girls-shoestore

Making new friends.

Jubi, the white fluff ball, had been my close companion. She charmed scores of strangers I would’ve never otherwise met – timid children who brightened at the sight of Jubi, and irresistably reached out to run their fingers along her down-soft back; steely adults who involuntarily stopped in their tracks to bend down and caress her. “She’s like dandelion fuzz,” a stern-faced man said, cracking a smile.

I cried until the well was empty. Restless, and uncertain how to soothe the sorrow, I ricocheted from one task to another. Tried to read, started to organize my desk, contemplated a walk. Nothing stuck.

Then, I remembered!

Three years ago. Crack of dawn. As I tossed back the bed covers, a wave of anxiety washed over me. The writing deadline. Co-workers expecting a product. Days old to-do lists.

Where to start? Get dressed. No, boot up my computer. No, eat something. No, it’s cold, get dressed.

Didn’t notice Jubi until I tripped over her, planted on her haunches in the middle of my room. “What does she want?” I wondered, motioning her to jump up on the bed. She didn’t budge. “Hey, what is it?” I asked impatiently, skirting around her. She didn’t move a muscle, her eyes laser focused on me … just like on our walks, when I lost touch with her and she seemed to say, “Are we still connected?” It was a look that’s hard to resist.

I halted, cinched up my bathrobe and met Jubi’s gaze. A connection! She was saying something to me … like, “What are you doing! Haven’t you forgotten something?”

Oh! I get it! Entangled in the underbrush of the day’s demands I’d darted here and there, desperate to find a way out. Now, captivated by Jubi’s questioning look, I realized we hadn’t started the day as we always did, with moments of quiet prayer, preparing for the day’s activities.

So I scooped her up in my arms, slowly settled into my worn green leather chair, and welcomed stillness. A feeling of gratitude welled up in me for the abundance of qualities readily accessible to each of us – intelligence, creativity, compassion, and more. I’ve come to see these spiritual qualities as flowing from a loving and ever present divine source, and naturally expressed by each of us through our oneness with divinity. Meditating on these ideas, I began to trust that I’d be guided that very day.

It wasn’t long before I glimpsed a first step to take on the writing project, even felt inspired. I slid Jubi off my lap, dressed, ate, and sat down expectant and peaceful at my computer. Maybe Jubi sensed the shift, too, because she curled up nearby.

Now three years later, through tears, I felt once again the sweet urging Jubi awakened in me that morning: in the midst of uncertainty, pain and loss, stop and be still. I remembered her questioning eyes, “Haven’t you forgotten something?”

I slid into the same worn green leather chair and became quiet within. Gratitude for Jubi’s lasting gifts rose in my heart. The way forward would open up. I settled in to listen.

Mom’s Presence

Last week, as my dog, Jubi, and I were walking past a pre-school a few blocks from our home, a woman was standing nearby holding an infant in her arms. Our eyes met. We hesitated, paused, and looked at each other as if to say, “Do I know you?”

Then in a flash of recognition, we smiled, recalling the touching moment that first brought us together. The woman had been pregnant with the baby she was now carrying, and had been walking near my house with her other daughter, then about three years old.

It was 11 months ago – June 2013. I’d been sitting alone in the bedroom where my mother had passed away peacefully after a brief illness two weeks earlier. Tears were streaming down my face.

The night before, it had rained – an unusual summer occurrence in Northern California – and the sun had just broken through the clouds, drawing my attention outward. In hopes of comfort, I called to Jubi, “Come, let’s go for a little walk.”

We stepped outside. There was a cry … then a wail. What was the sound? Where was it coming from? We turned the corner. A mother and child were walking in our direction. The little girl was desperately reaching up and grasping at her mother to no avail. We drew nearer. The woman was pregnant, unable to pick up her crying child, who then tried to climb on top of her mom’s shoes. I smiled, remembering how I loved to balance on my dad’s shoes, my feet rising up and down with his, as he walked.

Common_snail

Sensing a need, I asked if we could help. “She’s afraid of the snails!” Mom said, with a twinkle in her eyes. Sure enough! Snails were crisscrossing the moist sidewalk from one grassy plot to another, leaving trails of ooze in their wake.

Mom said her family lived five blocks away, and she wanted to call her husband to pick them up, but had left her cell phone at home. “Here, use mine!” I offered. She dialed. Dad was at work, and couldn’t leave.

“My car is right here, how about if I drive you both home!” But that was out of the question, since I had no child seat. ‘Jubi!’ I thought, a full-proof solution. Our gentle white fluff ball had quieted many upset children through the years – surely she’d provide a tantalizing distraction.

“Would you like to pet Jubi?” I asked the child. “NO!” was the resounding response, followed by an inconsolable howl.

With no answer in sight after all, I instinctively knelt down beside her. Then an inner whisper, “Be still … and listen.” As is often the urge in moments of distress, I mentally reached out to the Divine with childlike trust. A feeling of compassion welled up, and a knowing that no matter what, we were all loved and cared for.

“Would you like to climb on my shoulders and go for a ride?” I heard myself say. The child hesitated, then reached for my outstretched hands. I hoisted her up. High above the sidewalk she settled in, and off we strode with Jubi in tow.

Mom and I chatted and laughed as we ducked under low-hanging branches sparkling with raindrops. The family was from Turkey, and Mom was earning her PhD at the nearby university. She was looking forward to the arrival of her own mother who was flying in from Turkey the next day to help with the delivery of their second child.

Four blocks into our trek, my shoulders began to sag. But confident that we were in good hands, I said, “Would you like to climb down and take Jubi’s leash?” With a jerk of her knees that signaled “yes,” she slid off, and led Jubi toward her home. When we arrived, Mom and I hugged. I wished her well.

Fast forward to last week, when we bumped into each other again. I congratulated her on her infant, and realized her older child was attending the pre-school – the girl I’d carried on my shoulders. As we recalled the day of our adventure, with a grin she said, “My daughter’s not afraid of snails anymore!”

I laughed, and breathed a silent thank you. I was glad for the child. And I was moved – this time to joyful tears – as I recalled that heartfelt experience, which at the time brought with it something surprising … and healing. A feeling that my mother’s love was still with me.

The qualities of my mom that I treasure, especially her generosity – her sensitivity toward other people’s needs, and her freely giving of herself – had been the very qualities that enveloped me that day. By the time Jubi and I had reached home, my shoulders were back to normal, the sun was shining brightly, and for the first time since Mom’s passing, I’d felt hope. I knew that as I lived the qualities that I and so many other people cherish in my mom, I would always feel the presence of her love.

 

 

More Than a Doctor’s Bag

My dad’s black leather doctor’s bag went with him everywhere: to Children’s Hospital in Oakland about an hour away from home, to his office in nearby Pleasant Hill, and to his many house calls in the areas in between. When I was young, I thought that everything my dad needed as a cardiologist to help patients was in that bag, and that is why he was never without it.

But as I got older I realized that Dad’s ability to help someone feel better must have come from something more than what was in his bag because he rarely, if ever, dispensed anything from it for our family – two active kids and our mom.

Dad often took phone calls from patients at home. I remember one time, when I was a teenager and we were just about to leave the house for a special family outing, the phone rang and Dad disappeared into another room. We waited for him. Several hours later, he hung up the phone and came back into the living room and said something like: “They thought they needed a pill, but they didn’t. They needed to change the way they were thinking and living…to see themselves and their situation differently.”

There were other calls like this that led Dad to cancel our family plans so he could take the time to talk with a patient. Pretty disappointing for us kids. But as we grew up we learned Dad’s important lesson: the arms of our family’s love and cooperation could be extended to others, and that this care made a real difference in their lives.

Recently, I’ve been encountering a number of studies showing that the quality of a patient’s thought has a significant impact on the body, and consequently the time and attention doctors give to patients can positively affect health outcomes. Because the physical problem is often more than what appears on the surface, a truly effective response calls for more than a doctor’s bag of medicine, a prescription or procedure.

Often, doctors who take time to ask questions about what is going on in a patient’s life and really listen to hear what is of concern and weighing on the patient’s thought helps the doctor uncover what may be exacerbating a physical problem. Addressing the patient’s thought in a kind, caring way, the doctor can help patients connect with inherent resources within them that are mentally positive in nature and that bring forth hope, expectation, gratitude and other qualities which research now shows affect the health of the body. My dad experienced this first-hand many, many times.

Seems to me that Dad was practicing not only the science of medicine, but its healing art. His doctor’s bag was a necessary aid, but its presence also hinted at something larger than could be contained in it – his commitment to responding with compassion and courage as he attended to his patients’ deeper needs.

While researchers are continuing to probe the relationship of mind and body – including the relationship of consciousness and the brain and how the body responds to thought – my dad surely sensed that it was the hearts of his patients that needed nurturing for the body to improve.

Unexpected Fathers

Few things break a girl’s heart more than losing her father.

Unconsolable sadness shown in the eyes of a young friend of mine a few days after her dad died.

I could relate. Several decades earlier, when I was a teenager, my dad passed away suddenly, and I felt lost. But somewhere in my grief, there was a flicker of hope, like a single candle in a dark, sad room.

During my childhood, both my mom and dad—though they were of different faiths—had read the Bible to me. I loved the stories that assured me of the presence and care of my Father-Mother God. I believed in this divine closeness, and that I couldn’t be separated from His/Her love. Now with my dad gone, I needed something to comfort me…and I felt I could look to this loving presence for assurance and strength.

As I stayed with my young friend, I hoped that what I later learned might help her. I trusted that she too would find the comfort she needed.

When my dad passed on, for support I turned to the Bible stories I knew. Soon I discovered that the fathering qualities I loved about my dad really have their source in the divine. And since these qualities are not limited to one human being, they can be expressed tangibly in my life by others. And that is exactly what happened!

First there was Winn, who was like an uncle to me. Winn would just appear! I’d wake up and find him at the breakfast table. Or he’d be outside fixing something that needed repair. With his jokes he lovingly teased me, but that made me trust his care and objectivity, especially when it came to helping me navigate choices and decisions around relationships with guys.

Then there was Walt, a Swiss friend of our family who grew up in the Alps. He stepped right in to help fill my dad’s shoes—ski boots, actually—accompanying us on day trips to the mountains and nudging my brother and me to glide gracefully and swiftly down the steep slopes of the Sierras.

A couple of years after dad died, mom remarried. My stepdad, Chet, had known my dad professionally and admired him. Our combined families—each parent brought two teenage children—discovered that we loved the outdoors. One of Chet’s favorite expressions, “The family that bikes together, stays together,” told me in a humorous way how much he cared for and was committed to our united family.

Each of these relationships, full of spiritual qualities of love, care, strength, stability, guidance, fun, and humor, were tangible expressions of the fatherhood that could never really be absent. I truly believe this is possible because they have their source in the ever-present Father-Mother God.

On this Father’s Day, I’m grateful to remember all the wonderful examples of fatherhood I had growing up. And my young friend? Through the continuing support of those who loved her, she gradually regained her joyful outlook and later married a wonderfully nurturing man.

 

Have you been fathered by someone other than your biological dad? Have you been the giver or the recipient of fathering love?

“Kar’nie, are you Hanukkah or Christmas?”

This question from my 4-year-old nephew, using my family nickname, made me smile. I still warm to his childlike innocence just as I did many years ago.

I doubt he cared about the fine points of Judaism and Christianity. But, aware of various activities around the holidays, he probably wondered, would we light a Menorah or decorate a Christmas tree? What kinds of food would we share? What presents might he expect from me and when? How could he participate in the holiday activities? Would he feel at home at our house?

My family includes both Jews and Christians, and we have shared in each other’s traditions over the years. Growing up, I celebrated Passover (read in Hebrew!) and other Jewish holidays with my orthodox great aunt and uncle, and they celebrated Christian holidays with us. Whatever our affinities, we loved and felt loved by one another.

This verse in Scriptures touches my heart, especially as people gather with family and friends to celebrate this season: “God is no respecter of persons.” To me, the divine Presence is not a divider, but a unifier. Although each person is unique, I’m making a special effort to appreciate and treat everyone as members of the family of humanity bound together by universal love.

“Are you Hanukkah or Christmas?” We laughed, played, gave gifts and enjoyed that holiday season – both Hanukkah and Christmas.