A chorus of angry horns blared at me as I sat in my Altima, stalled in the middle of a busy intersection. It was a blazing hot August afternoon. Quite the time and place for my car’s entire electrical system to give out, including the power locks on my doors and windows. Trapped inside without air conditioning, I had to wait for a police officer to arrive to assist. He pried open my vehicle, shifted it to neutral, pushed me to a parking lot, and called a tow truck to transport the car to a garage.
“It’s your alternator,” the mechanic told me. Really? I’d just had the alternator replaced. Twice. Then I learned my transmission was practically on life support. “You’ll be lucky to get 25 more miles out of it,” he said. “Cut your losses, ma’am, and find another car. Soon.”
This was far from my first issue with the Altima. Over the past months, I’d been taking it to the same garage I’d relied on for years. I was making frequent long-distance trips for a health crisis, so I wanted to make sure my car was safe and well-maintained. There was a new guy in charge, one who charmed me with his concern for my well-being. When I first met him, he leaned over the counter and whispered confidentially, “When it comes to a vehicle, the best ability is dependability.”
I kept having issues with the car, so I was in and out of that place every other week. It seemed like an awful lot of effort was required for dependability. But I was so ill, I didn’t dwell on it.
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The Christmas Clock
It was December 2012, a week before Christmas. I was sitting alone at my kitchen table in Missouri, watching the hands of my Christmas clock tick toward the hour. I was waiting to hear it play “Silent Night,” which it did every night at 11 o’clock. The tune always lifted my spirits. But the second hand passed the hour mark without a peep. My heart sank. The music mechanism must have broken. You couldn’t have picked a better metaphor for my life—I kept on ticking, but the joy was missing.
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A CONVERSATION ABOUT THE HEALING POWER OF SHARED DEATH EXPERIENCES
We were only 48 hours into our family’s three-week road trip when the car broke down. White smoke billowed from the engine. The dashboard warning lights went on.
“I saw a butterfly,” my mother said with a shy smile. It was the first time I’d seen her smile since my father’s death the week before. After a seven-year period of steadily declining health, he’d passed away in his bed at home, surrounded by his wife and three daughters. It was a peaceful end to his suffering, but saying goodbye was still difficult. We all missed him terribly. Especially Mami.
Wings and a Prayer
I heard the front door to our apartment open and walked over to see my mom returning home from the laundromat. She had tears in her eyes.
It was a sunny October day. My husband, Anthony, and I sat with our three kids—Ella, seven; Luca, five; and Zoe, two—as they drew with sidewalk chalk in the driveway. The whole family was enjoying the last bit of nice weather before the winter. Everything felt warm and peaceful.
Secrets of the Labyrinth
I WAS AT THE ENTRY OF Battery Park’s Labyrinth of Contemplation in New York City. A winding pathway of rocks and grass stretched out before me. After studying labyrinths for weeks, I wanted to try one. I’d learned that these fantastical, circuitous pathways can act as prayer tools, helping calm the mind and soul. I sure needed that. Beyond this quiet park, the city had been hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. Though cases were down and things seemed to be improving, I still felt overwhelmed and uncertain about the future. Will I find the spiritual comfort I’m looking for? I wondered. Adjusting my face mask, I took a deep breath and began….
An Unexpected Visitor
I couldn’t even sort through the first box of our dog Bama’s toys without bursting into tears. My husband, Alan, found me sitting on the floor in our utility room, clutching our late boxer’s favorite squeaky. He gently pulled me to my feet. “It’s okay, Lisa,” he said.
Whenever I think about the Transfiguration, my mind travels back to the fifth- and sixth-grade Sunday school class I once coached to act it out for the congregation. The task seemed nearly impossible.
I stepped out of the federal prison in South Dakota after a decade behind bars and breathed a sigh of relief. I’d served my time. But I wasn’t just free. I was a new man. Honestly, I doubted anyone who knew me before would recognize me. I hardly recognized me.
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