This is not my typical blog post. On Cinco de Mayo, we will be celebrating my dad’s 90th birthday. If you’ll indulge me, I’d like to share with you some of his amazing life.


When dad was born on May 5, 1927 — 90 years ago — he almost died.

His mother, my late abuela, prayed to St. Anthony. If her son lived, she would offer him to God’s service and name him Antonio. Anthony.

Dad survived. And his life has indeed been of service to others. Interestingly, his namesake, St. Anthony, was the greatest preacher of the Middle Ages and one of the finest orators of all time.

Dad became this, too.

But dad wasn’t always this way. He was a first-generation Mexican-American who grew up in poverty. He was shy.

Because of his race, he experienced prejudice in South Texas. Many of his classmates weren’t pleased when he was named the high school’s valedictorian. Mexicans weren’t supposed to be smart.

Dad went on to study radio engineering and worked at Pan American Airways. While all this was happening, he and my mother, from Tennessee, were writing letters to each other and fell in love. They married and started raising a family in Donna, Texas.

His career then morphed into television engineering at KRGV-TV in Weslaco, and he would often bring us as children there. With a growing family, dad needed more income and left the TV station to find better employment.

He took a job with the Philco Corporation where he worked as a civilian consultant to the military in South Korea. He was responsible for helping set up the first TV station in post-war Korea.

But we weren’t able to go as a family. South Korea was still considered a hardship area. So we stayed behind in Houston, with my aunt and uncle helping my mother with our care. Every day the mailman brought a surprise from Korea — dolls, silk kimonos, toys and books.

After a year, dad returned to the U.S. and the Philco Corporation transferred him to the Philadelphia area.

Among his many duties, he helped develop the high-resolution cameras, attached to an airplane, that detected the growing build up of missiles in Cuba — that led to the Cuban missile crisis. Dad also helped set up the TV monitors at NASA in Houston.

His work then took him to KYW-TV in Philadelphia as chief engineer during the time of The Mike Douglas Show. There, he met many movie stars and celebrities.

During all this time, however, dad was also involved in much more. At some point in his early career, he took the Dale Carnegie course and discovered a gift — inspirational and motivational speaking.

From there, dad became involved in a program called Adventures in Attitudes and branched out on his own, giving lectures to help inspire others, to help them become the best they could be.

He offered talks such as “You were born for greatness, why settle for less?” and “The ABCs of greatness.”

His public speaking extended to the Crusillo movement, where he was one of two men to help bring this Christ-centered movement to the Philadelphia area from Spain.

Dad lectured around the world, not only for the Crusillo, but speaking about other spiritual and self-help topics in churches, schools, veterans’ hospitals, nursing homes, prisons, and to troubled youth.

Dad’s sole desire was to help others and to serve. I remember him saying, “If only one person is helped and comes to know God, it’s worth it.”

Stories are told that healings happened when dad spoke. Emotional healings, but sometimes physical healings. After one of his talks, he counseled a woman who had cancer. After hearing her story, he told her she needed to forgive her ex-husband. She found it difficult, but she finally did, from her heart. Later, she reported to him that she had been healed.

Prior to one of his talks — an important one — he was seized with an uncharacteristic fear. While in the shower he heard Mother Mary’s voice: “Do not be afraid,” she said. “I am sending my angels before you.”

Dad wrote two books and recorded numerous CDs of his talks. He was not part of the digital age, but at some point, my hope is that I — or one of his family — will make these available via social media.

Throughout his 90 years, dad has helped countless people, given tirelessly, and helped his nine children along the way. He helped us move, provided money, offered counsel, prayed with us, cried with us, loved us, forgave us when we made mistakes. He went on to do the same with his grandchildren.

The stories are countless and if anything, dad himself was the consummate story teller — until his stroke four years ago.

That’s the day God took away the one gift dad cherished most — his speech.

And yet, dad still speaks with his eyes and his smile. He is still there, giving. How?

He helped me learn in the deepest way, as I help care for him, that loving service to others is the greatest gift we can give. I now know this in my being as never before.

So this Friday on Cinco de Mayo — Antonio (Tony) Zaragoza Zuniga, true Mexican-American that he is — will mark 90 years of a life well lived. And on Saturday, May 6th, his family and friends will be there to celebrate him. They are arriving from all corners — Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, California, from next door and a few blocks away.

We will honor dad at a party with Mexican food, Margaritas, mariachi music, laughter, family stories. And we will cherish him. We will love him.

Gracias, Papi. Por todo.





Who are you?

Strange things happen as you grow older. You start to lose things. Hair, energy, car keys, lists to help you remember, and why in the world you walked into that room. What was I going in there to get?

But sometimes, loss can be a blessing. It strips down and shows us what is no longer necessary.

Most important, I believe we begin to lose our false self. What is that?

In his book Adam’s Return, Richard Rohr, the Franciscan priest, says:

“Our false self is who we think we are. It is our mental self-image and social agreement, which most people spend their whole lives living up to — or down to.”

For many of us, this becomes an all-consuming effort. We create this other persona that we feel society wants, or our family and friends expect of us. For me, it was years spent working in the writing field, for newspapers and magazines, and a few stints in the corporate world.

As an ambitious young working woman, my persona was about fine clothes, a good salary, making an impact with my words, earning writing awards, my by-line.

Were those wrong? No. All of those were necessary and part of my journey. I had to pay bills after all. And on some level, writing offered me an avenue to use my gift of writing to educate and inform many people.

But at some point, I began to realize there was more to life than this. These “things” were not at the deepest level about my true self.

One of my favorite authors Sue Monk Kidd writes: “In our youth we set up inner myths and stories to live by but around the midlife juncture these patterns begin to crumble. It feels to us like a collapsing of all that is, but it’s a holy quaking.”

That “holy quaking” can lead us to our true self. And what is that?

Simply put, the true self pulls us closer to the Divine, to God. I think children and animals show us how to do this best. They have no hidden agendas, take no offense at slights, but simply delight in the purity of being themselves. They are who God created them to be.

A friend of mine scolded his dog one day for jumping into a basket of clean clothes. But the dog didn’t know she had done anything wrong — she was living in pure innocence and joy as God had made her — and just as quickly forgot about her “mistake” and went about playing and wagging her tail.

I’ve also had the privilege of knowing a handful of people in my life who I sensed were living in the integrity of their true selves. They accepted themselves, knew who they were, both flaws and sanctity — and in their presence, I felt an ease and grace.

As we move closer to our true selves, I believe the more loving parts of ourselves are magnified. And we begin to accept those parts that hide in façade or selfishness. Or they simply disappear in the light of that love.

Discovering our true selves is not so much about what we do, but what God does, says Rohr.

“And what God does—what life does—is gradually destabilize the supposed boundaries of the small self so we can awaken inside of the Large Self, which we call God. This usually happens through experiences of great love or great suffering or inner prayer journeys that allow the private ego to collapse back into the True Self, who we are in God.”

For me, the journey toward discovering the true self has come late in life in caring for my father. In honesty, all facades and pretenses crumbled in the call to be of loving service and this ongoing experience has graced me to see myself as I am in God’s eyes — holy and flawed, sacred and scared, selfish and loving.

But I am — like everyone else — always in process with this. Living from our true selves is a journey, or as Rohr says, “a dance between the loneliness and desperation of the false self and the fullness of the true self, which is ever re-discovered and experienced anew as an ultimate homecoming.”

So, I find as I am growing older, I am also growing up — spiritually. Even better, waking up. And like most of us, I am still learning to navigate the mysterious pathways to who I really am. Warts and all.

Home to my true self. In God. In the divine. In love.




All the lonely people

The diner was noisy and overcrowded. A friend and I finally found a booth next to the counter where three men sat, talking.

One was loud, his voice booming above the clamor of rattling plates, forks and knives as bus boys cleaned up tables.

He was perhaps in his late 60s, scruffily dressed, and he made his boisterous presence known.

“So there was my son, hurt and in a heap on the football field and my wife said, ‘That’s your fault. I didn’t want him playing this game.’ That was years ago when the kid was in high school. He’s got a high-falutin job in California and I never see him. And you know Rosemary died last year.”

The other two men lowered their heads. “Sorry, Jack,” they said and sipped their coffee.

Jack went on about the Super Bowl, asked the waitress behind the counter what team she was betting on and shared more of his life with the rest of us nearby, whether we wanted to hear it or not. He was retired, Vietnam war vet, and Eagles fan, depending.

Then Jack stood up, said goodbye to his friends, and left.

My heart went out to him as he walked unsteadily out the door.

loneliness-blog“He’s lonely,” I told my friend.

“He’s drunk,” my friend said.

Perhaps. But it didn’t matter to me. I saw a man who had a grown son living elsewhere, who had lost his wife and who was returning, most likely, to an empty home. Lonely. At least here, in this diner, he was visible. He was connecting with others. He had a place to belong.

At heart, I believe we are all lonely. It’s inevitable and part of the human experience.

I know I have been lonely in my life more times than I care to remember, especially when I’ve moved for jobs in new cities where I didn’t know a soul. Being shy and introspective didn’t make connection with others any easier.

Along the way, however, I’ve learned a few things about this human experience and one is that “being alone” and “loneliness” are not the same.

pain and sorrow womanMany times I enjoy being alone, without others. I like to spend quality “me” time doing things I enjoy. In fact, solitude often draws me closer to my spiritual center and to God. And when alone, I’ve learned to be comfortable with my own company, to treat myself with compassion.

Being lonely, however, is when I have that unsettling inner gnawing at my soul, a feeling of disconnection from others, an emptiness and emotional hunger that wants to be filled with any diversion as to avoid that pain.

Today, loneliness seems rampant. It seems we’d rather do anything other than face our loneliness. So we distract ourselves with Facebook, Twitter, TV or “whatever” it may be rather than face loneliness and ask what it has to teach us.

The late Henri Nouwen, spiritual writer and theologian, writes:

“When we have no project to finish, no friend to visit, no book to read, no television to watch…and when we are left all alone by ourselves, we are brought so close to the revelation of our basic human aloneness and so afraid of experiencing an all-pervasive sense of loneliness that we will do anything to get busy again and continue the game which makes us believe that everything is fine after all.”

So what do we do?

Perhaps we can transform our loneliness into solitude, a time to sense our oneness with God or all of creation. I’m sure many of us have stood in awe at a glorious sunrise, crashing waves, an unexpected rainbow, a majestic mountain range. We are all part of that glory so we are never truly alone.

If that doesn’t work, perhaps we might consider reaching out to others and helping them in their struggles. Offering a listening heart and hand to those in need is not such a bad idea during the times we feel lonely. And in the end, life has a strange way of giving back what we put out.

woman by door at oceanAnd sometimes, as uncomfortable as it may feel, we can simply “be” with that loneliness. We may choose to listen to what it has to teach us and know that as part of this human journey we share in that experience of loneliness — ironically — together.

In fact, loneliness and many other feelings we call negative can be great teachers, if we allow. Psychotherapist and spiritual counselor Matt Licata writes:

“Your sadness, your loneliness, your fear, and your anxiety are not mistakes. They are not obstacles on your path. They are the path. The freedom you are longing for is not found in the eradication of these, but in the information they carry. You need not transcend anything here, but be willing to become deeply intimate with your lived, embodied experience. …Nothing is missing, nothing is out of place, nothing need be sent away.”

Then again, we may choose to be like Jack, and head to the nearest diner. Shout and boom to the world that we are here. And for a few seconds, like him, we may distract ourselves from the pain of loneliness. Perhaps that, too, can be a part of the path and if we are open, part of the learning.

After all, we each have a bit of Jack in us. May we learn to bless that loneliness in our being. May we know we are never truly alone.



To boldly go

I’m back. And I’ve missed you all. I’ve missed writing this blog.

I had an accident and I’m still mending. But I’m better each and every day. This challenge (see “Shields up, Red Alert” below) has been and continues to be a profound teacher. Fodder for a future blog.

This blog post below was written, ironically, on the morning before the accident. How interesting to go back and read what I had started, not knowing what was ahead for me. The truth is, we never know.

As a result, I’m learning even more deeply to stay in the moment. To be thankful for all I have — and I am so grateful for all who have been praying for me and supporting me.

I wrote that morning about the “spirituality of Star Trek” little realizing that I was about to encounter a dark space in my own life. But this experience has only confirmed for me that while we may be sucked up by those “black holes” of sorrow or pain in life, we do come out of them and find brilliant horizons of light. Perhaps not right away. But if we are open, we do journey eventually to a new and heightened sense of the preciousness of life and gratitude.

Each day — with God’s grace — we boldly go.


Were you a Trekkie? I was.

No, I didn’t attend conventions, wear a uniform or learn how to speak Klingon. Although if that was or is your thing, may you live long and prosper.

Instead, I was awestruck by the possibilities for our future. Doors that opened on their own, communicators, Tricorders, Replicators, the transporter beam.  And then nasty aliens who manipulated your mind or adorable ones like Tribbles.

star-trekEven better, here was a cast of every stripe, gender and color, including a logical alien with pointy ears. The show was a bow to gender and racial equality, and they all managed to get along, hurtling through space on the U.S.S. Enterprise.

I was in high school when the show debuted 50 years ago and Star Trek was a fresh look at what might be. Now, of course, we laugh at how “fake” the show seems, and yet, some of those Enterprise inventions have come to pass.

Later in life I began to see how this show, and its progeny, offered theological ideas and concepts. So 15 years ago I wrote a book titled “The Spirituality of Star Trek” that attracted interest from a literary agent, and then never went beyond that. A writer’s life, I’m afraid.

Still, those truths, at least for me, remain — shining like a bright star in deep space. So here are some spiritual principles I learned from Star Trek.

Warp Core Breaches — You never want one of these. Bad stuff, especially if you’re trying to flee Khan (apologies to non-Trekkies but he’s a real bad guy). Aboard the various starships, the warp core is the main source of energy that propels the ship through space. We can view the warp core as our souls. When we fail to forgive, we breach our spirits. Lack of forgiveness sucks up our souls, like the black holes in space. The gravity of vengeance is so dense no other life can exit there. When we forgive we begin to repair those breaches and mend our souls.

ohuraOpen Hailing Frequencies — When encountering aliens, the captain’s first command is always “Open hailing frequencies!” This is a way of addressing new life forms and identifying the U.S.S. Enterprise and its human cargo, proclaiming: We are here and we come in peace. How can we learn from each other? Sometimes we shut down our hailing frequencies. We don’t take time to listen to others or to the universal language of love from the Divine who permeates the universe. Or perhaps, we don’t take time to listen to what our souls are trying to tell us.

Resistance is Futile — That phrase is an eerie command from the Borg, a techno-alien race that thinks with a hive mind. When starships encountered the Borg, they were assimilated into their collective. But the Borg had it right when they announced “Resistance is futile.” An old metaphysical axiom says that “what we resist, persists.” Like the Borg, when we allow ourselves to accept whatever is happening — no matter how joyful or painful — we learn. We grow. And when we embrace and assimilate those forgotten, neglected parts of our being, we grow into personal and collective wholeness and holiness.

Shields Up, Red Alert! — All of us have faced red alerts in our lives. It may be traumatic, such as a divorce, death or a life-threatening illness. Whatever it is, the experience, as painful as it is, is there to love us and teach us, if we allow it. It is often a wake-up call because something needs desperate attention in our lives. Sometimes we need to have “shields up” for a time to mend or recuperate. Sometimes we need to relax into whatever is happening and hear what it has to tell us. Only then can we move forward.

picard-engage_0_0Make It So — Capt. Jean-Luc Picard often gave this command to his crew. We also have the power to “make it so.” Our thoughts are the stuff of energy that propel us wherever we focus it. What we think, we create. God was first thought and first cause. We, too, think and create. So, how do we want to “make it so” in our lives?

The Prime Directive — This is the Federation’s mandate not to interfere in alien civilizations. God is much like this, although the Divine has been known to intervene in human history. However, most of the time I believe that the Divine invites us into partnership — to participate by using our free wills to co-create a new heaven and new earth. Choice is frightening and an awesome gift. When we choose to let the Divine take the lead, we may not know the outcome. It’s always a risk. But it is always sacred ground when we do it in union with the Creator.

spaceSpace, the Final Frontier — Although outer space may be adventuresome, inner space offers infinite possibilities. This is the territory of the Divine, where we find our spiritual identity and souls. We traverse this space in many ways, with meditation, being in the moment, or whatever may help us connect with that vast presence within us.

Whether you are a fan of Star Trek or not, the reality is we are on this earthly “enterprise” together. So may we learn to be kind and loving to one another. May we boldly go into each new day knowing how much we are loved. And by God’s grace, may we live long and prosper.






The circle game — again

I can’t believe another year has come and gone. Joni was right. It is the Circle Game. Faster and faster. So here’s my blog post from last year. Thanks for letting me share it again.


I’m celebrating a birthday soon. A piece of paper from a Texas hospital tells me I was born on August 18, 1949. You do the math. It’s not pretty. I’ve had some thoughts about aging and share them here. Spoiler alert: There is talk of God in this one.


I have officially been an older person for some time. I still remember the shock of seeing the “senior citizen” discount on the Denny’s menu and the ads on TV for AARP, realizing I was eligible for both.

I felt like I was having an out-of-body experience, sadly a body that isn’t the one I had when I was 40, much less 50.

old people shadowsThose “forgiving” pants that writer Anne Lamott talks about aren’t as forgiving anymore and I ask myself: How did this happen? I exercise and eat right.

But as I get older I find I have to work extra hard at it with less energy. And wasn’t it just the other day I was a gawky beanpole, going to a Beatles concert or a greenhorn working at my first newspaper job, terrified I would fail at this writing thing? Um. Nope. Happened decades ago.

So here’s the truth of it, kiddos:

Time flies as you grow older. Really. To some of you it may not seem that way, but believe me, I think there’s some kind of Divine accelerator button that gets pushed after each decade. It could also be a quantum physics thing but I’m not sure.

And that’s also part of the aging process. You learn. If you’re open, you do learn. I used to laugh when older folks would say, “If only I knew then what I know now.” Truth.

You learn that life gets messy; people can be loving or cruel; your bank account ebbs and flows; some nights dread and anxiety will drown your soul because you feel you haven’t done a danged thing with your life that amounts to anything.

And then life will turn around and gobsmack you with the birth of a child, the perfumed scent of earth after a summer’s rain, an unexpected $5 you dig out of your jeans pocket.

If you’re a spiritual being — and I believe we all are — you learn that God is in everything and everywhere. Even in that politician or dictator or serial killer you despise.

self loveGod doesn’t play favorites and loves each person with this kind of cosmic abandon I will never fathom.

It’s such a relief to know that this love is totally accepting, always available and beckoning me, even though I screw up a lot and don’t always tap into it.

And as to that word “God.” We seem to have really created messes over that one.

In whatever ways you term that Divine source of love — and how can you define something so ineffable — that Supreme Being starts to become more visible to you as you age, in all creation, from that speck of a spider to raging waterfalls to that person sitting next to you on the train, sound asleep and snoring.

As to my writing: I always thought I’d write a best-seller by now. I smile at that one because while I believe almost all things are possible, some things happen and some don’t for Divine reasons I’m not privy to. I’ve learned the art and craft of writing over 40-some years and feel I’m pretty danged good.

But sometimes, if I’m honest, I get frustrated when I see others being published and successful, and I’m still struggling. Then I say:

“A word with you, God. Time is getting short here. I’m doing my part and I’m writing my little heart out. What about you? Are you doing your part, God? You may be eternal and have a thousand years, but I don’t.

As you approach the end of your timeline, you find that life starts taking more and more things and people away.

letting_go_by_bandico-d5s1eyhYou’ve lost those you love or you look at those you love who are dying and you weep in anticipation of that, knowing it is part of the process and you will grieve and have bad days and then go on again. And you realize your turn is getting closer and you wonder — what will that feel like?

After all, you’ve never had this particular death experience before, and yes, fear creeps in, as well as wonder and awe at approaching another stage of life that is probably pretty amazing.

So two stories to end: A friend of mine lost her mother a few years ago. She was having a bad time of it and woke one morning to find the most unusual, magnificent sunrise streaked across the skies.

Then she heard her mother’s voice: “This is only a small portion of what it’s like here, to be in the presence of God. The face of God is so beautiful I don’t want to miss a single second of it.”

And then there’s Sam, a neighbor who is 95. Lanky and tall, he walks twice a day, if not more, puffing away at his cigar. I asked him once about the secret to a long life.

He told me: “I smoke my cigar, I take a nap, then I take my medicine.” He paused and winked. “And you know what my medicine is, don’t you? A shot of whiskey.”

healing energy handsSo here’s to that shot of whiskey, to not missing a single second of the face of God, right here and right now, and to the insanities and joys of the human experience.

As I head into another year of my life, I hold on to one of my favorite quotes by Ram Dass:

“We are all just walking each other home.”

Thanks to my companions of the heart, who love me, put up with me, support me and grace me as we walk each other home. I love you all.


(Blogger’s Note: And nope. I didn’t write that best-selling novel this past year. God willing, and if the Circle Game comes ’round again, I will. In the meantime, enjoy Joni.)



Surrender, Supergirl

“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” ~ Joseph Campbell


When I was a little girl I wanted to be Lois Lane or Supergirl. They were my role models — smart, sassy, fierce and they got the job done. I followed and devoured their escapades in the comic books.

Yep. I wanted to be a first-class reporter or have super powers to save the world. Maybe both.

supergirlTHIS lois lane








That was the life my childlike self had planned. Then, as I grew older, other dreams and plans took shape. Best-selling author? Inspirational speaker? World traveler? Rich and famous? Well, not so much fame. Intimidating. But money would be nice. I could help so many others and myself.

But the thing is, life doesn’t always turn out like we planned.

And what I’m learning in my ripe old age is an ongoing lesson for me — one I write about often — that I’m not in control.

That I have to let go and let God.

Now that’s nothing new. Everyone from the Twelve Steps Program to Tosha Silver to St. Ignatius in his Suscipe prayer have written and spoken about this.

But doing it? The actual act of really letting go and handing it all over to a Higher Power? That’s a whole other thing. It seems I surrender to acceptance of the life I have now and then take it back faster than you can say The Daily Planet or Kryptonite.

When you come right down to it, letting go is a process. And that process is humbling. Mucho, mucho humbling.

humilityLife hits us with the unexpected — a divorce, a death, a health challenge and there we are, detouring off what we thought was our chosen course. The life we planned or hoped for feels like a ship disappearing onto the distant horizon.

John Lennon said: “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.”


But here’s the other truth I’m learning. Wherever I am — outside of that so-called planned life — is really OK. This is not a rationalization but a deep truth that if I surrender to the Divine, I’m exactly where I’m meant to be, no matter how many detours, disasters or wrong choices I’ve made.

An old proverb says that “God writes straight with crooked lines.” That means that whatever happens in life — no matter how we judge or perceive it as horrible — the Divine is turning it to our good. Always.

letting_go_by_bandico-d5s1eyhThat all sounds so good and wise doesn’t it? I talk a good game, but if I don’t practice what I preach, my words mean little.

So, as I sit here writing this, I’m struggling right now with surrendering to God a difficult, personal issue in my life. I really don’t have any answers.

No, I don’t have it figured out — any of it — and that’s frightening. That’s the “control” part of me speaking, the part that is clinging to my plan and agenda. But day by day, I pray that I am learning to be at peace with whatever is happening. And even if not, I’m growing.

Whether I’m struggling or accepting my life — if I’m open to it — I’m still growing.

In the end, I did become a reporter at a newspaper. I wasn’t Lois Lane and Superman was nowhere to be found to rescue me. I discovered I had to save myself first. Only then could I be of genuine service to others. I’m still learning that one.

As to Supergirl. Here’s what I’ve decided, about me and each and everyone of us. We have more super powers than she’ll ever have.

We may not be women and men of steel, but we have strength of heart — a courage and bravery that rises up in love on the darkest of days.

We pick ourselves up and fly to a new level of wisdom when life slams us sideways.

We look with x-ray vision into the hearts of others and offer compassion.

And in many ways, small and big, we are rescuing our own corner of planet Earth.

So this life I have now?

No. It’s not the one I planned at all. I always thought I’d write a best-selling book, travel the world and inspire others to find the Divine within. That was my plan. But instead, I am caring for dad who had a stroke, in early retirement living on a meager budget, writing this blog, still part of the great unpublished with my novels collecting dust, and wondering what’s next.

I don’t have a clue.

Many times I still question, kick and scream, wanting it “my way or the highway.”

Other days, I let go and trust that God is guiding me, leading me, even though I don’t know what the Divine agenda is. But I’m listening. Yes, dear Lord, in all humility, I’m listening.

So I take a deep breath. I trust. I relax. supergirl S on chest

I surrender. That’s what the big “S” on my chest stands for, in case you were wondering. I need to be reminded. A lot.


The word

“Silence is the language of god, all else is poor translation.” ~ Rumi


The hardest time, I believe, was right after dad had the stroke. He was in the acute rehab section of the hospital and looked like a lost child.

His eyes would take in a face in the dining room as he ate his lunch or dinner, but they were unreadable. His expression was blank. He seemed to be lost in some strange world, trying to decide how he landed there.

man's eyesAnd he didn’t say a word.

My mother, brother and I took turns being with him. For a month. We stayed by his side and helped him as best we could because he was unable to ask for what he needed. So we brought water. Food. Asked the staff for what he couldn’t ask for himself.

The stroke impacted his cognition but he also was diagnosed with aphasia.

For those who don’t know what this is, aphasia is a neurological disorder caused by damage to portions of the brain that makes it difficult to speak or understand speech.

This felt cruel and sad because dad had been a “word” person.

He once gave inspirational and motivational talks and lectures around the world. After he spoke, many people found the God within or said they had found a certain kind of healing. The Divine had channeled its love through dad’s spoken word to reach out and touch many people.

Why do I share all this? Because dad’s journey reminds me of the power of words.

And as a writer, I’m all about words. They have tremendous energy and emit a vibration. We can use them to heal or hurt. Bless or curse.

They are the tools we use to create and the choices we make in that creation are critical.

In many spiritual traditions the “word” is the beginning of creation. The Bible states that “in the beginning was the Word …” and in Indic Vedic thought the Word — Aum — is how the universe began. words in books transport us to new worlds, give us a mirror by which we see ourselves in new ways, and allow us to share in the common human experience.

Words help us know we’re not alone.

Spoken words of “good morning” to the cashier in the grocery store, a compliment to a co-worker, encouragement to a teen or elderly person — all can revive drooping spirits.

The opposite can also happen. One time, stuck in traffic with windows open, the driver next to me began cursing with vitriol at the driver in front of him. His words sliced through the air like knives.

Dad has come a long way these last three years since the stroke. Thanks to the goodness and kindness of the speech therapist at the hospital who has since become a dear friend, dad speaks.

But he still struggles to find words. He has good days and bad days. And it breaks my heart when he can’t finish a sentence, when he has the word lodged somewhere in his brain but he can’t retrieve it or put meaning to it. So I wait. I pray.

I have come to see all this as a lesson for me. As much as I love words, I also find them to be barriers.

Some things in life simply can’t be expressed verbally or on paper. The look in someone’s eyes, the touch of a hand, the welling up of joy at a luminous sunrise over the ocean or the anguish and heartache of losing a loved one.

silenceYes, we can express many life experiences. But words are often inadequate and fail to convey the deepest meanings and emotions of the human heart.

In truth, sometimes silence is the most effective way to communicate.

So, when dad can’t find the words, I touch that depth of silence. This is a good space. Perhaps it is the authentic and generative energy where creation truly happens.

Words are birthed. But silence is the womb.

And what is it we wish to bear and deliver to the world?