Posted in cystic fibrosis, journal prompts, journaling, memoir, Writing for healing

Journaling Through Intense Memories

march 2009 copy

Above is a paint sketch I did in 2009 when our granddaughter was four years old. She was learning how to interact with the doctors and nurses at Children’s Hospital in Oakland. She had been admitted to the hospital for treatment of cystic fibrosis, a condition she was born with–and diagnosed at two months old. She was  on a breathing machine to increase her lung capacity. In CF language, it’s called  a tune up.  The patient usually feels better after the procedure.

Jesse and I were visiting her in the hospital. It was challenging  to learn  to contain my emotions so my worry didn’t show.  Both my parents were deceased and I had to gather my wits and go on without their gentle encouragement. How was I going to be a good role model, to remain calm, focused and supportive?

For some reason, I was thinking about that day in Oakland as I drove around doing my errands today.  I missed my father because of his deep medical knowledge. When he explained things the world made sense. All the parts fit together. Logical. Inspirational. Detailed.

So, I went up to the post office just to get out of the house for a moment and get some orders out. I needed a break from a piece I was writing about my husband’s polio stories.

The heat made the desert plants seem vibrant. Cacti looked like valiant warriors with spears and thick, verdant skins. Everything pokes you here. Saguaro take hundreds of years to grow….I have to come to love each giant king as an individual.

The sky was clear with fantastic clouds that delighted me with their shapes and cartoon images. As a child I would spend hours looking at the sky and the patterns on walls. Long spans of time, minutes upon minutes of waiting, watching, and dreaming would take me up, slowly like an archetypal Ferris wheel. There was the moment when at the top in a rush of excitement you wonder if it will all go back down again, down to safety and security. Sleep would come, or the day would dawn and all the patterns reemerged.

At the post office a man was in line in front of me. He was quite tall and wispy thin, not unhealthy, but rather long; you had to look up to see the top of his head. He was elderly, like royally old, a gentleman I could only see from the back. Emotion caught in my throat a little as I thought of my father who was a tall man.

The man carried out his transaction at the counter with the super nice clerk who’s been there forever. The clerk called him by name, “Thanks for coming in, Sam.” My chest tightened and I squashed the feeling of water coming to my eyes. I see the magnet of camaraderie of two souls quietly talking without excess, man to man. As the customer turned around to leave, I greeted him just for a chance to make contact.

“How ya doin, sir?” I noticed his hearing aid. “What’s new?”

He looked towards me, a stranger. Then I saw his crystal clear eyes. I was startled for a second. They were like a child’s eyes. I look right into those peepers, searching. He was totally pure. No malice, no static, no anger… like a  wise wizard. He had an actual aura that I could see.

I felt the presence of angel. I caught myself. When you are in the presence of an angel, there is a shimmering.

“Oh I’m just old. And if anything is new, I’d be the last one to know.”

I laugh.

“Well, glad to see you. Have a great day.”

I continue to watch him slowly, stiffly walking out to his car and I to mine. I try not to let out an audible sigh. I was in a heightened awareness like I was being transported into another time zone. Why was I so emotional? Could a person manifest an angel? No, he was a regular! The clerk knew his name.

Then I remembered my conversation with my granddaughter last night. I tried not to ask her too many questions because it makes her get quiet. But when I say “talk to me” or “tell me all about it” it’s as if a button is pushed and away she goes into her little burst of power. What a joy. She was telling me all about learning how to write cursive. Her teacher had given her a compliment. So my sunshine was talking all over the place about science, natural resources, magnets and “expereements.” Just one conversation, hearing the squeaky little voice filled with enthusiasm catapulted my mood back into well-being.

Journal prompt: Do a sketch about a memory from your past where you couldn’t seem to fit words to the experience. Even if you are not “artistic” use stick figures or shapes to convey the feelings. If you are not comfortable with drawing, do a collage. The images don’t have to be realistic. They can be representational. Write a brief paragraph about your work. Don’t edit, rearrange or moderate your feelings. What do you notice?

Discussion: Feel free to share your work or your thoughts.

Copyright© 2014 by Susan E Rowland


I made it this far and plan to keep going. I believe nature heals the soul. I love to journal, to write, do art, and music. I'm not afraid to tackle tough subjects. Solar-powered & drive hybrid. Trying to do my part. Earned my BA at 53. And, I believe, it's never too late to have a happy childhood.

4 thoughts on “Journaling Through Intense Memories

  1. Beautiful/sad and deep experiences. Thanks for sharing. I’m glad you push the button so your granddaughter has her bursts of power I love the story of Sam. I experience ” showing hospitality to angles unawares” who turn out to be ordinary people that incarnate messages of love.

  2. Hi Viva. 🙂 Yes! You know, when children have an illness it teaches us the greatest humility-beyond words. Researchers are making great strides in CF developing a cure. And yes again about everyday people. They are my angels.

    1. Thank you for responding, Inese. There is a wonderful supportive community of CF families and supporters who make all the difference. The Mauli Ola Foundation is one such fantastic group of angels 🙂

      I’m loving your photos and blog! ❤

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