Day 90: So, this is what it feels like… (part 1)

“The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.”

-Oprah Winfrey

 

 

Birthday  (noun):  [burth-dey];  1. An anniversary of a birth.

(Verb)  2.  The act of celebrating  the day of birth.

Yes, a birthday… a day that is ingrained in our minds from the time we were little when balloons are held, cake is indulged in, friends and family come to visit and presents are given.  As a child we anticipate this celebration with a list of things we have longed for.  Yes, our excitement grows and surprises are planned for the big event and then in a flash it is over and we are left to wait for another year.  That is how it all started in my life… Until one day, my Birthday became a day to be forgotten. The candles, like a light in my life, were extinguished, and I never wanted them lit again.

I was born some many years ago and it happened that I arrived on my Grandmother’s birthday.  Yes, my Grandmother, a truly gracious, fun and wise woman.  I thought it to be quite an honor to celebrate her birthday.  She would take the time to bake a homemade cake for the both of us.   Our celebration was in the true European tradition and a bit low-key.  I never did have a birthday party with friends, but that never bothered me as I didn’t know what I was missing!  We would spend the day relaxing and then have cake, coffee and a couple presents.  Make no mistake, my parents always tried to give me the very one gift I always longed for.  And at the end of the day, my Grandmother would go home and I would go to sleep.  This repeated itself until I was 15, which was the last time a birthday occurred….

My Grandmother was why those Birthdays were celebrated.  She was a truly remarkable woman and I never even really thought that the celebration was about me… That is, I always wanted to be near her.  I would kiss her cheek incessantly.  I wanted to be close to her.  I wanted any moment to be a part of her life.  Her energy was my energy.  Her smile was contagious, magnetic, and authentic.  Her eyes were true, honest, and relaxing.  Her heart was big… oh so big!  She was patient and loving… She was fun and always full of laughter.  She was daring and fearless… She was generous, giving and gentle…. She listened and heard every word.  She deserved every Birthday celebration without any hesitation or doubt.  And so, as I grew up, I understood the celebration was to be about her life…as she so deserved!  I never really viewed my Birthday as a reason to celebrate.  I simply saw this incredible woman and in my mind, the celebration was about her life.  It just happened that I would get a couple of gifts from being born on that particular day.  It may sound a little odd, but when you have someone so important in your life, it is never about you…  That’s not to say, I didn’t enjoy receiving the gifts.  Unfortunately the greatest gift I had in my life at the time was quickly taken away, changing EVERYTHING.

The year my Grandmother passed, was a very difficult one.  The compass was left uncalibrated, leading many in my family to fall into sadness.  Alas, we picked ourselves up and had to move on with life.  My birthdays came and went…. came and went… until it really felt like any other day.  I didn’t have the desire or understanding of what to really celebrate or be happy about.  My family would present some sort of cake and gift.  But the essence of what I remember from celebrating my Grandmother’s Birthday, was long-lost and forgotten.  So, moving forward, I adopted the continued pattern of not acknowledging the day.    Sure, later in life, I have had many close to me make valiant attempts to try to celebrate this particular day, but I was always able to institute those well-honed avoidance skills in trying to thwart their attempts… How can one expect to be celebrated by others when they find no reason to celebrate themselves?

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Then this year, I decided it was time… time to understand what is the true significance of a birthday and what would it feel like to celebrate “My” birthday… To really open myself up to understanding why we celebrate.  This is where this Quest begins, with the celebration of my Life…

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The weekend before my birthday, my friends had texted and said they wanted to go to dinner and celebrate my Birthday.  I had the typical reaction when I heard this, as I cringed and thought, “Why?”  And that question was quickly replaced with, “Oh, just make them happy…”  And so I replied with acceptance, all the while thinking this is just another reason to get together.  But then, I quickly had this thought… my friends… my dear friends have taken the time to offer up their night to go with me to celebrate the day I was born.  Could this be genuine or was it simply a well-disguised obligation?

My heart wanted to believe that I was really of some importance in their lives… but my mind struggled with the thought that it was just another day…another reason to go to dinner.  As I sat at my desk and thought about my response, I looked over at the picture of my Grandmother and thought, “What would she want me to do?”  And her contagious smile had me reminding myself that life was meant to be celebrated!  So, as quickly as could be, I responded with “Sounds perfect!”  Yes, I had actually committed myself to this endeavor and with enthusiasm nonetheless!!!  Part of me was excited and the other part not really anticipating what the night would bring!  Would I be left feeling like an obligation or would I learn what it means to celebrate my birthday?

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It was the night of my Birthday dinner, a few days before the actual date, and I arrived at my friend’s house to find decorations carefully hung and she greeted me with a warm and loving hug.  Not unusual for her to do, but today, she made me feel truly appreciated with her greeting.  She handed me a glass of champagne and we toasted to my life… Yes, my life, although I wasn’t sure why or what was so significant to celebrate… I toasted and enjoyed the bubbly beverage.  One after another my friends arrived with a loving hug to share and bringing a genuine excitement about celebrating my birthday…  I was starting to feel something I hadn’t felt in quite some time.  I was feeling “Loved” on this day from people who took time out of their lives to be here with me, but more importantly ‘for me’”.  Could this be so, or was the champagne playing tricks with my mind?

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We arrived to dinner and sat, drank and ate.  I looked around the table and saw friends in a way I hadn’t before.  I saw them as selfless, giving, loving, caring… genuine, authentic, fun, true friends… We had an incredible time conversing and laughing and I suddenly felt as if I needed something… from them… and so I felt compelled to ask… “What advice could you give to me moving forward from this birthday on?”  Their eyes widened and I could hear the heavy sighs as if they were all caught a little off guard.  Then they smiled and one by one, they opened their hearts and shared priceless words of wisdom…we started with my good friend to my right.  Her response was very simply, “Slow down… enjoy life… all that it has to offer.”  Yes, “Slow down”, I thought… she knows me so well.  Then my next girlfriend, said, “Focus on what makes you happy because life is too short to not be doing what makes us happy…”,  Yes, happiness is the energy that allows us to enjoy life…. Valuable words and she knows just how to say them.  My newer friend next to her offered, “Make plans for later in life and plan for the future, because it will arrive sooner than you think.”  Yes, the future, of which I never want to think about, or plan for, as I never want to be disappointed that it may never come.  Perhaps I should start to think that there will be a future… He hasn’t known me long, but perhaps he sees my oversight.  Then my friend next to him offered this, “You have grown so much and have truly lived over the past many months… continue to do that, don’t change, Eat, live and enjoy and have plenty of #3 (an inside joke for enjoying every sexual desire :)”  I couldn’t help but smile as that is exactly what I needed to hear… exactly what a good friend would know about me!   A newer, but wise friend next to him offered her advice, “Trust in your path and find happiness…” Did I mention she was wise?  Yes, I needed to hear that… trust my path and find my happiness… I doubt most of what I see and hear, maybe taking too much time to understand and evaluate if it is genuine, in lieu of trusting and enjoying life.  And then a very good friend next to me, offered more of a compliment than advice and he said this, “You really have come far this past year in living and loving life… please don’t stop sharing your journey with the rest of us… we love you and want to see you at your happiest!”   Heavy sigh as the tears began to flow… tears of amazement at the wise and loving words I was gifted.

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We raised a glass in celebration of my life and the journey that I am on.  I looked around at the table and all I could see was love.  I was feeling blessed and honored to be with people who wanted to celebrate my day.

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The night finally ended after many drinks, good food and fabulous conversations.  As I arrived home for the evening I had so many thoughts in my head about all that had transpired, but the one thing that continued to resonate with me was generosity.  All of my friends were so generous with their time, their words and the giving of genuine, not obligatory, signs of love.  Some I had known for years and others just a short time.  But there was no difference in their capacity to give, love and celebrate.  It was as if they were directed by their hearts to shower me with such priceless gifts and it flowed without an ounce of hesitation or from a place of obligation.  No, they came together out of their own free will and let me know that I had value.  I could hear in their words and see in the windows to their souls that they meant every kind thought and action… I can’t remember the last time I felt such outpouring of true love.

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It was time to close my eyes for the night and even though it wasn’t my official birthday, it was an important step along this path… I came to the conclusion that every day we should acknowledge others as if it were their birthday… people should be treated kindly, lovingly without obligation or a sense of responsibility.  Those feelings should come from our heart and be gifted to the ones we love and care for, whether we have known them for years or days… because we really never know when our last birthday will be celebrated.  We never really know whether others are celebrated.  My official birthday will now be celebrated…and that is what I am left to wonder… What will my birthday bring?

Qi Thought of the Day…

The Qi Thought of the Day  is a video that speaks the truth… One I felt compelled to share.



” Love” … it is the most powerful force in the universe!

Why do we resist loving each other more?

It costs nothing to share a kind word to a friend or perfect stranger.

Very little energy is needed for a hug.

A moment to listen to a lonely soul that yearns to be heard is but a blink.

Helping others gives us more than what we actually share.

Do not fear loving others… only fear not loving others… It is only in what we give that we ever truly receive.

 

Qi Thought of the Day…

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Love… love is everywhere we look if we choose to see it.

A sunrise/sunset,  a beautiful and delicate flower, a cup of warm coffee on a cold morning, a rich and decadent chocolate cupcake, an email exchange with a good friend, a hand to hold when days are difficult, the scent of cinnamon and vanilla in the air, taking the time to send a simple message to  someone you barely know, laughing with friends over life’s silly happenings, shedding a tear when you have to say “Goodbye”, feeling a hug wrap around you like a wave of warmth and trust.

Love is ALL around… and when we appreciate it in everything we see, touch and experience, its immense power can make us better than we ever thought we could be…

Love is valued only when we give it away…

Day 89: Go, Run fast, Win!!!

 

“It does not matter how slowly you go, as long as you do not stop.”

-Confucius

 

 

My alarm went off at 3:30am and I peeled my eyes open one-at-a-time and looked around trying to get my bearings as this lazy bug was in quite a sleepy state.  When the fog had cleared it occurred to me that today was race day!!!  I took a deep breath and slid out of bed.  I made my way to the kitchen and made some coffee in true morning fashion.  There would not be much time for reminiscing today, but one thing was certain, I did need a little time just waking my senses with some java.  It took just one hot, strong sip of coffee and I sighed with pleasure.  I then sat and thought about the course, my strategy, the weather and envisioning myself crossing the finish line.  I saw it as clear as day, every foot plant and feeling.  A smile emerged and I looked over and saw my Dad’s sweater hanging on the chair across the room.  There was no chill today, no reason to have to slip his sweater on to know he would be there at the race… in my mind…  I simply closed my eyes and said, “If this is my last race, please just let it be good.”  With that thought, I stood up and began to ready myself for the challenge.

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It was a 30 minute drive to the race and I realized I was running a little late.  The worry and anxiety began to seep into my already busy mind and I could feel my heart rate begin to increase.  What if I miss the start?  What if I can’t find parking?  Why didn’t I leave early?  And just then, across the California strawberry fields, with a hint of mist that hovered, I could see on the horizon the start of what I knew was going to be a magnificent sunrise.  It was like the first sip of coffee I had experienced as the sight before me awakened my mind to take action and forget about the worries and just focus on the sunrise.  I didn’t hesitate to take a couple of pics as I made my way to the event.

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As I arrived, my fears came to fruition, as parking was exceptionally limited.  After 10 minutes of driving, I had finally found a parking spot many blocks away and I looked at my watch and I had just 10 minutes to get to running corral “D”.  I quickly parked and had to figure out how to get to the corral. I hurried along and as I turned the corner to head East there were all the other runners, a little late like me.  But it mattered not as my eyes became fixated on the sunrise so brilliant in the morning sky!

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It was in that moment that I just had a very specific feeling of trust… in my training, in these legs, in what was meant to happen.  As I approached the race area it was announced that the national anthem would be sung and the race would start a couple of minutes after that.  I gasped with concern, and I knew I had to hurry!  Those that made it to their corral stopped, took off their hats, and with hands on their heart, sang with the crowd.  I still had to walk a good distance, so I tore my hat off, put my hand over my chest and hurried as I softly spoke the words of the song.  I no sooner took two steps into my corral when the words, “Of the brave…” were sung.  I smiled… “Brave, of course!” I looked around and readied myself.  Perhaps it was good I didn’t have any time to truly think about the challenge ahead.  My music was set and the first 3 corrals were off… and then no sooner did I have time to fire the neurons to contemplate the race adventure I was about to embark on, did the announcer say, “Corral D:  Runner’s take your mark…  Go!”

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A couple of steps were taken and I felt something I hadn’t felt in ALL of my training…. I FELT STRONG!!!!  I didn’t know what that felt like… until now.  Yes, STRONG!!!  I flew past other runners… one after another… after another… It was at the 1.5 mile mark that I passed the pacer for my corral, I was now with Corral C.  When I realized this, I was a bit in disbelief… “ME?”  “Really?”  And as I kept going, I kept passing others.  I felt invincible, strong, able, without pain, and just astounded.  No, I wasn’t one of the fierce Kenyan runners leading the pack… I wasn’t even close to the beginning… but I was faster than I thought I could be and running in a race I shouldn’t be!  I could feel my quad muscles firing; I could feel my calves working ever so hard.  It was as if I was in someone else’s body running this race.  The hills that I so feared, I traversed.  The groups of people I feared I would fall behind, I passed… The views I thought I wouldn’t be able to concentrate on, I took time to relish… I ran with my back straight and my head up keeping my mind relaxed but focused.  I had rounded the 7 mile mark and this was my usual spot for stopping to hydrate and take in nutrition for the last part of the run.  But for some reason, I decided I was feeling well enough that I didn’t think I needed it.  So I kept running.

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Then suddenly at the 10 mile mark I felt my left foot and calf begin to cramp and I realized very quickly I had made a critical error.  I suddenly found myself thinking, “You are not invincible, Michele!  Now what?”  I looked around and there was not a water station in sight for at least a ½ mile.  I stopped and tried to work the cramp out as I briskly walked.  One after another the runners I had passed were now passing me.  I thought to myself, “I have come too far to let a cramp take me down!”  I took a deep breath and started to run.  With just the first foot plant the toes began to curl and the left calf felt like it was caught in a vice that had been ratcheted down, tighter and tighter it became.  I stopped again. I shook my head…. “This can’t be happening!” I thought. I whispered in a pleading voice, “Please, just get me to the next water station, that’s all I ask for now.”

And I began again and I felt this time like I could get there, I put the pain in the back of my mind and just fought through the disabled muscle that was unrelenting in its permanent contraction.  My pace was significantly slower than it had been, but then there ahead, as if I had waited hours, I saw the outstretched hand with the small white cup that I knew contained the medicinal cure for all things painful.    The hand was reaching to me as if I had traveled in the desert for miles and this little sip might be the drink that sustains my life even if for just a couple of miles.  The cold liquid made its way quickly to my parched and dry tongue and like a flower returning to life, I could feel the healing powers of just that little bit of that aqueous remedy.  I quickly grabbed a second cup as I knew one would not be enough.  Within 30 seconds I was back in stride… passing runner after runner… starting to see myself getting closer to the eventual reward, that thin black strip that records my foot as it crosses the threshold of success.

The number of spectators had increased as the path began to narrow.  I could feel the energy that was being emitted from their enthusiastic cheers of encouragement and support.  The electricity in the air was palpable and fueled my mind to keep the legs making forward progress.  At one point, I had past the last part of the Bay that I would see until the end of the race and I veered into the left portion of the path and deliberately slowed down… I looked at a view that I made sure to sear in my mind as if it were a brand I had planned to take with me to my grave.  The view of the boats as they bobbed in the water and the waves as they rolled in… the sun shimmering off the aqua surface in the distance and with that site carried the thought that this might be my last seaside view as I entered the last stretch of what most likely would be my last half marathon race.  It was a bittersweet moment but never a second of regret or disappointment did I feel.  No, deep in my heart I knew this had been a long and unexpected journey, but making my way to this race was a feat and accomplishment that I will relish… that is, once I crossed that line.

I turned to look forward and there ahead, I could see I was getting very close to the end.  The runners narrowed again and as if we all had the same thought driven by months of training, our bodies in unison began to pick up the pace… faster the legs would turn over and the arms were pumping to pick up speed… foot over very fast foot, we fought to get to the end.  The cheers were roaring and the signs were held higher, there was a thunderous eruption of clapping and as if the 13 miles were simply a blink, my foot crossed the finish line and my eyes closed with raw emotion barely tempered under the surface of my serious and competitive facade.  I was handed my finisher’s medal and held it as if I simply did not want that exact moment to end… I had accomplished my goal… My leg began to cramp. My body felt weak and tired.  But my mind was stimulated with so many thoughts.

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I HAD DONE IT!!!!  When others said, “Don’t even try… You shouldn’t even think of it… Your running days are over… Why not take up another sport?” I knew I still had to prove to myself that I could overcome the negative and fight to the end.  No, I was not a Kenyan runner given the honor of first place, but I was a winner today.  My Dad’s last words to this once shy and sheltered girl, were “Go, Run fast, Win!”  I say now to my Dad,

“I did the best I could and there is no doubt that despite what the numbers say, your little girl has made her comeback and feeling no less a winner, indeed.. I have no doubt that when I was flying like the wind you were at my side riding the current, and when I struggled up the hill, you whispered gently, “Just keep running…”  And when my calf began to cramp, you lent me the strength to continue just a little ways to the generous hand that gifted me water.  And as I looked out at the sea, you knew what was in my heart and my mind and like a hug from afar I had a sense of contentment wrap around my spirit… As I neared the finish line, you sat back and watched as the culmination of years of overcoming injuries, and finding ways to defy the odds and then training hard every day was revealed in one moment of accomplishment.  Yes, you watched and knew that the feat that had been accomplished was covered in the veil of a run, but the essence of the challenge was symbolic of the strength needed for the journey to come.  I hope that you have been convinced I am ready for the challenge ahead.  When they all thought my perception was askew for even contemplating the race ahead, you knew I would persist to persevere…

Thank you, Dad… Please, don’t ever forget that I will always love you!”

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The race was over in a matter of 1:51:40… I placed 1037/11221… and aside from numbers, pace and stats, there I stood holding my medal as if it were a prerequisite for more important obstacles to come.

 

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I stood for a moment as I was starting to leave and just absorbed the energy, the moment, the state of accomplishment and the beginning of another journey as this physical one was now complete.  I looked around as if I was expecting an arrow to point to the next adventure and there was none.  No sign to be seen, no words whispered, not even an intuitive feeling of what lay ahead.  “Perhaps”, I thought…. “Perhaps, that is where the magic lies in this journey anyway…..  Yes, I will let my body rest now and simply wonder, what tomorrow will bring…”

Day 88: Waves of memories…

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I remember the day I set this weekend as a goal.  I had just finished running 10 miles out on the road and I noticed something unique… I didn’t have any chronic pain like I use to have.  I had trained to run with a different running gait, but was told by several doctors it would be short lived and a knee replacement would be needed this past summer.  Yet, there I was at the end of Summer, running long distances and as I made my way back home,  I had this thought… What if I went 3 more miles?  And if I went 3 more miles, could I race in a half marathon again?  A smile emerged and the question escaped my mind and was quickly replaced with a resounding “Yes!”, as if a choir of angels surrounded me to sing in celebration of my revelation!  Several months later and I found myself packing for a trip that I never thought would ever come to be, but I was as ready as could be!

My bags were packed and with Siri as my guide, I simply asked her very kindly to take me to Monterey Bay, CA.  In her sweetest voice, she returned with directions that had this once shy and sheltered girl heading west on I-80 chasing the sun in search of sand, surf and hopefully in time for the sunset.

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As I arrived to the hotel in Aptos, CA,  I could see the sunset as I checked in.  So I ran to the edge of the cliff to catch whatever remaining view I could.  When I arrived at the cliff’s edge, the sky was muted with the fog that had begun to roll in, but it was as if the harmonious sound of the waves and the sea breeze aroma tried to place me under a beach spell.  I realized at that moment that I succumbed to its power.  I stood for what seemed like hours, but were only minutes, and as I became chilled in the nighttime air, I decided to head to my room.  In this sleeping beauty state, I settled into my room and then melted into my bed after a long day of travel,  with only the sound of the waves lulling me off to dreamland. This runner girl began to dream of the 13 miles she hoped to traverse in the next couple days… and just like that the day had ended.

The next morning, I slept in just a tad from my usual 3am wake-up and made a fresh pot of coffee.  I grabbed a coffee cup, opened the patio door and in the darkness I could hear the waves hitting the beach in the near distance.  I sat and just was.  No real thoughts, just heard myself breathe in between the warm sips of coffee that anxiously met my soft lips.

I was wearing a pair of soft pj bottoms and a cami and quickly noticed I was chilled.  I went to my suitcase and pulled out my Dad’s sweater I was given after he had passed.  When I received it, I had it tucked away  as I was a bit fearful of what my reaction would be to hold it.  As I packed for the trip, I felt compelled to pull it out and take it with.  There I stood every so still and  I held his sweater close for just a moment… I had never been in this position before.  That is, holding something so precious from someone no longer living.  I felt conflicted at that point… I wanted to just wrap it around my shoulders and yet I feared my response to that feeling.  And then I decided, I needed to experience that closeness with my Dad if only through a sweater.

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I placed my tiny arms in the large black XL sleeves and the sweater felt warm as if he were giving me a hug.   And like a flash from a camera, that quickly, I saw him wearing this sweater the last time we were together when he was still well.  I remember saying goodbye to him that day and wondering if I would see him again as his health had begun to falter.  It was just a feeling I had that I may never see him as independent as he was at that moment.  He kissed my cheek and held me as if he didn’t want me to leave and I held onto him ever so tight in return.  And then, we both knew it was time to let go… It was a long and tearful flight back that day.  Well, the last time we spoke, as he lay in an end-stage state in bed, I told him about my hopes, dreams and goals… running again in a race was on that list and he wanted that for me…  he wanted me to accomplish all the goals I had shared with him…most importantly, he just wanted me to do whatever made me smile.  At the time I was told I wouldn’t run in a race again and he encouraged me to do whatever was necessary to do what I loved with anything and everything.  Wise and loving words, from a man who never had the opportunity to simply do what made him happy.  I had hoped I could share the story of a comeback with him while he was alive, but as I sat and drank my coffee I thought about all the things he gets to see now… not limited to geography or time zones.  He is with me all the time, I just knew this much.  I pulled the sweater just a little tighter as I felt a cool breeze blow through the door.  An hour of meditative reminiscing had passed and I decided to head to the beach to watch the sunrise and find my smile.

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As I made my way down the trail to the beach, I had saved all my thoughts for this walk.  There is something about the ocean and how it naturally incites deep thought that had me looking forward to this morning adventure.  And yet on this walk, I simply felt grateful for the opportunity to run again, to be able to go on this Quest, to learn new things, to enjoy every simple thing I can, to travel and take on challenges, to be able to say at the end of every day that I have done something that made me feel like I was truly living and not just existing… Yes, I thanked the powers that be for the changes in my life that have made me view everything in a more appreciative state… Grateful for all things both good and bad that come my way.

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As I walked the air temperature was a cool 50 degrees. I suddenly noticed that my toes were feeling ice-cold as I walked over the very cold soft sand… so without hesitation, I stepped into the ocean and the water felt warmer than the sand!  So, I rolled up my pant legs and made sure to catch each wave as it rolled up onto shore.  I felt like a little girl again, playing in the puddles… and dare I admit I couldn’t help but smile as I frolicked in the waves!

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And then just over the seaside cliff came a brilliant beam of light that began to appear. The grey waves turned a magical blue and the sand turned into a deep brown and the sea-foam was a stark white, a canvas of color to please the eyes. Quite simply magical! I stood to feel the warmth on my cheeks as if to be kissed gently by the sun reminding me of the way my Dad kissed my cheek the last time we said “Goodbye”.  I had to keep walking, as if I were trying to escape those raw memories…

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It was then, that I realized I had walked close to 2 miles and although there were only a couple of people I had seen on the beach, the one thing I wanted to find was a sand dollar.  This stretch of beach always has sand dollars and yet at that moment I found it peculiar I had not seen one.  Two steps were taken and there in the sand in front of me lay partially hidden and in perfect condition, a sand dollar.  I simply said, “Of course”, as I don’t believe that anything happens by coincidence.  I took some pics as it was in perfect placement in nature and then picked it up as it was no longer alive. I held it in my hand and turned to make my way back.

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BS2I had some occasional aches in the knee from the walk in the sand and doubt began to set into my mind.  Could I really complete this race at the speed I have to maintain?  Could I take on the hills even though I knew there would be pain in running them?  Could I have the strength to go the distance and finish well?  The questions seemed to multiply and I could feel my brow begin to furrow with the worry that flooded my veins.

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I stopped as I arrived at the walking path that led up to the hotel and I saw the twists and turns as I began to climb to the top… there were no easy steps on the climb, but I knew this much, so I tucked the pain away and felt compelled to whisper the words, “Everything is gonna be alright.”  And as if someone heard me utter that thought, there in front of me, the sky lit the path up with rays of light that seemed all too unreal.  I quickly took some pics and stood and watched… and as quickly as the light had graced me with its presence, it had begun to fade and I made my way back to my room.

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I had to head to Monterey to pick up my race packet and although that would only take a short amount of time, I decided I would take in the ocean views wherever that might be… and there on the Monterey Peninsula I found a bench calling out to me to rest my body and fuel my mind and I accepted that invitation without hesitation.  As I sat there on that weathered bench, the song by Otis Redding, “Sittin’ on” the Dock of the Bay” came to mind….

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There on the rocky shore with seagulls watching me from close by, I sat and watched the waves roll in one at a time.  The fury that they carried reminded me of the determination that I possessed to get to this very point.  The journey was about being relentless and not accepting “No” for an answer, fighting through the pain, and teaching my body what rest really is.  So, there I sat and simply enjoyed the sea breeze, and the sound of seagulls…. just as a message in a bottle floats to sea, I stood and  tossed a list of dreams into the ocean, hoping, praying that they would use the energy of the sea to help bring them to life… time will tell.

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I made my way back up the coast to the hotel, watched the sunset from high up on the cliff, and as the sun bid its last ray of farewell, I decided it was time to fuel this body with the energy needed to go the distance for tomorrow’s race…  I gladly indulged in a good dinner, with a simple pleasure to remind myself that this was meant to be enjoyed.  I then prepared for the race the following morning.  My gear was ready, my shoes laid out, my race bib properly pinned in place, my music playlist carefully chosen, and my courage…. There embedded in every fiber of every article that lay in front of me were memories of miles run. There in front of me was the pain left out on the road replaced by determination to push forward.  Some think I am crazy to put these legs to the test, I think they are crazy for not trying… And with those thoughts, it was time to slip into bed, close my eyes and dream of crossing that finish line…

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The journey, thus far, has taken this once shy and sheltered girl to borrow some of her Dad’s fierce bravery in pursuit of what she loves to do.  She will let nothing and no one stand in her way of accomplishing her dreams, however big or small they might seem.  The memories of her father, like distant waves, are calling her toward the starting gate.

Feeling excited about a race that was never meant to be, comforted by the feeling of her Dad’s love from afar, and ready to rest her mind and body in preparation for the distance she hopes will be nothing short of miles full of smiles…  Wondering how tomorrow will go..

Qi Thought of the Day…

 

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“The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand,

nor the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship;

it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when

he discovers that someone else believes in him and is willing

to trust him.”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Crossing oceans for these true friends is a wanted adventure, not an obligation or task that must be checked off the list.  If you are lucky and fortunate to find a true friend such as this, hold tight and don’t let go…  Appreciate this gift, as it is a true rarity… something to behold!

Day 87: We, the jury…

 

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It was Thursday morning, the week of jury trial and I had woken up and slowly made my way to the coffee pot.  I had to be in court a little later than the usual 8:30 am start time.  I decided to take the morning and go for a long swim to clear my mind.  Whenever I am in the water, I feel protected from the elements of the world around me.  No one to converse with, no judgments to be made, plenty of time to think as swimming is a rhythmic activity but not one that exhausts me.  It is well-known that water seems to soothe us when our muscles ache, we retreat to the sea during the Summer season for rejuvenation, we bathe in it for comfort and relaxation, we swim in it for enjoyment… we were immersed in it for 9 mos. until we emerged into this world.  Yes, this world, that among all of its good qualities, still has us retreat back to the water for solace, comfort, protection, and healing.  And this is how the second part of this unappealing Quest began, with the need to feel protected and soothed… swimming miles wishing I didn’t have to leave the pool, but alas the legs were tired and the arms decided it was time to stop and take on the day, whatever it might bring.

I decided on this day to wear my swinging black skirt, a white sleeveless blouse and a sweater around my shoulders.  I remember that my Grandmother use to say that sometimes in order to feel good it helps to look good.  And that is exactly what I decided to do.  I arrived to court with just a couple of minutes to spare.  Then before I knew it, it was announced that court would be delayed.  We waited for what seemed to be an additional hour and the jury was summoned.  As we filed in, I was wondering, “Will the defendant testify?”  I wanted to hear from his lips in that courtroom, what it was that happened that night… how he could account for the severe bruising all over little baby Luke and the brain injuries that forever changed that little boy’s life.   And yet the medical witness testimony continued.  The defense began their questioning of their own physician who did say he could not account for the bruising on baby Luke’s bottom and when the State asked if Luke were his patient and would he call authorities for suspicion of child abuse, the physician stated, “Yes.”  Heavy sigh…

One after another, the witnesses were called.  Those on the State’s side said without a doubt the injuries were sustained due to severe child abuse.  Those on the defendant’s side held onto the theory that the baby’s head injuries were due to a fall down a couple of steps, but never addressing the bruising on the rest of little baby, Luke.  At the end of the day, the testimony seemed to be a repeat of the previous day.  But what I wanted to hear, the words from the father himself, would not come to happen.

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I left Thursday night with some trepidation.  Friday it was planned that we would hear from a couple more witnesses and then closing arguments would be presented and then we, the jury, would have that heavy decision laid in our laps.  It was at this time that the realization began to set in.  And as I crossed the bridge I stopped to take one last picture and I hesitated.  I stood for a moment and watched the sunset over the mountainous horizon.  I closed my eyes and again all I could see was that sweet precious face of little baby Luke.  How sad, I thought… this Father,  won’t hear his little boy’s first sentence spoken or witness the day he is potty trained, or hold his hands to help him learn to walk, or……  One moment of rage and anger had taken all those precious moments away.  I did feel some sadness for this young man.  It was mentioned that he was up for a promotion at his job, he was also a certified EMT, he lived on his own and was making strides to be a good Dad.  But one thing that stood out that was mentioned was that he didn’t have a support system to help him with his fatherly duties.  Was this an excuse to beat your child?  Certainly not.   I thought about how one catastrophic event usually happens when there are several things missed or overlooked that cause the entire system to implode.  Yes, there were certainly factors that led to this tragedy, but it does not absolve him of his sins.  So, I lifted my phone up to take a pic of the sunset one last time and I said a silent prayer for both little baby Luke and his father.  I figured nothing can fix the damage done, not even a prison term is a strong enough Band-Aid for this injury, but perhaps the powers that be might listen to soft-spoken juror #11 who didn’t want to be in this situation to begin with.  And Thursday night ended as quickly as it began.

It was Friday morning and the coffee was brewing and I was glad court would start early as I didn’t want time to contemplate the inevitable… I just wanted to get to court and face the task as if it were a beast that I needed to get past.

I still held out hope that the defendant would find the courage to speak… but following the jury being seated, it was clear, that would not be happening.  The defendant’s mother entered the courtroom.  She appeared to be in her early 60’s with gray short hair and a soft voice.  She was determined in her statements that the alleged actions were out of her son’s character.  She acknowledged his comments in a text that he had sent to a friend admitting that he had “Snapped”, but stated he had never done that before.  When asked if she could believe that her own son committed such horrific acts of violence with her grandson, she began to weep and in a broken and emotional state, said, “No… not my son…”  It was at that moment I had to look down and pretend I was taking notes as my compassion and empathy were beginning to emerge for his mother.  Perhaps if the defendant could have just called his mother to have her settle him down that fateful night, I wouldn’t have had to relive this tragedy from a juror’s position but more importantly, little baby Luke would have a promising future.   Alas, it didn’t matter at this point.  I stiffened my back, raised my head and focused on the facts.

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Before I knew it, the clock showed it was close to lunch and both sides had rested their case.  The judge dismissed the jury and instructed us to be back in almost 2 hours at which point we would hear closing arguments and begin to deliberate.  I had decided that I was going to indulge in a delicious lunch as I wasn’t convinced deliberations would end quickly and I had that tiny feeling the day would be long.  And so, I left the courthouse and made my way to the Wild River Grille.  I was the only one in the usually bustling restaurant and I preferred it that way.  I needed the time to think through all the evidence and find some consolation that when this is done and over, the right decision will have been made.  I still didn’t have much of an appetite but bite after bite, I felt more secure that justice would be sought, in a thorough, competent and right way.  I paid my bill and made my way back to the courthouse for the last time for this case.

The jury was assembled and we sat for closing arguments.  Both the state and defense presented a complete case.  The state did not have much to prove as the evidence really did speak for itself, at least in my mind.  The defense tried to raise doubt as to how baby Luke suffered those brain injuries, while trying not to mention the extreme abuse to the rest of the baby’s body.  And all the while, the defendant sat in his seat, no emotion, no facial expressions…  And as if someone had taken a magic wand and waved it, the case was magically laid in our laps.  And this is where I came to realize why I was in this courthouse, on this week, with this case…

 

As we sat, the question was posed if anyone wanted to be the foreman of the jury.  I placed my head down quickly as I did not want to be in that position if something important needed to be said.  I felt that if the foreman were to try to persuade the others it might appear to be bullying and my words might very well carry more weight without that title weighing me down.  A foreman was chosen and so it began…  We all agreed to take a preliminary vote to see where we all stood.  I had already decided to offer up “Not Guilty” perhaps in an effort to show some compassion so that if I needed to step in to persuade others, they wouldn’t feel I had already made up my mind.  The vote began and one after another I heard the dreadful sound of “Not Guilty”.  My mind was flurrying about, wondering what it was that could account for this decision.   When the vote came to me, I softly said, “I am leaning toward guilty but for the purposes of a preliminary count and until I review one piece of evidence, I will offer “Not Guilty”.  The final count was 7 Non-Guilty-5 Guilty.  I sat back in my chair and decided to watch how the discussion went.  The conversations were flying!  Many were saying that they felt that the head injury could have been caused by a fall and therefore they did not feel that served as child abuse.  I encouraged the foreman to reread the instructions to the jury in an effort to clarify if all the injuries were included in that charge or if they were separated out.  While this issue was being addressed, the gentleman next to me was determined that the defendant did not cause the injuries.  The others continued with the same discussion and I realized that the jury was truly conflicted.  The foreman seemed confused on the instructions and with the help of others was able to interpret the directions.  The first charge alleged that severe child abuse had occurred by the defendant.  In the instructions it remained clear that the injuries need not be held all together, but it would be presumed that if one of the injuries appeared to be child abuse, then a “Guilty” verdict needed to be rendered.  The second charge stated that due to the injuries, the victim sustained pain that lasted longer than what would be felt from the initial injury.  So, it was decided that we would take on the first charge and deliberate.

Still, there were several that argued that the head injury could have occurred from a fall.  Then the juror next to me stated that even though the defendant was an EMT that had nothing to do with the case…. and THAT is when this soft-spoken juror#11 decided it was time to use her voice for all that is just and right!

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I quickly sat upright in my chair and began to speak…  Let me paraphrase what was said.

“I think now would be an appropriate time to disclose a little bit of information about myself…”  And the room fell silent and the remaining jurors sat upright and leaned in to hear what it was I had to say.   “I, happen to be a former paramedic who worked in Chicago.  I also happen to be a registered nurse…  I have seen many cases such as these both in the field and in the emergency room.  Let me help explain about the background and base of knowledge that the defendant had in his possession that fateful night.  He was certified in rendering emergency care.  He acknowledged in the confession that he watched the baby throughout the night for the specific signs and symptoms of a concussion.  Yet, he did not follow the very basic instruction that if a suspected head injury occurs to seek medical care immediately.  He never did call 911.  No, he waited nervously, probably formulating a story ALL night, while that baby’s head bled.  He stated that he did not remember what happened that night with the fall.  Really?  How many of you are parents?  How many remember every detail of your child’s first skinned knee or the nights that they were seriously ill with a stomach bug or virus, or the broken arms they sustained?  You wanted so badly to take their pain away that you relived those moments wondering if there was something you could have done better to avoid the injuries and illnesses.  This was a sentinel event in both of their lives and he has the audacity to insinuate that you as parents are not smart enough to realize that he was lying when he said he doesn’t remember how the baby supposedly fell?  He sat in the interrogation and rendered a confession and described in detail every moment of when Luke was born in the hospital.  He described the situation in a clinical but factual way.. every LAST detail… and he couldn’t remember his own baby sustaining the head injuries and bruising that would bring him to death’s doorstep and forever alter his life?  I beg to differ!  He caused that little baby to have the marks on his bottom, lest you forget that child had a diaper on his bottom and the force of a grown man hitting his baby repeatedly left a hand print which was his signature.  He caused the head injuries to that baby’s head, and admitted as much in the confession.”  Just then the juror next to me said, “I don’t know about that.”  I said, “Did you not see the confession?  We can watch the entire thing if you have doubts.  He willingly by his own volition and without the request of an attorney being present, he let the words form and leave his lips that he hit the baby, stood the baby up and let him fall several times, and that he spanked the child hard!  He also demonstrated those acts using a child size doll.   I know you saw and heard the exact confession I did and those words came from his mouth without a gun held to his head.  There is no doubt in my mind, the defendant is guilty!”  Heavy sigh…….. I looked around the room and in a somber way the heads began to acknowledge “Yes”…

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I felt like I had let my heart bleed on the table, I was left without energy as what I had kept tucked away all week finally came out as if it were out of my control.  I wasn’t going to sit there and let common sense get lost in the mix of words and semantics.  Little Baby Luke was not there to say what needed to be said, so I felt I needed to be his voice.  And by the grace of ALL that is just and right, the final vote was taken and it was unanimous, the defendant was GUILTY on the two charges presented.

I looked over and juror #9 sat and read the charging document over and over again.  I looked over and said, “We have already voted.”  He said, “I know I just want to make sure.”  I expressed my empathy that we all need to go home and sleep at night with the decision we made, but it was the right decision for the sake of that little baby.  He nodded in agreement but continued to read the document anyway.

Finally, the jury was called to give their verdict. It was read aloud and court ended with the defendant being taken into custody, we would come to find out that sentencing will take place at the end of the year but he is looking at 2-20 years in prison.  We were asked to stay after court to meet with the judge.  As we sat there Judge Hardy came and met with us.  He had obvious tears in his eyes and apologized for being a bit emotional as he said this case hit home as his 8 month old granddaughter laid in his daughter’s arms in the back of the courtroom at the end of the case.  He couldn’t comment on the case but assured us he empathized with the gravity of the hard decision we all had to make.  He kindly shook each of our hands and thanked us.  It was a kind gesture and somewhere in his facial expression I could read that he agreed with our decision, although the words were never spoken.

We all walked out of the courthouse together and quietly thanked each other for the camaraderie from the week.  I walked ahead and walked over the bridge but did not stop this time to take a picture.  Instead I quickly thought about baby Luke and how honored I felt to be a part of his justice.

 

And as if something greater than myself could hear my thoughts, it was in that exact moment that the church bells rang.  I stopped dead in my tracks as this seemed all too surreal.  I was not even aware there was a church nearby but the sound of bells echoed across the river.  I felt almost entranced by the delicate sound and just listened with my eyes closed.  And when the melodious message stopped, I smiled… and whispered, “Serendipity.”

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The next day I was again drawn to the water. I took the day to head to the Lake, there by the water’s edge I sought comfort, solace, protection and healing from the events of the week.

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I sat on a granite boulder and in the crisp fall air, I watched and memorized every ripple that came ashore and relished the stillness of the moment.  The sunset behind the mountains was unlike any I had ever seen before.

 

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Forming in front of me was a sky ablaze with every red and purple hue in the color palate.  It was as if the sky was dancing above the mirrored waters of Lake Tahoe in honor of the justice that had been served.  This soft-spoken juror #11 finally felt free…free of the responsibility, the anguish, the pain of the testimony presented, but one thing remained, the image of little baby boy Luke with the cutest cheeks, the softest brown hair, those long eyelashes and the hope for an easier life than what is predicted.

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Feeling free of the weights of the scales of justice, relieved that 12 people made a just and right decision, consoled by the healing waters of Tahoe confirmed by a sky singing praises for a little baby who has the fight of his life ahead of him, but now understanding why it was that this once shy and sheltered girl needed to use her soft-spoken voice to help affect change for the sake of a voice that could not speak with words that needed to be said.

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Happily wondering what tomorrow will bring…

 

 

Day 86: Trial and tribulation (part 1)

“I think the first duty of society is justice.”

-Alexander Hamilton

 

I absolutely could not believe it!  I opened my mailbox and there it was, a jury summons.  I was a bit conflicted by this invite.  I had always wanted to serve on a jury, but there it was in front of me, the actual summons.  I thought about how this particular week might not be the best week to fulfill my civic duty, but that didn’t matter, the state had already made its random decision.  So, I immediately recognized this as a Quest, a moment in life to live and learn from.

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It was Monday morning, I made sure to wear a beige skirt, a light top and a sweater as the morning was a bit chilly and I wanted to look professional yet comfortable. I grabbed my water and a snack and made my way to the 2nd District courthouse in the middle of downtown Reno.  As I walked to Court, I was a bit anxious. I have never received a summons before and had absolutely no idea what to expect.  I went through security and checked in.

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There I sat with my mind aflutter and the questions multiplying by the second.  Suddenly, they called for our group to make their way to Judge Hardy’s courtroom #15.  I entered with approximately 50 people and after some preliminary questions, we were instructed that 24 names would be chosen and then that group would be questioned and a final jury of 12 would be seated.  I had that feeling as if someone was whispering in my ear that I would be called and no sooner than that thought came to mind, my name was read aloud and the bailiff escorted me to my seat.  The question was posed if any jurors did not want to participate.  Many hands went up.  Then the question was posed if any felt compelled to serve and I and two others responded.  The judge asked the two others their reasons and then turned to me and then asked the same question.  I responded somewhat quietly saying, “I believe it to be a great honor to serve.”  The judge smiled, paused and said “Thank you, soft-spoken juror.”  A couple more basic questions were posed and the questioning for the other jurors continued.  Finally at around noon, the judge excused us and when we returned the 12 chosen jurors were called off one-by-one.  Before I knew it, this once shy and sheltered girl became “Soft-spoken juror #11”.

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When I heard my name called, I stood for just a second in complete disbelief. I felt as if the blood had just been released from my body, and within a second that emptying feeling was replaced with a great sense of responsibility that had fallen upon my shoulders.  The doubt began to set in, “Could I handle deciding the fate of someone’s life or freedom?”  Before I could contemplate that thought, I was escorted to my juror seat, and we were sworn in and the charges were read out loud….  You could hear a pin drop and then a gasp could be audibly heard from the words, “Severe Child Abuse”.  “Wait!” I thought, that isn’t the case I wanted to work on… that isn’t the testimony I want to hear… that isn’t………

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“Why?” I thought rather angrily… why this case, why me? Well, there was no reason to question it at that point.  The jury had been seated and there was no turning back now.  My eyes suddenly moved in the direction of the defendant’s seat.  There he stood, wearing a blue button down shirt, all of maybe his early 20’s and looking as frightened as a lost puppy.  Was that fair to feel that way… empathy for someone accused of committing a heinous crime such as child abuse?  I closed my eyes for a minute and reminded myself to be as impartial as possible to both sides of the case, but to remind myself that there will be no winners in the end.

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Before I could take another breath, the jury was excused and we were to return for opening statements after lunch.  Lunch?  How could I eat at this point?  I hardly felt like eating but rather wanted to crawl under a rock and forget my wishes to serve.

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Like a scarlet letter, we were all given the “juror’s” badge” and instructed not to discuss the case with anyone including the other jurors.  I then grabbed my bag and made my way out of the court.  The first thing I did was take the deepest breath as if someone had just been strangling me and I needed that surviving breath to live.   I began to walk, knowing that I had a little over an hour before I had to return but not knowing where I was going.

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I stopped along the Truckee River in downtown Reno and looked out across the way… the water was exceptionally low but the warm autumn sun highlighted the last leaves on the trees that stood at the river’s edge.  I stood without a thought… just gazing for some inspiration as to why I was doing this awful quest.  Yes, in a matter of minutes, this potentially exciting adventure was transformed to unappealing, and distasteful….  And all I could hope was that my feelings about this were normal.

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Just then, I had this thought… nothing happens by coincidence… Nothing!  I made the decision to embrace the quest, however difficult it might be.  I was hopeful and had to trust that there was a good reason I was called to serve on this day, in that courtroom with this case and then I swallowed deeply and decided to tuck my fears away and go get some java to help find my smile.

I indulged in some java and started the long walk back.  Alas, the jury was assembled and we entered the courtroom.  Before I knew it, opening statements began and I felt like I was sucked up into the center of a tornado.  The allegations were appalling… how could a father do such alleged things to his own 6 month old baby boy, named “Luke”?  Little Luke, a baby, in his care, not able to walk, talk or defend himself… left by his sick mother in the care of his father and betrayed with almost the ultimate sacrifice… and in the end, left lifeless and not breathing.  I was glad at that moment that I had not eaten as my stomach felt nauseous and my head hurt from the furrowed brow I could not hide.  My heart broke for a baby boy whose life had little hope for recovery as he was left with less than a 1% chance of not having major brain deficits and currently showing signs of left-sided weakness.  His doctors say that his survival was an absolute miracle but the challenges ahead are almost insurmountable.

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The story in brief is such that the very young parents were not married and living separately. The mother, sick with strep throat, called on the father, who had worked a long shift, to help take care of the baby one evening after work.  The father picked Luke up and took him home.  Somewhere in the night the father alleged he tripped up a stair and dropped the baby and the baby fell and sustained bilateral head injuries.  The father stated that when the baby would not stop crying he “spanked” little Luke.  The mother came to pick up the baby the next day and found extensive bruising on the baby’s bottom, legs, flank, both sides of the head, ears, nose, and some bruising on the chest.  After several hours the mother noticed the baby seizing and drove him to the hospital with the baby’s father.  Upon arrival to the emergency room, the baby stopped breathing and was resuscitated.  The staff announced in a determined and stern tone to the mother that her baby had been beaten and was now left to die…  And this is where the world stopped for baby Luke and his mother and the questions of guilt vs innocence became more convoluted.

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The baby’s father was questioned the next day and a confession was made. Baby Luke had fallen with the father.  The father confessed that he hit the baby hard on the bottom, which had a diaper on it and pj bottoms.  Hard enough that the evidence showed what looked to be a contused hand print in the deep purple color that saturated the surface area of the baby’s bottom, back and upper legs, as if to leave no question how this child was heinously abused.  The father also confessed that he held the baby in a standing position and let the baby fall several times, in addition to hitting the baby on both sides of his tiny head leaving a subdural hematoma and multiple layered retinal hemorrhages which are indicative of severe head trauma usually associated with shaken baby syndrome.  And yet, there he stood in court, denying the allegations and the confession and claiming his innocence.

The first day of court was a long day and had finally ended and we, the jury, could not talk about the case. But the weight of the world wore on our faces as if the same mask had been placed on each of us.  We walked out of the courthouse together and not a word was spoken as there was nothing to be said.

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I let the group go ahead and I stopped at the river.  I decided that I would take a picture every day of the view of the river and the sunset to remind me that despite the evidence presented, and until deliberation, I needed to remember that this young man’s freedom was at stake.  I needed to feel the desperation and the possible loss of freedom he was feeling, in order to properly remain unbiased.  As hard as that thought was after seeing those horrific pictures of baby Luke, I knew this was the right thing to do.  And day one ended and I returned home.

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I will admit that baby Luke was ever-present in my mind. When I saw a child at the grocery store, I thought of him.  When I saw a baby stroller, I thought of him.  When I saw a baby commercial, I thought of him.  When I closed my eyes to sleep at night, I thought of him.  It was as if his shadow were with me wherever I went and with whatever I did.  Not a moment went by when baby Luke was not part of my thoughts.  I remember standing in the shower the next morning and tears just streamed from my eyes… it was as if I could no longer hold onto those thoughts and the tears allowed them to escape my mind… Washed away by the warm water that baptized my skin, but when the water stopped the thoughts returned.

The days of testimony and the numerous pictures of baby Luke started to take a toll on me on the third day of jury duty. The entire jury expressed their feelings of being tired, exhausted, and ready for the case to be over with.  Alas, we were told it would take until the end of the week or perhaps even till the following Monday.  Yet, everyday soft-spoken juror #11 made her way to fulfill her civil duty to serve on a jury in a case she never wanted, but for some reason knew in her heart she was meant to be.   I conversed quietly during breaks with the other jurors and we had formed a kinship, all-knowing that it was temporary but making the best of a forced situation.  I took the opportunity to try to learn about the others, and in true fashion asked a lot of questions and befriending several other jurors that found comfort in my genuine curiosity.  We laughed, we talked, we shared lunch, coffee and stories.  We respected each other, we greeted each other, and without words, we understood each other.  All age groups were present, all backgrounds and economic status were represented, yet during this one week we had one very important job to do.  None of us were feeling quite qualified or wanting to be in this situation on this case, but perhaps it was that one commonality that allowed 14 people (12 jurors and 2 alternates) to share their lives with each other with utmost respect and non-judgment.

jd18jd17At the end of the Wednesday, I made my way home at the late 5:30 hour and as I drove I saw a brilliant full moon begin to emerge on the mountainous horizon to the east. I pulled the car over and decided to watch it rise in recognition of my freedom and appreciation of such beauty as seen from outside the courthouse walls.  There it was, bright as could be, and the sky turning from orange to a cornflower blue in just minutes.  I thought about how at the end of the week, a life would be changing either for better or worse and I would have some responsibility in affecting that change.  Was I ready?  Could I do it?  Then I thought of little baby Luke and the answer was clear, I had to return over the next couple of days and digest more testimony and properly sift through the evidence for the truth and deliberate in a responsible way.  And at that moment, as clear as the moon was bright, I knew in my heart I was ready to continue this journey in search of the truth.

Three days of a court case I never intended to be a part of had passed. I was feeling tired, exhausted, heart-broken, but still determined and strong in search of the truth of how little baby Luke could have been left on the doorstep of death but strong enough to defy the odds and be placed in his mother’s arms again.  Reminding myself every night what freedom looks like, how I would feel if it were taken away, in order to appreciate the weight of the decision that lay in front of me.  Closing my eyes on Wednesday night, hoping to wake and realize this was all just a dream, but knowing in my heart, it is all meant to be.

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Feeling overwhelmed at the case at hand and emotionally exhausted from conflicting testimony.  I was left with no appetite as the pictures of baby Luke were at the forefront of my mind every minute of every day, leaving my stomach in knots. Having tucked away my fears and concerns, and knowing the gravity of our decision, I was accepting the responsibility of deciding the fate of one person’s life at the expense of a child that has been sentenced to life of debilitation and limitation… Feeling humbled at the responsibility, uncertain still why I was chosen, but determined to use my common sense, experience and moral compass to help seek justice for a baby that never deserved the life sentence he received that fateful December night…

Wishing I didn’t have to wonder where the case will lead…

 

 

 

 

Qi Thought of the Day…

I have returned from jury duty and there is no better way to end an emotional and mentally exhausting quest such as this last week has been, than with a Qi thought to stand as a reminder that kindness always begets kindness… 

It is simply one of the inevitable laws of love that we have been graced with…

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If we take a moment to find kindness in every person that we meet, then tolerance, love and respect would help to open our hearts and flow from our souls…  And what better gift to give…