A few weeks ago, I began holding silent night vigils at bedtime. Imagining a flame deep inside of me – similar to that which Linda taught us to envision, expanding with each in-breath, shrinking with each exhalation – I conjured it up as a final meditation of the day, but also to honor and pray for those whom I felt needed it most.

The impetus was my soul’s way of coping with an inundation of personal stories I’d been hearing from people I’ve met in town. After hearing a seemingly endless stream of anecdotes recounting recent pain, anger, sadness and despair among the walking wounded, my cup had runneth over. It’s equally likely that my need was triggered by a couple of emails from my friend Alisse in which she matter-of-factly described waiting for her father’s imminent death.

The past week, I sensed an increased urgency in adhering to this nightly ritual. Stories of sudden and personal loss came flooding in – from here and abroad. Such as finding out that someone I knew from high school had been in a serious bicycle accident. Apparently, he tumbled, hit his head and is still lying in a coma in hospital.

Then, last weekend, a doctor working with Emergency at a new pediatric centre in Darfur, Francesco Azzara, was abducted. As a relatively new but ardent supporter and advocate of Emergency’s raison d’etre and essential services, I was shaken up. Last year, three staff members were also taken hostage in Afghanistan; negotiations fortunately led to their release and reunification with colleagues and family. But one never knows…

Shortly after hearing the news about Francesco, I had dinner with a single American woman (and solo traveler) who suffered a brain-damaging stroke two months ago resulting from decompression illness following a dive in Sumatra; it went undiagnosed for weeks, she was hospitalized at a sub-standard facility in Banda Aceh, and thanks only to the angelic intervention of a young man whom she’d befriended just weeks before, E was transferred to Ubud. That was no accident… She is still in the early and slow stages of a physical and emotional recovery – with personal and financial issues compounding her situation. Some of us in the writing circle are doing what we can, but she needs so much more support than what we can offer.

These are only a handful of stories hovering above my daily reality, weaving themselves like filaments on fire through my life. I’m incapable of helping every one. But as for holding vigils, praying for release (from pain and bondage) and well being (of mind and body), I can certainly do my share. Perhaps the emitting light and intention of my willowy flame will do someone good, somewhere.

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