Our Beloved Family:
The end of the year is usually the time most of us look back on everything that’s unfolded in the previous twelve months and assess how we’ve met our challenges, what we accomplished, and what we’d like to change in the coming year. For me, everything that happened in the last three to four months of 2018 could have filled an entire year. It’s as if all the drama I normally would have experienced throughout the year was condensed into a much smaller period of time, but life often works that way. When it rains it pours, and you have to be ready to adapt to the changes that are coming your way fast and furious.
I’ve talked quite a bit in my writing about how life moves in a recurring pattern of expansion and contraction. The cold dark of winter is necessary to the rhythm of life but always gives way to spring, which is equally important. In the same way, our lives go through periods of darkness but if we can hang on through the contracted periods when everything seems to be closing in on us, we can be sure the contraction is setting us up for another expansion. It must because that’s the rhythm of life.
While I can’t provide all the details here, just the highlights of the last two months have been overwhelming. On October 12th, a car veered off the road, crossed the medical center parking lot and crashed into the garden wall, shattering the entrance gate. The car left the scene immediately, and police never solved the mysterious incident. On October 23rd, my parents were visiting from out of town. On their way back to my house, a vintage WWII airplane flew right over their heads and crash landed in front of their car on the 101 freeway in Agoura Hills. Naturally, that gave Sherry and I an awful scare. Just two weeks later on November 7th, Sherry and I were in the same shopping center at the time of the shooting at the Borderline Bar & Grille in Thousand Oaks, getting caught up in the ensuing chaos. The next day, the Woolsey fire started in the Santa Monica Mountains and by November 13th, we were forced to evacuate our home. Sherry went to Texas with the children because the air quality was so unhealthy, while I took refuge in Sherman Oaks.
One week later when our family was reunited and allowed to return home, we were astonished to find both our house and business completely intact and untouched by the fires. All around we saw blackened trees with broken, charred limbs dangling down like phantom arms and the gray skeletons of automobiles still smoldering days after the fire passed. The entire scene looked like war zones in Lebanon and elsewhere I’d remembered seeing on TV.
I’m convinced part of what spared our home was the decision Sherry and I made to have an Endless Pool swimming machine, a device that creates a constant counter current and allows a person to swim indefinitely in one direction, installed in our home pool. The day before our mandatory evacuation, the installation crew drained the pool and routed the saline water (not chlorine) into the creek bed behind the house. I believe it’s partly the moistened earth from our pool’s saline water that prevented the fire from advancing onto our property.
At our medical/dental center, I couldn’t help but notice the striking image of the golden angel that stands guard over the healing garden juxtaposed against the blackened hills not far behind it. In that context, she seemed to be a vivid reminder that light always returns to shine through the darkness; every contraction in life is always leading to another expansion, and the tough times are necessary if our new good is to arrive. Therefore, we shouldn’t wish to change any of it.
This is why every Thanksgiving, one of our family traditions is to watch the film It’s a Wonderful Life, the story of a man who wishes he’d never been born and gets the chance to see how other people and countless circumstances would have been drastically altered for the worse if he could just wish his problems away and himself out of existence. This year the film seemed more appropriate than ever.
Because we’d been so busy cleaning the house and medical center of all the soot and ash in order to get back to work and our live back to normal, Sherry and I realized in the middle of the movie that we’d completely forgotten to buy any groceries for Thanksgiving dinner. After a local restaurant phoned to say they’d run out of certain items and couldn’t deliver our order, Hafez and I set out for the local grocery store to buy what we needed to make dinner ourselves only to find the store closed. On the way back home, I pulled off the road to try to think of any other place I might go to find a turkey and all the trimmings on Thanksgiving Day. Hafez was particularly disappointed, as he’d really been looking forward to a traditional holiday dinner.
Misfortune always brings with it some kind of hidden blessing, even if we can’t see it while we’re still in the dark, still in the contracted phase of life.
In the midst of what seemed like another misfortune, a car pulled up behind us on the side of the road. A man got out and approached my window that I apprehensively rolled down only about a quarter of the way. I was stunned when the smiling fellow asked, “Are you interested in a Thanksgiving dinner?” What? I could hardly believe it. The man said that he was part of a local nonprofit organization that was providing a Thanksgiving dinner for all the area victims of the fire at a nearby Italian restaurant. He said they had some extra food they didn’t want to go to waste and was willing to give me whatever I needed. So, he went back to his car and returned with turkey, stuffing, mash potatoes, pies, and even a poinsettia.
It was just another reminder that misfortune always brings with it some kind of hidden blessing, even if we can’t see it while we’re still in the dark, still in the contracted phase of life. Had Sherry and I not forgotten to buy Thanksgiving supplies, had the restaurant not run out of food and been unable to complete our delivery order, and had the grocery store not been closed, Hafez and I would not have had the incredible experience of being reminded that love and generosity still exist in the world…and the gentleman who helped us wouldn’t have been blessed with the opportunity of doing so. It’s a reminder for all of us that no matter what is happening, if we understand the rhythm of life, it’s always wonderful.
Please continue reading to join us in honoring the fire survivors of the recent California fires
Light & Love in the Month Ahead,
Dr. Habib Sadeghi & Dr. Sherry Sami