Stories by Paul Wackym, CCO of Wackym’s Kitchen & our podcast guest
Writing can be a healing tool and provide comfort as we grieve. There is a balm created when we write to express our feeling or to document the events that have shaken and shaped us as we grieve. Thank you to Paul Wackym of Wackym’s Kitchen for sharing these short stories he wrote, Voices and Healing. And for sharing his story on the Faith & Grief Podcast.
VOICES by Paul Wackym
I stood in the sub street level courtyard yesterday around 1:30, I had not eaten lunch yet and was hungry. Smoking a cigarette was the priority. I stood, taking drags from the cigarette. I watched the others around me in silence. Most everyone cleared from the area as they finished their cigarettes, returning into the building, back to their work.
Dragging from my cigarette, a man followed by a woman and a teen child. I looked at them intently and wondered their story. The girl walked with an odd posture, her arms dangling, somewhat loose and floppy, un-muscled. It struck me if she’d only use those arms, she would find strength. Then I realized, the texture and size looked as if she might have been a thalidomide baby. Ah, born that way. As she reached the stairs, her arm barely able to reach the rail. She was doing the best she could. Flex the muscles I thought, as they walked away.
Puffing again from my cigarette, I saw a man leave my building. He was around 80. Dressed nicely. Slacks and a shirt. A blue shirt. I did not see if he had a tie on or not. His head, dangling over his chest, osteoporosis doubling him almost in half like he was folded in quarters. I noticed him, that was the odd thing. Not in pity. Not in disgust. But in love. He continued on his way as I stood, consuming my cigarette. As I turned back toward the building, I caught sight of myself in the large plate window that makes up the walls of the courtyard. And then the old man speaks to me.
He had gone on, walking into the parking garage, but he spoke to me. Frightening at first. In a voice only I could hear, he spoke. Clearly, unmistakably, speaking to me.
“Hello young man”, he said. I looked into my reflection in the window and returned his salutation, “hello sir.”
Without pause he addressed me, “You are handsome.”
“You are strong.”
“Okay.” I did not understand where he was going.
He went on, “you know, this does not have to be so very difficult.”
“You are a good and great man.”
How does he know this? Where is he from? Who is he? These and zillions of other questions zoom through my head as I struggle to understand who or what he is and why is he in my head speaking to me.
“Stop fighting.” He could see my internal battle.
“Trust.” He said.
“Let go, stop fighting, this does not need to be so difficult.” He continued, “Take care of yourself. Put those cigarettes down, they are not good for you. Eat better. Rest. Pay attention. Don’t fight. The main thing is to take loving care of yourself.”
Stunned, the cigarette became bitter in that instant and I knew, listening to this man, he knows. I pinched the cherry off and twisting closed the remaining tobacco into it’s paper sleeve. “What now?” I stood stunned by his message.
Waves of calm flushed over me, as his love filled me with compassion and understanding of what is.
“Don’t be frightened, it is all very easy. You need not struggle so and fight to solve this.”
I was stunned. Washing over me was an unconditional love I so crave. In that man who walked by me, I saw Atha and Jack. My Maternal and Paternal matriarch and patriarch. They came in the form of this old man to speak to me. There was no shame. No fear. Just love.
“Let me handle this.”
My eyes, flooded with tears, knew at that moment, what love looks like and I could trust the slow work of God.
HEALING by Paul Wackym
This journey of healing might take a very long time, I allow myself the duration I need. Walking this path of recovery of self is one of the great challenges of my life. I have heard strong words, most often with kind intention, and there are opportunities where the intention was not kind, these statements in their own way scaring; “forget about it”, “move on”, “get over it”. How often I internally wish such things. Easy concepts. Notice how those statements roll off of our tongues? Bold and simple proclamations reverberating through my thoughts, as the shame of not doing life better, cut me a little deeper. Sometimes the heart does not heal. Sometimes a small tear can remain open, allowing slivers of light inside and chunks of darkness to tumble out.
A good cry helps. Honoring the wound. It was Maryanne Williamson who talks about crying as a child when hurt. In the moment. And the length of that moment can only be defined by my own experience. I hold pain close as if I am responsible for protecting the pain. Growing up, I was chastised for showing my emotions. To become a child again, this go-round, allowing myself that chance to laugh as a child, and in turn, cry as a child, recalling my soft and unblemished heart. I have had to learn to grieve. And that may take a very long time.
As an adult, I go on with my heart in my hands. Working hard to protect it. Protection at times is easy, at times not. My heart is comprised of a series of scars and fissures; these are the braided Achilles tendons of the soul. Each new hurt adding to the already confusing path carved in the surface of my memory, a road map to nowhere. Tiny inlets, expansive byways, each from a painful memory.
There is the peace to be found along the trail. A stand of trees. A rock outcropping. Simple beauty is there as well. A child’s eyes. A warm breeze. A cat rubbing against my leg. These joys are mixed amongst the journey. Making the searing pains of life bearable.
Those little tears of my heart, while stung by the slivers of light and bruised by the tumbling chunks of darkness, can be healed. Time is the guide. Our lives long-lived, follow time blindly. Eagerly one moment and impatiently the next. The heart of our road map. My memory my guide. I find the greatest level of peace when I let love take me to a resting place. A place where I can let down my guard. Embraced by love, my heart regenerates itself.
My challenge then is to remember. Recalling what love looks like; my heart held closely, cradled in my arms. Resting. Crying, until the sadness softens, transforming itself into the gurgling childhood laughter of my memory, allowing healing.
Paul has an amazing background in fashion design, luxury product development, and a successful customer-focused business, which he attributes to grace & resilience. Wackym’s Kitchen was started in 2008, and the award-winning cookies are found in the best grocery stores and specialty stores across the country. You can learn more and order cookies at wackymskitchen.com