Magic Wand

It’s been a a tough week in my community on many fronts. A mother and daughther riding bikes on a road near my home were injured in a hit-and-run. A short distance away the hit-and-run vehicle, a Hummer, rear-ended a family pickup stopped at an intersection I drive through all the time. Still the driver continued on without stopping. Along a straight stretch of road with wide bike lanes he hit and killed a young bicyclist on his way to a college final, narrowly missing the friend the 20 year old was riding with. Inexplicably, he drove the remaining mile to his home where he parked in his driveway. Witnesses followed him and alerted the police. After a tense twenty minutes they arrested the intoxicated man. So many lives changed in a few moments of thoughtless behavior and violence.

Days later I listened as the women at the Lighthouse shared the poignant, painful seasons they’ve lived through affected by drugs, alcohol and violence in its many forms. It was heartbreaking to hear how many of them had grown up with mothers strung out on heroin. Many were themselves drug mothers. I have had the opportunity to know these women first as lovely and lovable before I learned anything of their stories, or their lifestyles, or actions, that led them to be part of the Lighthouse substance abuse recovery program.

For some the pain of remembering is ultimately therapeutic; it gives them a different perspective on the future, and helps them make choices to interrupt destructive life cycles. We frequently celebrate those steps of recovery as the women share stories behind their art during weekly art workshops. Occasionally, the hard work of healing requires more support than the Lighthouse recovery program can provide and a participant leaves the program. That happened this week for one of my favorite ladies, a beautiful, gifted woman with more sadness than she could bear at the moment. So much loss and pain focused around a cluster of dates on the current calendar. I found myself wishing for a magic wand to make it better.

Years ago when I was a wet-behind-the-ears, newly licensed therapist I remember wishing out loud that I had a magic wand. As a therapist, it was easy for my heart to be captured by many of my clients who were lovely and lovable people struggling to make peace with troubled pasts. For some the journey of recover was painful, arduous, and long. Wanting to ease the time-line of  their suffering, there were days I wanted to wave a magic wand so that all the pain would be gone. Right then. But magic wands don’t exist in the real world. And suffering lasts longer than we’d like it to. We can’t wish or wave it away. We can only wade into the suffering of others with as much humility, compassion and love as we can possibly muster. For as long as it takes.

A ghost bike, like the image at left, has appeared near the recent crash site. The somber memorial, painted all white, locked to a street sign, and  accompanied by a small plaque, serves as a reminder of the tragedy that took place on an otherwise anonymous street. But what kind of a ghost memorial will appear in front of the man’s house who is responsible for this senseless tragedy?  For the condemnation he’s heaped upon himself? For the just consequences he will suffer? For the unimaginable suffering inflicted on his family? For the chaos thrust upon a community. It’s easy at times like this to simply write this man off as a monster.  The newspaper reported his neighbors as being surprised by his behavior. Surely there were those who knew him as lovely and lovable. Before they knew the fuller story of this tragedy. I suspect we would all wave a wand if we could and magically undo this nightmare, or any other nightmare those  we love suffer, but that’s not an option.   

The ghost memorial I see in my mind’s eye is a liquor/wine/beer bottle painted in shades of gray because the tragedy of substance abuse isn’t a black or white issue. Those who suffer with and from substance abuse are often lovely and lovable, but deeply wounded. And have in turn, deeply wounded others. If I can’t wave a magic wand, at least I can wade into the suffering of others with humility, compassion and love  – for all involved. For as long as it takes. Slowly, patiently, at times uncertainly, bearing the unimaginable weight of  the “magical wand” of love.

Have you ever wished for a magic wand to easy someone else’s pain? Have you ever borne the unimaginable weight of the magic wand of love for someone else? Has someone borne it for you? What would your ghost memorial look like if you were to create one?

This has been heavy to write about. I covet your comments.

PS – To learn more about ghost bikes click on the following link




9 comments to Magic Wand

  • Joyce Lombard

    Thanks, Lynne. This is VERY moving. Your courage to wade in there and write it. To connect it to your Lighthouse work of joy and tragedy. I’d never heard of Ghost Bikes before. The image is stunning. THANK YOU for witnessing this through your blogg.


  • You have expressed what many of us know in the therapy world. Most of us are not black or white in our behavior… we are a mixture of goods and bads… May we remember the families’ whose lives were changed last week. May we remember the man who caused all this tragedy. May we extend grace to those of us, all of us, who have been wounded.

  • cynthia thomas

    if i could, i’d use a magic wand on my behavior last night. it’s nothing compared to drunk driving or killing innocent people. but it’s important to me. late yesterday afternoon i received info from my doctor;s office that i didn’t want to hear. as a result, i binged on almost-burned pizza to numb out my feelings. i haven’t done this in several years. & i disappointed myself when i realized i’d slipped back into destructive behavior. but today is a new day. & i can write a more positive script for today. so, i am practicing “extreme self care” today. especially around my food. cynthia

  • Melinda Kordner

    I was struck by the latest post with the words, “magic wand”. Years ago , when I was trying to decide about divorcing my 1st husband, my father said , “If you had a magic wand, and could make him go away without hurting anyone, would you? If your answer is yes, then you must proceed anyway”. At the time , I decided that it was good advice but I have since realized that maybe that is why none of us have magic wands! I also wished for a “magic wand” when my first grandchild, “Havana” was diagnosed with a disease called Rett’s Syndrome, which rendered her unable to speak or use her hands, and which will eventually cause her death. In retrospect, while I would not wish the disease on any family, I have come to view her effect on our family as an angel-visitation. She has outlived all the early predictions and is now nearly 14; 11 years after her diagnosis, she is very loving and sweet, and inspires all of us to be more selfless and grateful for her, and each other. She loves everyone unconditionally, and lives very much “in the moment”. I wanted a magic wand to spare all of us from the trials of caring for a disabled child, but she has brought many more blessings than trials. It has put so much in perspective, and continues to teach us alot about love. Magic wands may not give us the time we need to learn the lessons we are supposed to learn! Thank you for your continuing inspirational writing!

  • I have a dear friend Hilary Young who said; “We do not have a wand to wave, but a sceptre to touch.”


    Lynn, Your blog is so beautifully written. Thank you for all the insights you have provided. Well done!!

  • Jeannie Cavender

    Two thoughts come to mind as I read. First that some people through tragic, difficult, or careless situations are too “prepared” for life’s difficulties. They have experineced so much pain or dysfunction that it is difficult, if not almost impossible to get beyond what life has dealt them. We wish we had a magic wand to wave and change all that for them.

    In contrast, when I was going through counseling some years ago in dealing with my divorce, my counselor offered that one of the reasons that it was so difficult for me to cope with the situation was because I had virtually almost no experience in dealing with difficult situations in my life – I had no experiences with which to evaluate or reference. Yes, there had been a few ups and downs but not ones that challenged my mind, heart nor soul in deep and wrenching ways. I had lived a life with a magic wand over my head – with gratitude and thankgiving to my parents in many ways. I had not experienced situations that could have made me stronger or more resilant or even cautious as I approached new sitations – everything usually came out “just fine.”

    Thus I am musing about where the is medium, the balance that provides the equilibrium to come out stronger after feeling weaker. I have no answer – just more questions for thought. I return again and again to Henri J.M. Nouwen’s words, “There is blessing to be found in brokenness.” I have felt God’s blessing in brokenness and wholeness.

  • Barbara


    Stream of consciousness for a minute–

    I cried at the story. I then nodded when you spoke about your ladies at Lighthouse, because I, too, get to know my youth substance abusers as wonderful, sweet young men, and I often never hear their full stories, but when I do, I’m am moved beyond words, and heartbroken at what they have endured. But then when you spoke of the man in the hummer–I immediately thought “monster”, “he should be locked up”, “how could he”, “why should he get a memorial?”—–without thinking about him in the same context as the wounded people we work with. It was a knee jerk reaction to a heinous situation. But as usual, you taught me again. You allowed me to step back from judgement and see that he, too, is wounded. How quickly that knee jerks! It makes me sad that the reaction is this there in spite of the years of compassionate work I’ve participated in. Thank you for seeing that man as someone’s husband, father, son, friend, who has his own story to tell. We should all have that kind of vision.

  • Deanna J Bowling

    There have been times when I have admittedly wanted to say, “Beam me up, Scotty”, when I wanted to be anywhere other than where I was at the time. And now might be one of those times.

    My therapist told me this morning that she thinks I am in the midst of a prolonged period of Post Traumatic Distress Disorder. I have to agree. I called my psychiatrist after seeing my therapist, and he said the same thing after talking to me. He is going to adjust my medications, and see what happens, along with my working with my therapist.

    The accident Lynne described above affected me terribly. I come from an alcoholic household, have known many others through the years who were alcoholics, and suffer from the disease myself – I have been sober for 18 years. I never killed anyone while driving drunk, but only by the Grace of GOD. I have been trying to remove myself from the situation enough to have compassion for the driver of the Hemmy, but have not quite got there as yet. For those who have known him through out the years, I pray that they can view the tragedy of last week as but a moment in time. For the rest of us, though, he will be known as the person who caused the injuries sustained on the evening of May 11.

    May I find the space and grace to forgive this man the results of his alcohol altered thinking.

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