Where do I start? As I look back along the path of my life there have been dozens of moments when the sets of footprints have been many. I know that God has been with me all the way, even when I have chosen to ignore Him. So I know that there has been at least one set along the sands of time when He was carrying me and, when I was “in a state of grace”, then we walked side by side leaving two sets of prints.
But those other times when more feet left their mark are when some very special people walked with me. People who loved me or at the very least cared about me enough to accompany me through difficult times. Sometimes these people were professionals whom I sought out for specific help. Other times they were special friends, the kind that leave footprints not only on the path of life but also across my heart.
If I were to be honest, even though I did not recognize it at the time, I would have to say that my mother was my first mentor. It would probably be even more honest to say that I was not capable of recognizing her in the mentor role. But with the wisdom that age eventually gives us and with the passage of time, I am able to understand and admit that she did indeed give me many of the values that I hold dear today.
My Aunty Polly was another mentor in my young life. She was not a blood relative but someone my parents knew from before they were married. She had an amazing ability to make me feel loved and cherished no matter what I may have done. She always had a compliment for me and she always smelled of some divine French perfume, and when she hugged me I wanted to stay inside her arms forever. As I struggled through my teen years her love and support never wavered. She was always ready to be my champion.
Sad to say I remember no particular mentors in my life during my upper school years or college years, although Aunty Polly was ever available if I bothered to approach her. This barren period of my life stretched into my marriage to my first husband. But the barrenness was of my own creation as I slid further and further into isolation.
It was not until a few years after I separated from my him that I began to seek help and became aware that there were some very compassionate people available if I but looked. Dear Fr. Hill, the Catholic chaplain with the U.S. Navy in La Maddalena, Sardinia was the first of those. His laughter filled the corridors of the Navy base and filled my battered heart with hope. In turn he introduced me to a young woman called Lou Ann who was to mentor me through the first few months of struggling out of my “dark period”.
As I took my place among my fellow citizens on this path of life I slowly understood that there was no stigma in seeking help from professionals. Since then I have been blessed with help from many psychologists and spiritual advisors: Dr. Lockart, Dr. Fernandez, Dr. Werbel, Dr. Boger, Chaplain Gerry Smith, Chaplain Steve Jensen, Chaplain Wendy Bausman, Chaplain Rod Kelley, Chaplain Terry Robertson, Chaplain Paul Witt, Chaplain Robert Church, Chaplain Mark Logid, Chaplain Greg Gillette, Chaplain Larry Smith. I know there were others. I can see their faces but my memory is being unkind and not allowing me to remember their names.
My dear friend Herm del Prato in Naples, Italy was another soul with whom I shared many personal stories and struggles. His ear was always willing and he was never judgmental. And how can I forget my “soul sister” Cawne who came into my life in 1987 and, in her own woundedness, opened up a whole new path of spiritual possibilities to me. Despite a large geographical separation we are deep friends to this day.
As I think of my life today I realize it is full of mentors in the unique friends who I choose to surround myself with. Men and women who are all questing on their own paths and yet willing to share and give of themselves to me. My beloved Mavis, who is also a substitute mother-aunty-sister-friend and who teaches me to remain teachable. Cathy and Lorelei in St. Augustine who help me stay true to myself.
Kathi, Paige, Tish and Robin who all help to keep me “right size” and show me how to live by going out there and living life themselves. Michael, who massages my body and through his skills, talents, knowledge, and experience helps me to get nearer to myself. Linda who helps me care for my garden and teaches me lessons of genuineness like no other.
And there are many more, too numerous to name, who through their actions and the way they live their lives, fill me with gratitude for their presence, for their friendship. They enrich my life with love, with compassion, with humility, with joy. They nurture me along my path. I am truly blessed.