It’s a common human instinct to shelter ourselves from pain. However, sometimes the shortest route to healing involves opening up to our community rather than shutting down. In this spirit, I’d like you to meet Samuel, the owner of The Crooked Willow Cafe, in this excerpt from Chapter 4 of my novel Where the Light Enters. Comments and feedback are welcomed and appreciated.
The Crooked Willow Cafe was aptly named for the towering Willow Tree with a crooked trunk that dominated the center of the room. It was covered with twisted vines and surrounded by a shallow ring of running water. Samuel Nayra, the owner of the cafe, hung a simple hand lettered sign on it that read: “The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain. ~ Kahil Gabran”
Samuel trimmed the new shoots from the trunk as made his rounds to greet everyone with his signature wide smile and bear hugs. “How far he had come in the past 5 years,” Skyar thought. “This tree gave him a new lease on life in every way.”
After his only son, David, died, Samuel fell into a deep depression. His depression was so severe that he checked into a hospital. In the hospital, he learned about the stages of grief and came across a legend that stated a Willow Tree provides protection and healing from loss to the person who cares for it.
After his recovery, Samuel returned home and immediately planted a young Willow branch in his backyard. It took root and within weeks it was growing at an alarming rate. Samuel attributes the wild growth to David’s spirit that he believes lives within the tree. Rather than keeping the comfort he experienced in the shade of the tree to himself, he built the cafe around it. Samuel’s famous for saying, “We’re all healing from something.”
He lined the tree with strings of white Christmas lights. At night when the cafe closed, he plugged in the thousands of small Christmas lights so the tree remained completely illuminated in the darkness. Samuel knew firsthand that the hardest hours for grief are at night. Every night there would always be at least a handful of people who could be found staring at the tree through the cafe windows. Some would bring their tears. Others had nothing left except that blank stare of deep and abiding loss. Samuel kept the lights burning for them so that they would know they were never really alone.