The Annual Silver Pen Essay Contest

I’ve often said that writing can be therapeutic for people of all ages. The Annual Silver Pen Essay contest is a national program that invites seniors to contribute original essays and poetry. Entries are received at a central location in North Carolina, and then they are sent to their communities for judging.

The 2019 Salt Lake County Aging and Adult Services contest required the contestants to write an essay about “A Story I Never Told You.”

I, too, enjoy the benefits of writing. So I submitted an essay, and I was truly honored to win first place in the competition. Here is my story.

A Story I Never Told You

Airplanes, dozens of them, pierce the horizon. I hear the crescendo of roaring engines as they fly toward me. They navigate the skies like a formation of geese. 

Standing alone outside our farmhouse, I stare in horror of what is about to happen. 

Suddenly, the dozens of planes multiply to hundreds, and bombs begin to rain from the sky. It is a clear midday, but the aerial invasion eclipse the sun, darkening the sky.

The storm cellar we use as shelter during life-threatening tornadoes is just a few feet away. But I am frozen. Death seems imminent.

I yell for my parents, but they can’t hear me.

At that moment, I always awakened. Soon, I would realize I was safe in my bed and could fall back to sleep.

I had that dream nightly for months.

It was 1953. The Korean war was ending, but at three years old, I was too young to know.

My family purchased their first black-and-white television that year. News broadcasts showing bombings in Korea were some of first televised images I viewed.

My father had returned from WWII just a few years earlier. I recall my parents discussing their concern of another possible war. They worried that this time, it would be on American soil. I felt their anxiety.

I recall those dreams as clearly as if they had occurred last night. I’ve never told anyone about them; they seemed like a normal childhood experience, unremarkable if traumatic

What was remarkable, I know now, was my parents’ response. My parents listened to my story. They reassured me that if I drank water before I went to bed, I wouldn’t have those nightmares. Everything would be fine.

It worked. As long as I took a drink of water before bedtime, I did not dream of planes and bombs. Every night, my parents watched me take a small sip of water. The amount wasn’t important, but the ritual was.

What seems most notable to me today is that my parents did not dismiss my fears. After all, I was only a toddler. Instead, they acknowledged my feelings.

I never understood how a sip of water could prevent a nightmare. Now I know.

As a physician and researcher, I recognize the power of belief and trust. It is the reason a sugar pill can work as well as an active drug — what we call the placebo effect.

Belief and a trusting relationship are the principle components of all healing.  I believed in my parents’ deep affection toward my well-being.

I was a frightened and, perhaps, traumatized little boy. I healed without the intervention of a therapist because I had parents who gave me the most powerful elixir known to humankind.

Love: pure magic.


Here’s a picture of me, wearing overalls, at about the age I was when my parents taught me that a sip of water could prevent nightmares.

Lynn R. Webster





  1. Catherine Tihanyi on October 19, 2019 at 11:29 pm

    Oh Dr. Webster! You were the cutest little boy! No wonder you turned out into such a caring person.

    Thanks you for all you do for us pain patients. (sociologists classify the present mainstream attitude towards pain medication as a “social panic”)


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