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18 March 2014…Believing

Positively Speaking

In the hands of a skilled carpenter/cabinetmaker, the antique dresser was suddenly not a piece of junk. Fortunately I had called to see whether or not the tall boy with the scroll back and tiny old-fashioned wheels could be repaired or just needed to be thrown out. He said it was just the bottoms of the drawers that needed to be replaced/repaired.

Recently I started receiving $76 month from someone who literally stole $80,000 from me. The antique dresser has something to do with that. I promised myself that every month I would spend that $76 on something that would remind me of strength. Strength, I know, leads to increase.  Soon I am going to buy new vanity plates that say ‘Believe’. For most of my life I have believed; beyond tragedy, in potential, in the future, beyond evil, in goodness, for my children, for myself, for those I serve.

Sunday the sixteenth I drove home after running an errand that was most freeing. I had been in the position of taking personally something that I finally didn’t own anymore. Standing in front of the entrance door, I put the key in and was once again swept away, energized, by the beauty of this home to which God had blessed my path.

One month after the great storage units purges and move in and I was, thanks to the help of people younger and/or stronger than me, past most of the unpacking and the dump run was done.

The 18th was coming and this year, it was not going to be a day of mournful remembrance. It was going to be a day of beginning anew and pressing into the promises and blessings of God bestowed on my life. I believed.

OK, so I fell this last October and re-injured my already fragile spine and will probably walk with a four toed for the rest of my life. But I am alive, not in a wheelchair and having heard, as a nine year old, a group of doctors discussing whether and when they were going to amputate my right leg below the knee, I am a friggin’ walkin’ miracle.

But another year has passed and every March 18th I honor my playmate Susie with a day of remembrance because she did not get to live or walk after that night. So, if that is the case, how then could I view it as a day of promise and hope? Because I had, after decades begun to live unapologetically, begun to live my life without survivor guilt, honoring Susie by giving my best to the world.

And then it happened…7:40AM. Listening to KOMO newsradio on a benign trip to drop one of my kiddos off at school.
I drove home and posted on Facebook:
“Fifty third anniversary of the accident that killed my childhood playmate and permanently crippled me when the car we were in was hit by a drunk driver. Previously, Liam Neeson was the only person I knew of for whom this date meant loss deeper than the definition of sadness.

Now, the whole news community in Seattle shares this date. One never gets over it. One only chooses to live beyond. There is before and there is after. It’s that simple. And eventually one gives into that and breathes anyway...”

I broke my Lenten vow to give up the streamed news and remained glued, on my phone, to the reports. Oh wow! I so knew what they were going through. All of them. The people who had just lost a friend and family member. The guy going to the hospital in critical condition. Everyone.

More than any other of the anniversaries of the accident, I was right back to the moment.

How we respond to tragedy in our lives and the lives of those we love defines who we are.

I wrote to my playmate Susie’s brother via his son. He knows. I asked for pictures of Susie. The only one I have is from the newspaper write up about the accident, her school picture.

So these are the questions we have to which we must determine answers. How much do we look back? When do we look forward? When do we know we are lost in tragedy and when do we know we are just grieving?

I have become an artiste of sorts in going through trauma and change. I’ve said it to you many times before: the keys to assimilating life experiences in positive ways are a) feeling, b)crying it out c) telling the big and little truths about your behavior.

After I posted and reached out to contact her brother, another miracle happened I never ever in my wildest dreams anticipated or asked for.

In this digital age, classmates of mine from that year of the accident began to write what their reaction, as children, was to my accident; to being told by the teacher I would be gone for a long time, to my ‘disappearance’ from class and their lives. They wrote of ‘it was the first time I experienced the meaning of personal injustice to someone’  (referencing the thoughtless actions and consequences of the drunk behind the wheel), they spoke of courage and strength they attributed to me, to their sense of loss.

Here we were back in the first year of the sixties, kids, not even tweeners, and I never knew they had feelings about this horrible tragedy that had happened to two families of their classmates.

There will be pieces missing from your take on whatever tragedy you have experienced and as you seek healing, deep healing and restoration, God will hand those pieces back to you that you might be whole in a new way.

Someday, the book I really want to write is about growing and healing through trauma and loss and change. You see, this column was named because I wanted, through my words in this column, to show people we can experience and speak of the negative in a way that brings a positive outcome if we are committed to speaking the Truth of any situation.
The last comment written in regards to the Facebook post came a while after; the next day I think, I’m not going to go check now.

In reference to a comment I had noted when I was growing up I was not allowed to speak of the accident, my feelings about being injured I mean at home. I was taken out of school three times of week early to go to physical therapy for shock treatments to my leg and half an hour of whirlpool from fifth to ninth grade. I wore a brace until I was in my mid twenties that was this ugly leather thing that strapped just below my knee. Yet, I was not given permission to speak of pain, or loss, or grief. It was viewed as ‘feeling sorry for myself’.

It is a gift of the faith given to me by God that I chose not to do drugs or alcohol to escape the pain, but it has been years and years and years of feeling like an outsider because I can and do talk about my feelings, my pain, my joys and the reality of the hardships I bear. Ironically, I had chosen, at the age of nine in my hospital bed, to live in my head and not my heart. But because of belief, I didn’t do drugs or alcohol because I didn’t want anything messing with my head. Later, because of belief, I ‘unfroze’ and included my heart. Instead I learned to talk. Oddly, I was considered weird for it. I would have been considered more normal if I’d taken drugs, become a drunk or sexually active.

But, as someone said long ago, because I made that choice, I didn’t add to my problems.

Just sit down and listen to your own heart or someone else’s, or the thoughts running through their head. Engage, affirm, encourage. OK that method is hereby copyrighted by me, but do it! I give you permission.  You, they, everyone, need(s) to talk, weep and be listened to. It makes you fully alive.

All those family and friends of the helicopter crash victims are doing right now is talking, weeping and listening. That pain will never go away, but they will, God help them, learn to live with it.  

 March 18, 2014. The year I knew I was right to believe!