It was The Crutches Table ... earlier this month my husband and I attended a Samaritan's Purse medical recruitment brunch. This was his event, but I joined him, assuming that I would sit quietly on the sidelines, not knowing anyone there. To my delight and surprise, that was not the case ...
As we entered the church basement, I noticed a man on crutches standing at an empty table. Only twelve days earlier, I had a downhill ski accident that resulted in a fracture, and ligament damages. A G-2 brace from ankle to upper thigh was my new best friend, and I was trying to adjust to walking with crutches. The other man invited us to join he and his wife at the Crutches Table. Camaraderie developed over injury stories. Apparently I had had more fun attaining mine; he was four weeks post surgery with a walking cast, much more mobile than I.
People mingled as we waited to begin. A lady of similar age was looking at me ... I think I should know you, she says. I did not recognize her immediately, but as I introduced myself, a knowing smile spread across her face. I'm Olive, and you spoke at Providence two years ago. Her husband Randall had invited me to speak on the topic of 'Through Thick and Thin,' at the Bible College my son had attended. It was a delight to reconnect with her, and introduce her to my husband of sixteen months. She was absolutely thrilled to hear that my story had taken such a positive turn from the tragedy I had spoken about that day. When I met Olive at the speaking engagement, it had been by divine appointment. Olive had also been a nurse in the Emergency Department years earlier, the day of the accident that claimed three lives. (The thick and thin of my topic) This day, I felt her warm caring as she beamed with each word I shared. Wait till I tell Randy that I met you, he will be so happy to hear this. We chatted for a while and then Olive rejoined her group as I sat down at our table.
Other people at the table continued the joking about this being the crutches table. A lady whose husband was chatting with mine came to my end of the table and asked me if the seat beside me, occupied by my purse, was vacant. I nodded setting my purse on the floor. She leaned over and whispered, I probably fit in here as well ... I am going through my final treatment for ovarian cancer ...
As a nurse I knew that her type of cancer often does not have a happy ending. I am so sorry, I say.
Then she leans in close and in a conspiratorial voice says I've read your book. And I know she knows more about me. She knows I have gone through deep pain, she knows I know of some of her pain. She knows that I have gone through my questioning period. We share a common thread of a deep disappointment with life events. We also share hope.
Two hurting daughters of the king. She said that many days she was ok, but many days she was not. I told her I had many, many days I thought I could not make it through. But I had to speak myself into the place I wanted to be. There was a lot of self-pep-talk that happened. She nodded in agreement. I found that I was not always at the place I wanted to be, but I chose to believe it would be better, I chose to believe that God's hand was present, even when it felt absent. I spoke words before the conviction took root. I told her I firmly believed that we speak ourselves in the direction we want to go. Many times the strength and courage came after speaking myself in the direction I hoped for. Many days I heard myself speak, and I wondered Who is talking out of my head? (That became the title of my book on grief.) It was like being outside of myself, but there was someone inside me who knew what I needed to do. Tears glistened in the corner of her eyes. I think I was meant to sit in this chair, she said. Coming from you those words have meaning. To change the tone she asked: Do you like my hair? Her modern hairstyle was a very well done wig. She looked fabulous, one would never guess her story. Before we parted we had a quick hug and prayer.
Thirteen years earlier I had been obedient to write down my story, that morning I received affirmation through these women of the fruits of earlier difficult seeds. God tells us to cast our breads upon the water. When we are willing to share our stories, He uses them to bring hope.
You have all this evidence confirmed by your own eyes and ears. Shouldn't you be talking about it?
Isaiah 48:6 The Message.
Jocelyn is the author of Who is Talking Out of My Head, Grief as an Out of Body Experience.
She is offering a complimentary copy of her book, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org and she will mail it to you, or someone who has gone through a serious loss. She also blogs(sometimes) at https://whoistalking.wordpress.com