Word Medicine

Writing and Healing: exploring the art of healing and the healing of art

The Rest of the Story July 5, 2010

Filed under: Spirituality,trauma,Writing and Healing — saratbaker @ 5:57 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

I am trying to find the woman who saved my life a year ago.

Just when you think you have “processed” a trauma, you find out, you’ve only just begun.

I called the EMT unit on Duck, N. C.  I thought they might have her name as she was a witness.  The fellow said it was unlikely, and it would take about a week, but he’d look it up.  He said they try to keep all that information confidential. I said I understood, and I would give them permission to give the woman my name, but that I very much wanted to tell her the rest of the story.  That seems important to me.  If she hadn’t seen me, if she hadn’t run into the water with her clothes on, if she hadn’t sent her mother to get the lifeguard, another large wave would have taken me out and that would have been that.  Instead–out of all the hundreds of people partying on that beach last July Fourth–she saw me and saved my life.  Not only that, but she allowed herself into my pain.  When she came to me, I grabbed her hard and cried, “please don’t leave me.”    She looked right into my eyes and said she wouldn’t leave me.  And she didn’t

My daughter said that when they loaded me into the ambulance, a woman who matched her description  had been at the ambulance door, weeping.  As terrible as it was for me, it was also painful for her to be wrenched out of her celebrations, her relaxing beach vacation, her sense of  “all’s right with the world.”  I hope she had a good stiff drink that night.

As I explained to the EMT what happened and why I wanted to contact her, I started crying.  It all came back, that feeling of vulnerability, of pain, of complete and utter helplessness.  Everything I haven’t allowed myself to feel as I focused on each small step of my recovery. Every time I’ve mentioned it this week, the same thing happens.  It is as though, as a friend suggested, my body had to heal and become strong enough to experience all these emotions.  I write about trauma, for pete’s sake, I should know what to expect.  But it is taking me by surprise.  What I had taken as strength seems to have been postponed grief.  But this feels like good grief, as if my tears are finally re-hydrating me, the way a summer storm revives the earth, clears the air.

If I find her, this is what I will tell her: that on the one-year anniversary of my accident, I sang in the choir, and that the psalm for the day was Psalm 30,

“O LORD my God, I called to you for help
and you healed me.

3 O LORD, you brought me up from the grave [b] ;
you spared me from going down into the pit….

You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy…”

I will tell her that my son asked me to play tennis after church, and I was able to do it.  I will tell her that after our tennis game we went swimming. I will tell her that I am taking the tango lessons I’ve always dreamed of taking.  I will tell her that I went to a cook-out last night surrounded by old friends.  I will tell her that I’m beginning to write again.  And yes, it was a hard year, wearing a body brace for six months, unmitigated pain, that I was often  impatient with the slow process, that I sickened of the color of our bedroom wall, of having to sleep in a hospital bed.  I will tell her it isn’t over, the pain is still there, but it is nothing compared to the joys that surround me.  Nothing compared to the knowledge I have of how precious each day is, of how deeply I am loved.

I hope I find her. I have so much to thank her for.                 madeira beach


The Kindness of Strangers, Part ll April 21, 2010

Filed under: Writing and Healing — saratbaker @ 12:28 am
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Dear Readers,

A young friend, Rebecca Corey, describes how her world was upended in an accident while she was studying in Tanzania this winter.  At her young age, she has clear insights into the issues of pain and suffering, as well as the interdependence of us all.  Please read her riveting post at :  http://networkedblogs.com/34bIb.




Movement is Life August 31, 2009

From my journal, a day before the accident, written while I sat at the beach:  “A tern lifts and lowers in the stiff off-shore breeze, popping up like a Jack-in-the-box.  A movement in the sand catches my eye, something shiny, and I see a sand crab slip into its hole.  Movement is life.”

Last week,  a friend brought lunch.  I’m still in my brace and can’t drive, so company was welcome.  She came in wearing very pretty sandals.  I asked her where she’d found them.  “The Potter’s House,” she said. The Potter’s House is our local thrift store.  “Let’s go,” I said, and so we did.  Even though my back hurt and I was tired, it was fun to get out, to poke around for unsuspected treasures.  There was a group of young college men looking for jackets, two middle-aged white women perusing piles of baskets, and an older black woman slowly and methodically working her way through a rack of dresses.  I sat on a plaid couch, waiting for my friend, eavesdropping on the students as they discussed the merits of various jackets. I felt part of the flow of life again.  Like a crab, I’d crept out of my hole, propelled not by necessity, but by simple shoe lust.

When my old dog had a stroke several years back,  she was on her feet in no time, eager to go on her customary walk, despite her off-kilter gait and cocked head.  My vet said dogs heal from strokes faster than people because they don’t realize they’ve had a stroke, they just want to go out and chase balls.

A friend reports that another friend spent the summer in Spain at a tango festival.  This woman is an avid dancer.  A year and a half ago, her most lovely and gifted daughter was brutally murdered.  She might have stayed in her hole, and no one would’ve blamed her.  I imagine her dancing the tango, that most sensual and life-affirming dance, imagine strains of violin and accordion music on a hot Spanish night.  And I imagine her daughter in the candle-lit crowd,  applauding her mother, as I do now, applauding her insistence on living passionately, even in the midst of unspeakable pain.

These two friends are thinking of going to Argentina to dance next year.  I’m thinking of going with them.


%d bloggers like this: