Note: When I write about my work as a nurse, all identifying factors are fictional due to privacy requirements. If you think you know who I am talking about based on the identifying details, you will be wrong. Although my stories are based on nuggets of truth, no such person exists that matches these details.
Last week, as I lumbered pregnantly about the hospital, the unflappable good cheer of a tiny 90-pound woman caught my interest.
Maybe I noticed her because I tend to fear the worst and focus on how I am falling short compared to other people. This leads to gloom and negativity as I contemplate all the ways I am insufficient. Being pregnant amplifies this: excessive weight gain, nausea, strange emotions, anxieties about caring for a child.
Two days aftersurgery, the tiny lady was up early eating breakfast, sitting in her hospital bed. A half hour later, I saw her with her newspaper open. She looked as comfortable as if she had been relaxing in a favorite chair at home. As the morning progressed, I noted that nothing troubled her, not even the dismal news that her chest X-ray showed possible pneumonia.
Finally, I quizzed her as I prepared her medications.
“What makes you have such a positive attitude about life?”
This deep question did not alarm her either.
“God has been with me,” she said. “I’ve been through a lot, but He’s been with me.”
I’ve interviewed a lot of people after natural disasters and war. I’ve noticed that people who have overcome their difficulties in a healthy manner usually won’t offer graphic details. They generalize: “I’ve lived through some tough times,” or, “I had some bad years.”
But I wanted to know what really happened. I tugged on the knob of her memory’s door, and asked her to let me in.
“What kinds of things do you mean when you say you went through a lot?”
“Well, my husband tried to kill me once.”
I froze, transfixed beside the computer.
What is the polite thing to say after a revelation like that?
“That’s… terrible. How… What happened?”
She smiled, completely okay with my shock and curiosity.
“He told me no one would ever know what happened because he was going to—” Apparently, she could not bring herself to share his plan for concealing her body or covering his crime. “He grabbed me around the neck and started choking me, pushing me against the wall. I couldn’t get away for a while.”
The marriage ended. But she had a 5-year-old daughter, and soon she was her mother’s responsibility entirely. She didn’t want to go to her dad’s place.
“After she saw her dad chase the neighbor woman around the house with a gun, he was done,” she said. “I always worked two, three jobs to get by. Always a factory and a fast food place.”
“Because the hours worked out well?” I asked.
She nodded. “You work from, oh, maybe 6am-2pm at the factory, then maybe 4pm-11pm at the fast food place.”
“When do you sleep?” I asked.
“You don’t.” She smiled, remembering. “My family didn’t help me. But I found out you can do what you have to do. And God was with me. He still is. I talk to him a lot. And I always thought about how there were so many people with worse situations than mine.”
I shook myself.
I had to get busy and give her medications, even though the words she spoke pressed into my soul. As I punched her pills out of their small paper packets into a medicine cup, I thought of my petty complaints and fears.
“I suppose that would help all of us,” I said, heading toward her chair with the pills and an IV antibiotic. “We’re quick to compare to those with more. We forget about the blessings we have that others don’t.”
She nodded cheerily.
“Even with this surgery.” She pointed to the incision down the center of her abdomen, still covered with gauze and bandages. “I just always tell myself, ‘I can do this! I can do this!’”
Maybe I’ll make a poster with those words to put above my rocking chair. When I’m bleary-eyed and exhausted from a screaming infant, I’ll look up at it and think of her.
“I can do this! I can do this!”
Shout out to Rhoda Bontrager who is saving the day with my crossword puzzle PJ’s! She is planning to transform them into several smaller items. Stay tuned!
Book One of The Brady Street Boys Adventure Series went to layout this week!
Note: I’m guessing I will take a blog break for about a month after giving birth. We’ll see. Maybe writing will be a good outlet, but I don’t want to feel the pressure. I will more likely communicate news and an occasional photo to those on my email list.
Last week I posted links to the audiobook of From the White House to the Amish available on my shop. We are best reimbursed when you buy directly from us. However, the audiobook is available from numerous other retailers. I know some of these may be more convenient, especially if you already have a subscription with a store. Here is the list so far! Kobo/Walmart, Google Play, BingeBooks, Chirp, Scribd, hibooks, Apple, Nook Audiobooks, Audible/Amazon