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When Bad Things Happen

My grandmother Hill lost her thumb when a horse reared up and she was standing too close. It happened in the days when they didn’t reattach body parts. She was a very proper woman who always had her flossy white hair coiffed and wore dresses with matching shoes and purses. I wasn’t even aware she had a missing thumb until my mother talked about it. From then on, as an eight-year-old child, I tried to get a good look at grandmother’s left hand but she was so good at hiding it, I only saw a glimpse of it once. In photographs, she would pose her hand in such a way it was unnoticeable.

I would say in our current crisis of lockdown, that losing one’s wealth is a very bad thing. Whether it was caused by poor leadership, or ‘China’ or just mother-nature, someone losing their livelihood or home or ability to go to the hospital or doctor because they don’t have enough money or health coverage, or just out of fear, is a bad thing.

I worked at a large insurance company one time in their Special Casualty department. It was an all-female led and managed team. I’d been with the company for only two weeks when there was a small welcome back party for a young single mother who’d been in a terrible car accident. I saw her from a distance as she walked through and everyone who knew her of course greeted and hugged her. She was thin, a nice height, with lovely dark brown hair that was wavy she wore in layers. She noticed me as someone she didn’t know and she came up to talk to me. Up close, I saw the scars she’d tried to conceal with a light foundation. They were all up and down the left side of her face from her eye to her chin. You could tell her lower lip had been badly disfigured. She had been in the hospital for six months and had gone through several operations. That’s all I knew at this point. She left and we all settled into our cubicles to work.

The next day I wanted to check on her. She was at her station. I touched her shoulder to say hi. She looked up, and then put her hands to her face and she broke down shaking and crying quietly. I hugged her. “What’s the matter?” I asked wondering if something else was going on. She said very quietly afraid our upper management would come around, “You don’t know how hard it is for me to do this. To wake up, to come here, to look at myself.” I didn’t know what to say. Here she was only twenty-six years old, single, with a little girl to care for.  “Some days I don’t think I’m going to make it.”

I had studied to be a social worker and had counseled a juvenile delinquent teenager for a few weeks who had a drug-addicted mother and who was doing drugs herself and had gotten into trouble. I’d also visited a woman who was severely burned when their trailer home caught fire as they were sleeping. She had just managed to escape out a back window with the help of her husband. She almost died too. When I met her at her home months after the accident, she was still completely bandaged from head to toe in a special suit made of a stretchable but breathable material that would allow her skin to be held together to help it continue to heal.

When the accident happened, apparently, all he cared about was making up a story and lying that she’d been the one driving so he wouldn’t get in further trouble with the law.

So here I was once again, facing someone who’d been in something I could only imagine. All I knew to do was to listen and encourage her to keep strong. She told me more what had happened that night…. Her ex-husband had been driving when he shouldn’t have. His license had been suspended. When the accident happened, apparently, all he cared about was making up a story and lying that she’d been the one driving so he wouldn’t get in further trouble with the law. I don’t know all that transpired on that end of the story but the entire left side of her face had been destroyed. Her left eye socket, totally crushed, and her jaw broken. A lung had been pierced and collapsed. She almost died. “I’m just so thankful Amy wasn’t hurt,” she said. Amy was her three-year-old who’d been asleep in the back seat of her Volkswagen. Amy had been thrown to the floor and was miraculously uninjured.

Later that day, she asked me if I could give her a ride home. Her car was being worked on. She lived in another direction, but I didn’t care. I wanted to help her in any way I could. For the next few days, I drove her home from work to her apartment. I never met her little girl because she was being cared for by Elizabeth’s mother. Liz (the name she went by) and I didn’t become close but we remained in contact. When I left the insurance company shortly after this, and she bought my three-seat sofa, I learned that she had met a businessman who was asking her to marry him. She still had issues and wondered how this guy could love her. He sounded like a very genuine guy.

I lost contact with Liz when I moved away but today I think back to our little excursions home as we listened to music, laughing and singing, despite the pain in her life at that time. I think fondly of her and wonder if she went on to overcome her scars so magnificently, as my grandmother had overcome her missing thumb.

For all the complaining we hear from people during this crisis my religious teaching comes to mind that tells me NOT to look at others who have MORE than me, but to look at others who have less and to try to help them. We’ve heard ridiculous stories of people complaining about not being able to get their hair done! How embarrassing and petty.

I think the majority of us who don’t have missing limbs or scars down our faces, have a lot to be thankful for. There’s always someone in a worse circumstance.

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Laurie Hill
Laurie Hill
Laurie Hill holds a Liberal Arts degree from Pennsylvania State University and a Certificate for Writing Social Commentary, (2006). Having traveled to many countries she is a passionate promoter for world peace for all people and all religious thought, as long as its base is non-violent, and respects individual freedom. An aspiring novelist with three completed novels she is currently working to publish her third. She has resided in Jeddah for twenty-eight years.

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14 CONVERSATIONS

  1. Laurie, that has to be the best opening sentence I’ve ever read. What unfolded was a piece that captivated me from beginning to end. My brother has been in two terrible accidents in his life and this reminded me of how courageous and resilient he is. The strength it takes to face each new day is something I can’t fully understand. You are a beautiful writer. I look forward to reading more of your work!

    • Wow, thank you for that lovely comment, Kimberly.
      Have you written about his story? Or has he?
      The ‘courageous and resilient’ they teach us don’t they?
      The human being is capable of such greatness. We can overcome and we can hang on.
      thank you again

  2. What an important reminder to place our lives in perspective and be grateful for all that we do have, for all that we’ve come through, and the ways we can be of love and service to others. Some scars are visible and some are not. You never know what another person is navigating. How important to bring compassion, kindness, and tenderness to another human being. If you live long enough, you’ve likely navigated difficulties-and for certain, the death of someone you love.

    I think sometimes people focus on the small things because it’s a distraction from confronting the really, really difficult realities, deeper fears, or past hurts that remain deeply concealed in their hearts, souls, memories, and bodies. Unwilling to “go there” people focus on seemingly insignificant inconveniences. The deeper unresolved patterns seem overwhelming to even begin to examine and resolve. This may not be in every situation, but I think a lot of people bury their darkest truths, hurts, and pains in a frozen storage locker. (Especially the invisible “wounds”). Many of us are not given tools to flow through emotional pain and traumas. Many people have been taught to hide their emotional worlds underneath of pretense of “I’m Fine.”

    That pretense may be slowly unravelling for more and more people as they confront the deaths of loved ones or their own death.

    Thank you, Laurie, so much for this article and encouragement to hold compassion for people, to offer help when and where we can.

    • Laura, what a great comment! Yes, so true. I lost my Mom in 2018. She was the 3rd person I’ve lost and what you said is true. More true is my love for my children and their children and how much I want to see a better kinder world for them.
      thank you so much my dear. I hope we do move toward more openness and healing. We all need that freedom.

  3. Dearest Laurie,
    I could not agree with you more. As someone who has been surrounded by loved ones with disabilities throughout my life, I have always wondered about the thoughtlessness and frivolity of those who take for granted of their health and safety. Right now, I am embracing my dry, scaly hands and thanking God I remain safe and being thankful I can make a living from home. Thank you for this my dear!💖

    • Oh, Darlene! Me too! My ‘dry scaly hands’ lol! Seriously, indoors, with air conditioning is killing me!
      I agree with you about health and safety. The Girl Scouts did it to me. :D. I’m always the one who is cautious first. Annoying to some; life saving to others.
      thank you dear.

  4. What a great reminder, Laurie! I’m certain your kindness meant more to Liz than you’ll ever know. It is so easy to complain about small inconveniences, but helping another person – truly making a difference- is perhaps the best way to put things into perspective. Thank you for sharing your experience here.

    • Thanks Melissa for taking the time to write this and share your thoughts. Isn’t it incredible when we look back on our lives, to recall what meant so much to us; how those memories never leave us, I guess for important learning reasons.
      have a nice weekend.

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