I miss Kathy.
I don’t normally miss people. I am fairly accepting of the changes in life that separate us from those we like (and don’t) and those we love, whether by choice or circumstances or death. When I do miss someone, it is usually for a very deeply personal reason, and because I can’t regain what I had when that person was in my life. As I continue to struggle with PTSD, I miss one person dearly, because of the gift she gave me when I hurt the most.
The summer before I finished grad school I was sitting in an office when Kathy, a dear friend for many years, walked by. We were surprised but pleased to see each other, and hugged and caught up as friends do. No one knew at the time how completely broken I had become nearly two years after a terrifying car wreck. I had not yet sought counseling, and working non-stop for two years hadn’t fixed anything. I was ready to walk away from everything I had worked years for because I was on the edge of losing my ability to cope.
That day changed my life.
It took Kathy less than three minutes to see how broken I was, and in short order she had me saying to her what I hadn’t been able to admit to myself. I was broken, I needed help, and I had no idea how or where to get it. She sat me on her lap and told me that had I broken my arm, people would be able to see the cast and they would accommodate my hurt and give me space and let me heal. Because my brain was broken, no one could see it and no one could give me that. She told me that it was ok that I was broken. She loved me and thought I was beautiful and strong, and she knew because she had once been broken too.
This stunningly beautiful and gracious woman who quietly served as the hands and feet of Jesus told me about the time she had sought help because the trauma she had experienced had broken her. She let me know that I was not alone, and that by not being authentic about my experience I would not be able to accept myself the way she had already accepted me.
Her compassion for me was a gift I could not begin to repay, and that moment of acceptance allowed me to accept my own brokenness and begin to heal.
Six months later I sat next to her bed, weeping as I told her that I loved her for the last time. She had been on a path to the end of her life while she had been giving me back mine. During her illness she gave me strength.
The week before we had cried together as we had faced the end of her battle. I had given her a small token of love, a piece of mesquite carved by an artist who understands the breathtaking beauty of life. She kept it near her in that last week. I have a piece by the same artist hanging where I can see it when I work. I only get to do what I do now because of her, because she made it ok for me to be broken.
Real power lies in the ability to humbly and sincerely extend grace to another person. May I some day be able to do the same.