Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Place Between Grief and Guilt

When Donna spoke of the "old bag" it took a moment to realize that she was not being self referencing. Although her left arm laid limply at her side, her right hand clutched a small purse. It was old but sturdy. I imagined it was from the 1920's. One of the handles was slightly eschew and had recently been repaired. Her fingers moved across the fabric rhythmically, absentmindedly.

She explained that the purse belonged to her mother. It was stowed away until Jessica, her granddaughter, came upon it while foraging through the closet. Since that time the two were inseparable.

Jessica would race around the house with the bag tucked under her arm. She refused to carry it properly because the handle was dangling by a thread and she didn't want it to break.

The bag followed her everywhere. When Jessica and her brother would sleep in the guest room, Donna would see the bag standing proudly on the side table basking in the glow of the moonlight.


As I examined Donna, I thought about how similar she was to the adornment that sat next to her on the examining table. She was well into her seventies. Fine stitching and excellent craftsmanship. A repair here and there, but generally in good shape.

I took a look at her left arm. The surgical site was clean. Her strength and range of motion were perfect. Her stitches had long been removed but her scars remained. Although functionally proper, the arm fell back lifeless by her side. Donna looked the other way as if it didn't exist.

Memories from the accident were starting to return.


Donna remembered waking up confused. She was grasping the small purse that was last in Jessica's hand. The strap was broken and it was speckled with blood. Her grandson was screaming in the back seat.

She remembers the orthopaedist leaving the room after placing her cast. The emergency room doctor returning with eyes shining with empathy. He held her hand and told her that Jessica was gone.

Donna remmebered how the room suddenly became still. How instead of screaming or crying out in anger, she felt she had to concentrate very carefully. She heard the words but she couldn't understand the meaning.

But her brother sitting next to her...not a scratch.

The doctor's eyes became cold and distant. He turned his head away as he continued.

When the back of the car was crushed.....

Donna was no longer on my examining table. Her eyes were blank and looked up towards the ceiling.

She was lost in the place between grief and guilt.

Her words were monotone and spoken into the air as if to no one in particular.

Unlike that old purse and I, Jessica's sins were shockingly innocent.

As most girls of a certain age, she was just a little bit

too tall.


Maggie said...


I am so sorry you had to be hearing this. I am also so glad you were able to be there for her as she relived this.

Sending both of you plenty of love, light, and healing laughter

dymphnasis said...

I am so happy this woman had someone who really listened to her story. As painful as it must be for her, there is some healing to be found in the telling of such a story. the pain never leaves, but for a moment, just a moment, is not carried alone.