I believe we come to this world with an innate sense of rightness and wrongness, that instilled in even the most unchurched there is a presence of a higher being which is ignored, denied by those who would choose to intentionally inflict pain to hurt others. I believe we are only as far away from our creator as we choose to be.
As he demanded to know how I would live when I left, I could not have foreknowledge the last words I would ever speak to the man I’d married twenty one years prior were “I don’t know, but I have faith”. I said this to the man who regularly asked on Sunday mornings, as I prepared to go to church, to choose what was more important, God or my family. Try as he did, he could not invade my relationship with God, could not divide me from it, manipulate, ruin or steal it away; it was that solid.
After the shooting a public prayer vigil was held at my church. Prayers were initiated by my professional association and in the community by friends and strangers alike. Those prayers and my faith have sustained me and my children in the darkest of hours. There were and still are times when I feel alone but I have been fortunate to quickly return to the faith I professed that last day.
Perhaps there is nothing that can more powerfully convey the healing aspects of prayer than meeting with my trauma surgeon for a post discharge follow-up after the shooting. Her first words to me were “my family has prayed for you”. These almost five years later, as she prepared to take a position at another hospital, I met with her again to reiterate my gratitude for saving my life and to say goodbye. Once again, her faith was evident as she reassured me God has an amazing plan for me.
As an advocate who now works with those who have been injured in intimate violence, I sometimes feel as though I cannot do enough. I do what I can yet what I offer, to listen to them tell their story, to affirm them, comfort them, provide resources and options, to help them gain perspective and plan for their safety; it is all limited in the scope of what they are many times experiencing and the enormous decisions that only they can make.
My personal experiences with violence bring concern at times to co-workers and friends that I will be emotionally triggered. They don’t know I have a secret tool not found in any advocacy or trauma training. It is one of the same tools my surgeon used. After I leave a call with a survivor, many times uncertain of their safety, uncertain of their future, moved beyond words by their strength in their journey; just as I was prayed for, I say a silent prayer for them.
There are times I am coming out into the night intensely emotional after hours of being in the bright temperature controlled surreal hospital environment with someone who has experienced unspeakable emotional and physical pain inflicted upon them. In the quiet I breathe in the pulsing summer heat and humidity, or pull up my collar against a winter wind as I fold my shoulders inward to shelter myself from bitter cold. Sometimes I look skyward to a full moon, or marvel at the feel of rain on my skin or a welcoming spring breeze; always in a state of reverence that I have this amazing privilege to be here. In these moments of grace, I simply pray.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you…do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27