In 2020 we will feature extraordinary works of writing by recent Ranch guests. Each piece focuses on The Ranch and moments of personal insight, observation, or awareness.
by Katie Connolly
Edited by Kathleen Flinn
My Aunt Maureen used to attend every funeral in town. This was in 1940s in Annagry, Ireland. She was just 7-years-old when this began. She would cry. She would say, “I am sorry for your loss.” She would shake hands with the other mourners.
I think she already understood what I have just recently come to know. Heartbreak, while certainly about loss, is also about the opportunity to heal and to do something positive. Now, more than ever, we need to look for those opportunities in our lives.
Looking up at Alex’s Oak Tree from the hot tub in Flores, the setting is heartbreakingly beautiful. I can’t help but wonder, does Deborah thinks of her boy when she sees that majestic tree perched above the ranch? Has enough time passed to blunt the pain that will never leave her? Or has time, resilience and the beauty of what she and others have created replaced her pain with peace?
A recent tragedy in my town has shown me the power of recovery, endurance and heartbreaking beauty in the face of adversity. Let’s be clear. “A recent tragedy” is a very sanitized way to refer to a 19-year-old girl with a catastrophic brain injury. One moment, she was standing by her broken-down car and calling 911 for help. The next, fate picked her to be in the path of an under-age marijuana-impaired driver. The result: eight hours of emergency brain surgery, stroke, paralysis on her left side and speech center damage.
You’d be within your rights to see only the worst in this scenario. But I’m reminded that even in the worst situations, we should look for the beauty that exists or that we can create.
Seeing the best in this accident has been readily apparent: a family mobilizing their resources with fierce love and commitment; “prayer warriors” united in faith meeting at 9 p.m. every night to send healing prayers, never doubting God’s plan; a local community donating money and buying “Khali Strong” wrist bands to wear proudly; businesses holding raffles; individuals using a GoFundMe.com page to raise $200,000 to defray medical expenses; and even an apartment in Boston near the rehab donated for the family’s use. That’s in addition to food being made, housecleaning being done, dogs being taken on walks and kind people remembering all the little things that need to be taken care of as her parents support a rehab staff fighting hard for their daughter’s recovery.
Just to be clear, I am not a person with God in my life. But I see how their faith in God has sustained them. Frankly, it would be great comfort to have a God. But instead, I respectfully translate their faith in God’s love as the awesome power of positive thinking. Of course, I keep this to myself in their presence. A philosophical debate on this point would be cruel and unnecessary. Instead, I’m drawn to the strength and resilience they exhibit. I see the immense beauty in it, even light of evident suffering.
What we hold in common is positivity. Together we will triumph over this tragedy. I do believe that. The human mind is an amazing thing. I think that if the conscious mind is convinced that something is possible then the subconscious mind will work to heal and make it happen. We, all of us together, can change the future by changing our attitudes. We are not powerless. We can pivot from the worst conditions and do remarkable life-changing work.
People want to be enlarged; we want to be called upon to do a little more than what ordinary life usually requires. Witnessing this accident has reminded me of that. This is a lesson we should remember even before tragedy occurs. We can choose to be more human, more generous, more giving. To be our own creators of beautiful gardens, painted pictures, touching songs, political or environmental movements, and kindness of all sorts. It takes courage. It takes hope. It takes belief that we can make a positive lasting impact in the face of loss.
That is the faith I choose.
Love to write?
Anyone who enjoys putting words on paper finds great inspiration at Rancho La Puerta. Join us during Writers’ Retreat Week, August 8, 2020. Celebrated authors Kathleen Flynn, Rita Jacobs, Ph.D, and Les Standiford will be presenting.