Thursday 7 May 2009
For the woman in the news today, who has so far successfully survived the first facial transplant, one can only look at the pictures in horror. I found tears welling up inside. So much damage to a lovely woman’s skin and bones. And while the doctors have given her back the capacity to breathe on her own, to eat and drink…I am reminded of an event that occurred several years ago.

At a Healing Retreat I attended only a few years after the divorce between my husband of 18 years and myself, just before dusk Friday night, and the beginning of the Jewish Sabbath, we women attending that week gathered at the outdoor pool for a ritual dunking in the waters.
Some had come dressed in robes, with nothing beneath, some wearing t-shirts and shorts with bathing suits underneath, or nothing. There was no unanimity in how each woman approached what would be a public display of nudity.

The woman leading the ceremony described the ritual, and then gave us our charge. We would recite the blessing and then close our eyes, in order to give each woman attending the respect and sanctity of her womanhood in private. Because the leader explained, our bodies rarely met the models touted by our society as “perfect” or “womanly” or whatever word you could think to use in description. And too, some of us had dealt with breast cancer and would stand among us with one breast or none, and we ALL deserved the kindest treatment possible, no matter our sizes, shapes, breasts or not.

I kept my eyes firmly closed, and for me it was a beautiful ceremony, most especially because of the respectful method shown to us, and we in turn shared with each other.
Yet how do we accept a face that has been harmed through violence, by someone (the woman’s husband, no less) outside ourselves. Unlike my cousin how can put cotten in her empty bra over the space where her left breast resided for 79 years, we cannot hide our faces from each other.

Perhaps it is enough to attempt to celebrate this attempt to put back that which was taken away, and as we clap when a baby rolls over, or sits up, or walks, we must show our pride and pleasure in the pride and pleasure this woman will take in her new accomplishment–putting a better face forward from now on.

And then there is Elizabeth Edwards, struggling to live with her husband’s very publicized infidelity. Is it worse that everyone knows of her struggle with cancer, or her young children conceived and born some years after the older son died when a teenager?

My sorry story of betrayal, infidelity, loss, survival did not occur in such a public arena as Elizabeth Edwards’ did, and that difference is huge. I had 5 children, one with a lifelong disability to cope with and raise as best I could alone, while working at $8/hour jobs. Again slightly different from Edwards’ legal career and lofty (softy?) income and accoutrements bought with said income. (accouterments or accoutrements Outward forms of recognition; trappings: cathedral ceilings, heated swimming pools, and other accoutrements signaling great wealth. The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition Copyright © 2006 by Houghton Mifflin Company.)

Oh my. I tried, with my own children to raise them with sensitivity and awareness, and now it’s up to them to use what they have; their intelligence and emotions, and remake their worlds as they can, and as they wish it to become. I WILL keep on whenever, wherever, I can, trying to effect change (affect change?). It’s a slow process, like water dripping on stone… That’s it for my wisdom for this day.

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