MISS CARTER’S GREEN PASTURES

Five horses gathered at the fence behind the barn waiting for Miss Carter to bring them treats. She patted their noses, told them they were each special, and she would return with more love in the afternoon. Apple, the young colt, tilted his head as Carter whispered to him as only Miss Carter could do. Afterward, she returned to the barn to prepare tea and cookies for friends who were joining her for a picnic.

Miss Carter is three-yeas-old; the horses are seven inches high, and a popsicle stick fence surrounds the plastic barn. the barn is plastic. This idyllic scene rests on a child’s table in my living room. However, for Carter and me, our imagination allows us to travel far. We visit places where there is the freedom to ride, climb trees, and play in a hayloft.

I am called Grandma by this spirited, sweet child. We are not blood-related since she is my stepdaughter’s little girl but never mind all that. Family dynamics are way too complicated for a three-year-old. Love seems to cancel such trivial nonsense anyway.

Carter broke her femur (thigh bone) in a freak accident at her preschool several weeks ago. She looks exquisite in her pink and purple Spica cast, which begins just under breastbone, travels down her right leg to her ankle, and the left leg to her knee. A steel bar attaches from the right ankle to the left thigh, which separates her legs by about two feet.

She cannot walk, nor can she sit without assistance. Miss Carter sleeps only on her back because she cannot turn and does so without complaint. She requires constant supervision, and when she needs to move, you must lift her, including the heavy apparatus she is half-buried in.

I keep Carter three days a week since she cannot return to school until the cast is removed. I have learned to sit with her around her table in little chairs that rise one foot above the floor. As a result of the lifting and sitting, I take a substantial amount of Ibuprofen for my back on a weekly basis.

When we are not at the barn, we go to Barbie’s house and visit the girls, or we shop at the grocery store where the head cashier, Miss Carter, runs the Minnie Mouse cash register. We unload our groceries in the kid’s kitchen and prepare cookies containing pretend ingredients of vegetable soup and cherries. We solve puzzles, and without cheating, I cannot win a game of Candy Land to save my life.

Carter, in her infinite wisdom, has taught me a lot about life during these last few weeks. I realize if I were in her situation, the claustrophobia would have set in, and my wailing would have spooked all the horses to flee to greener pastures! I would certainly require more than a dose of Ibuprofen to get through the days. And, not even Godzilla could lift me since I would have drowned my sorrow with real cookies made with chocolate chips.

Children are amazing. They accept what befalls them and roll with the punches. Children use their imagination to escape to bliss and enjoy the love showered upon them as they go. They choose not to complain but instead hold their dolls or bears and if need be, watch “Alvin and the Chipmunks” to ease their burdens. Little ones don’t worry too much about tomorrow because they assume it will eventually arrive, bringing a new horse to the barn or more folks to the tea party.

Adults could learn a tractor full of insight by observing God working through a child’s mind and soul. I understand that since we live on this earth, bad things do happen to even the smallest humans. However, when it does, because they are innocent, God calms their soul and must whisper to them just like Carter does to her little colt, Apple, to assure him all is well.

When tragedy visits us, perhaps we should remember, like Carter, that when we fall, courage will help us to stand again. Miss Carter also understands that attitude makes a huge difference in how we heal. We can choose to laugh at Alvin and his chipmunks or cry and complain over our misfortune. We can decide to pray to God or blame Him for our troubles.

Children trust us to make things okay. They believe our words of comfort, “It’s going to be alright.” Are we not God’s children? If we believe in His words, everything will be okay even on the day when the horses arrive with chariots to take us home. Until then, enjoy the green pastures, let your imaginations fly, and appreciate the love bestowed upon you as you go.

Finding a Way to the Light after 1988

I was rummaging through an old file in my office labeled, “Reflections,” and found a poem among the papers. I noticed the date, March 1988, was written on the bottom left corner of the page.

Please, let me go

Let me vanish into a place

Where my spirit will flow

Far away, into a never-ending tomorrow

I have had enough of trying to try

Laughing when I hurt

Giving and Giving

Just more work.

Please, let me die

For I am but a burden

To those who have listened

Only to cry.

I’m only getting worse

May I go?

My life’s a curse.

I know you will forgive me

If I interrupt you plan

And let me go by my own hand

I fought the fight Now I’m tired

Let me retire

Into your soft night.

Oh, my plans!

You always win

Finding a way to

Give me hope again.

You saved me; heaven knows why

To find purpose, rhyme.

You carried me when I couldn’t

Thank you, God,

For loving me

Even when I didn’t.

When I read what I wrote in 1988, years slipped away, and I recalled the feeling of being on the inside of clinical depression and darkness. I realized most people only view suicide from the outside looking into those lives who see only blackness. The voyeur cannot begin to understand what sorrow lies in the heart of those who take their own lives. Most people cannot understand those who live in a world where sadness is so profound and feel happiness only belongs to others.

When suicide seemed to be the only way to find rest for myself, I believed the world would be a far better place without me. My depressed mind thought my family would be free from my tears and their worry about me, gone. I felt I bothered the world, bothered my family, and I was a bother to myself. I hated being me.

My world was depression, and when God showed me a glimmer of hope, I took it. I worked hard to walk away from the cliff beckoning me to jump, and instead, climbed up the mountain to find life, not death.

I am one of the ones who survived the tomb of the lost. Its darkness does not discriminate between the young or old, rich or poor. Clinical depression isn’t the only reason on can enter the tomb. Situational depression from a tragic loss, physical illness, financial distress, failure, addictions, mental illness, bullying, pressure, resentment, and a myriad of other reasons can place you among the lost.

When we lose a famous person to suicide, we don’t quite understand why, when they seemed to live the dream, they would choose death. The truth is they weren’t living a dream; they were lost in a nightmare.

Since cases of suicide and mental illness are on the rise, it is way past the time for us to reveal who we are. It is time to share, to care about each other and be brave enough to talk about our struggles to the others understand they are not alone.

Plus, this idea that mental illness is a sign of failure is archaic. Everyone needs to trash judgmental thinking because too many are suffering and dying, including our children. Let’s love one another and show compassion. Let’s stop the whispering and start listening.

If I could be in the same room as the person who is ready to fall off the cliff from life to death, I would grab them by the arm and tell them the story of me.

“There were times in my life when I needed to fight to keep from jumping off the cliff just like you. Times when loneliness and fatigue multiplied my depression. Times when I worried about money, weariness from jobs, and when sadness followed me around like a shadow. The good news is that I am standing with you now to you away from the edge.

If you fall, you will miss seeing what is awaiting you tomorrow. I found help, I talked, I shared, I prayed, and because I did, I was able to see my children grow into beautiful adults. I saw a precious granddaughter join the world. I fell in love, I continued giving my career all I could, and when it was over, I began my dream of writing. The bullies will move away, and loss will ease with time. So, don’t die, let me take you to see the light of tomorrow.

Tomorrow will turn into weeks and with work, weeks will turn into the future and one that will feel sad if you are not there.

Every single person on the planet is vital and has a reason not to give up. God showed me purpose, gave me a voice and the courage to live long after 1988.