The NFL season is over, MLB has not begun, and March Madness is not yet upon us. It’s also too cold for the beach or park. So here is a weekend edition of my mini-magazine.
From “Calamus (In Paths Untrodden)” by Walt Whitman
“I proceed for all who are or have been young men,
To tell the secret of my nights and days,
To celebrate the need of comrades.”
From “Wolf Cento” by Simone Muench –
“Age approaches, slowly. But it cannot
crystal bone into thin air.
The small hours open their wounds for me.
This is a woman’s confession”
Port-au-Prince, Haiti: Girls are taken for a ride on a bike to school (Photograph: Ramon Espinosa/AP)
Shizuoka, Japan: Tea pickers work on the plantation of fourth-generation tea grower Masataka Ota, who has been awarded the highest prize in Japan for his fine teas (Photograph: Everett Kennedy Brown/EPA)
Marathon runner Joseph Tame, wearing the ‘iRun’ apparatus, stretches prior to a test run in Tokyo for Sunday’s Tokyo Marathon. Tokyo-resident Tame, of Hereford, England, intends to run the Tokyo marathon with his self-made, mobile, social-media studio that is equipped with four iPhones, an iPad, two Android handsets, a weather center pinned on his helmet and a heart monitor with a GPS, to give viewers a real-time experience of the marathon on his website http://www.tm2011.com. (Christian Science Monitor)
A community of coal scavengers who live and collect coal illegally for a few dollars a day in the village of Bokapahari, India. (Photo by Kevin Frayer)
3) Broken body, Mended Life
Questions – Have you been broken? Are you mended?
For the first eighteen years of my life I was broken. There are probably many people as happy with life as I now am. I doubt there are many happier.
An article in the Guardian, by Kirsten Anderson, where Jacqui Paterson speaks about losing her beloved grandmother, then two friends. Her depression which led to trying to take her life by stepping in front of a train, which severed her legs. Jacqui now counsels suicidal teens.
I always felt so happy growing up. If anything, my childhood was too perfect; I never wanted for anything. I was close to my parents, and the youngest child with two doting elder siblings. I was pretty, popular and getting good grades at school.
Looking back, maybe I was a little too sheltered from bad experiences. That all changed when I was 15. My grandmother, to whom I’d always been close, died following a long illness. I was still reeling from her death when within 18 months four of my school friends died – two were killed in car accidents, one took their own life and the fourth died of a brain tumour.
I’d always been positive, but now I was constantly low and lethargic. I wasn’t sleeping, and my schoolwork was suffering. I was arguing with my parents and life felt bleak. Before, I’d had a sense of purpose – I wanted to be a veterinary surgeon. Now I felt I’d lost my way.
In early January 2000, my parents had grounded me for staying out all night, but I’d sneaked out to visit a friend. I was on my way home, dreading facing my parents.
So I headed to the local park, alongside a set of railway tracks. It was a freezing cold evening and, for some reason, I thought it was a good idea to shelter in one of the empty carriages on the sidings. I wanted to clear my head, escape home for a bit longer.
“This will get better,” I told myself. “No, it won’t,” a darker voice answered. Just then I heard the deep rumble of a train approaching. “If you throw yourself in front it, all this pain will instantly go away,” I suddenly thought. Before I realised what I was doing, I was scrambling up to the train tracks and lying face down across the steel rails.
I closed my eyes tightly – “There’s no way I’ll survive this,” I thought. I was exhausted and waiting for oblivion. The train was approaching and I thought it would hit me – bang, that would be it. But I didn’t black out for a second, I was awake the entire time. I heard and felt everything – the vibrations of the train, the screech of grinding metal, and unimaginable pain.
The train thundered over me. The momentum sucked my body upwards, then I was thrown down hard between the tracks, with only my legs hanging over the rails. Everything went quiet. “Am I dead?” I wondered, opening my eyes. I was alive, but trapped under the train. I could feel hot metal inches above my head, and smell smoke.
I managed to angle my head to the right to look out between the carriages. With a strange sense of detachment I could see my jeans and the white sneakers Mum and Dad had given me for Christmas lying some way up the track.
I dug my fingertips into the gravel and dragged myself free of the carriage. I swung my body around so I was lying on my back, facing away from the train. Confused, I reached down to where my legs should have been. When I pulled my hand back, it was covered in blood. Then the pain hit. “Mum, Mum!” I screamed.
I saw a rescue worker talking into a radio, then someone was cutting off my favourite yellow winter coat.
I was rushed to hospital, where doctors told me I’d lost eight pints of blood. Staff crowded around me, shouting orders and pushing needles into my arms. When I came round from my first surgery, my entire family was circled around my bed.
The next few days passed in a haze of medication. I remember one doctor telling me that 33 carriages had run over my body, severing both my legs – my left above the knee joint and the right just below.
I was in hospital for three months, then in and out for several more corrective surgeries. It was a gradual recovery. I completed my final high school exams in hospital, so was able to graduate alongside the rest of my class later that year. Then I was fitted with prosthetics, and learned to walk again with crutches.
In 2003, I was asked to tell my story to a local youth group. From that more speaking engagements followed. I began counselling vulnerable and suicidal teens, telling them my story and reassuring them that, despite how bad things might seem, they could get better. In a strange way, I feel this needed to happen to set me back on the right course. However terrible that night was, ultimately, I got my life back