Laurel moved into a two-bedroom apartment on Joy St. with her children. The divorce meant selling the house and saying goodbye to the neighborhood where her kids played and where their skittish sheltie nervously barked at passers-by.
Now living in an apartment with young kids and no support money– Laurel’s ex could not work – Laurel composed her resume. She began to seek out work wherever she could. But the economy was hobbling along. The positions she could fill were limited and usually far from home. When an employment agency finally found job openings Laurel was told that employers were afraid to hire long term employees. So, Laurel became a temp.
Temping, as Laurel would find out, meant that she would likely hear on a Friday afternoon that the manager didn’t need her anymore. And so on Mondays, as had become her routine over several years, Laurel would call the temp agency and see what else they had for her.
Outside of work Laurel took care of her kids and paid the bills. And when there was a small amount of extra cash Laurel purchased cut flowers. She would put them in vase for the center of the kitchen table. And when there was extra time Laurel composed poems, short stories and articles. The ones she liked she would post on her blog. Her motivation for her writing came from what she took in. She also read when time allowed.
As such, Laurel never called herself a writer. That was unthinkable to her. Besides, her time reading and writing had become for her a home away from home that her former church friends used to provide when she was married. Since the divorce, though, those friends no longer came around. She felt being single kept her from being invited to the couple’s gatherings. But after the move new friends came along.
Laurel attended a different church after the divorce, a church closer to her apartment. One friend, Margaret, helped Laurel when she needed to go in for a medical procedure. The anesthesiologist required Laurel to have someone drive her home after the procedure. Margaret was happy to do so. Once the procedure was completed and Laurel was awake, Margaret drove Laurel home and brought her lunch. Laurel was grateful. She wrote a thank you note to Margaret.
As was her habit, Laurel would bath and dress her kids and take them to church each Sunday. And each Sunday morning, as was her habit, Laurel would write a check. In the memo field she’d pen “of Thine own have we given Thee.” It was her way. And she thought God had His. One time she heard the rector say that “the Lord gives and the Lord takes away.” Laurel couldn’t argue with that.
It was only a few years before that Laurel had learned that her 18-year-old son had been killed in a freak car accident. His car had flipped over on a dry frontage road in Texas. There would be no answer as to why. Laurel took in the crushing news. And when she did she felt as if the ground she had been standing on all her life had also collapsed. But her grief did not give way. Sorrow was added onto sorrow.
Years before Laurel’s college roommate had died in a car accident on the way to her roommate’s wedding rehearsal dinner. Laurel was shaken by the news. The loss of her close friend and roommate was devastating. Nothing before had so affected Laurel. As such, Laurel wrote a note of consolation to her roommate’s parents, recalling her roommate’s friendship and kindness. But the loss of her son would affect her like nothing before.
It wasn’t long after Laurel’s son’s death that her marriage fell apart. Their son’s death was more than each could handle. The loss compounded the problems in the marriage. The marriage gave way to divorce. Laurel had to take this in and move on.
One day in her new life something happened. Laurel would hear about that day later from her rector.
As her rector recounted, Laurel had been in a car accident. She had been stopped at red light when a large truck plowed into the rear of her car. Laurel went unconscious after her head hit the steering wheel and then whipped back to the headrest.
Laurel could recall little of that day. As ER nurses pumped fluids into Laurel she would go in and out of consciousness: “my kids? …how…? … there is so much pressure inside my head! … I feel sick to my stomach… my neck hurts so bad …How am I paying for this? …Death? …Ohhh…I just want to sleep forever.”
After that day and months of excruciating pain that Laurel could never begin to describe to her doctors, Laurel would receive several steroid shots. She wanted to stop the stabbing nerve pain that shot down from her neck and down her right arm and created tingling in her index finger. And when the shots didn’t relieve the acute pain she chose surgery. It would take two surgeries to fuse vertebra in her neck. Then finally the severe nerve pain had been stopped. But, chronic neck pain and relentless headaches continued. And when someone she loved declared himself, at that time, to be an atheist she thought the stabbing pain had now reached her soul. “Life, you’re killing me!” she would say to herself.
Now the thought of her death had never occurred to Laurel until those wavering sentient moments in the ER. She later told the rector what had gone through her mind that day. And she also told him, “there is such a deep well of pain inside me that if I ever were to draw from that well I may not make it.” The rector winced and nodded and remained silent. Then Laurel laughed, “At least with pain, I know I am alive. And I can’t write when I am dead. Oh life, you are killing me!”
© Jennifer A. Johnson, 2016, All Rights Reserved