International best-selling author, Barbara J Duell loves to travel around the world, sometimes without ever leaving her home. A history buff, she continues to seek answers as to how we got to where we are today, how different civilizations have changed, usually due to the impact of war.
Barbara can be found each day at her computer, laughing or crying, just tagging along wherever her characters decide to take her. Barbara has lived by the sea, high in the pine forest where eagles soar, in a valley near the river’s edge, and now resides in the delicate land of the southwestern desert.
“A Place By the Bay”, her latest book launched last month and is the story of Madi who is in a battle to save the lives of the lost and broken, when she finds more, an awakening of hope―a gathering of love and pain―then trust that leads to a new beginning.
And, It’s an honor to feature her inspiring article titled “Never Really Lost” written for Transformations by Shari.
As I’ve gotten older, I seem to misplace things. I’m not sure if everyone does this, but I will put something away to keep it safe, then forget where I put it.
Once, years ago, in 2008, I misplaced my faith, my unshaken belief that God would always be with me, and no matter how hard I looked, I could not find it.
God has been my rock, my foundation, a part of my life for a long time. In fact, I know the exact moment in time when I knew the power of His love. It was February 22, 1942. A rainy day―not far from Long Beach, heading to Los Angeles―the day a drunk drove his car into ours, and for months―years actually―my life was torn apart.
I don’t remember the actual crash. Weeks later, my father told me that I’d been thrown out of the open window on the driver’s side of our car at impact, hurled through the air, then crushed between the two vehicles.
At times I can still recall the faces of the strangers―confused and distressed―who’d stopped, who ran through the rain to lift me off the pavement and carry me to the side of the road. As I moved in and out of conscientiousness, I vaguely remember being by the side of the road, my back against a pole, the again in the front seat of an ambulance, held in the arms of a strange man because although two ambulances came to the scene of the accident, there was no room for me in the back where my mother and the people from the other car were placed.
The next thing I remember, I was in a big room, an emergency room, but the stranger who’d held me as we rushed to the hospital placed me in the arms of a nurse, then ran out to help unload those who’d ridden in the back of the ambulances. The nurse put me in a giant wheelchair that got shoved into a dark corner. The chair hurt my legs. It was made of cane and had a high back. I hurt, but I wanted my mother. I needed to get out of the chair and go find her. I think I cried as I fought to stay awake. I wanted my mommy and daddy, but I was so sleepy.
To my young ears, it seemed chaos ruled. Everyone was shouting. I thought I saw a woman lying on the table in the middle of the room. Was it my mother? I couldn’t tell.
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Then a doctor near the table said, “There is nothing more we can do for this woman. She’s gone; she’s dead.”
No. Oh, no, I cried, not dead, no, no, no. As I again tried to get up, I felt a presence, a soft, calming voice that told me to stay in the chair, assuring me that although we were both badly injured, my mother was alive.
I was four years old, dressed in a bright red coat my mother had made for me, and although I was so afraid, I stayed in the chair. Of course, I didn’t realize at the time that it was God talking to me, that the Holy Spirit stood beside me and my fear and stayed close until my father found me.
When the medical staff realized that a small child sat unattended in the far corner, I remember a lot of shouting. As I said: chaos ruled. Nurses wheeled me into a different treatment room where my injuries were finally addressed. Soon both of us, my beautiful mother, bleeding and broken, every bone in her face, plus a compound fracture of her left arm, went off to surgery.
Most of all of me, from my chest down―my lower back, pelvis, arms, hands, ribs, legs and feet―were broken or crushed. But after ten hours in the operating room, they fixed me up. Almost.
It would take a team of doctors and nurses three more trips to the operating room over the next few weeks to fix everything, but finally, they wrapped me in a full–body cast and hung me in traction attached to the ceiling to mend. Not quite.
My parents would learn that the room they first took me to had not been cleaned and was used to treat a child suffering from whooping cough who died that night.
Two weeks later, still hooked to the ceiling in traction, the doctors fought to lower my raging fever, keep my lungs from filling with fluid, supply oxygen as I often turned blue, trying to keep me from dying from the dreaded Bordetella pertussis. But we were blessed. Mother and I got well. The woman and her son in the other car died that day rainy day.
Over the years, I have endured fifteen different surgeries as a direct result of that auto accident, but I needed one more. I’d put off doing what my doctor had advised me I would have to do eventually, which was an extensive operation to try and correct my twisted and deteriorating spine with bone grafts, rods, cross plates and a lot of nuts and
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bolts. I didn’t want to think about the outcome of this surgery. I’d convinced myself years ago that I could handle death. It was only the thought of ending up paralyzed that chilled my heart and mind.
You see, I’m a caregiver, but not a person willing to accept help. Although I realize it’s wrong to think like this, that’s who I am, so the thought of having someone help me in ways a paralyzed person might need would be too much to ask. This sounds so pathetic now, certainly not too bright.
But I am intelligent, also strong. I’ve survived the sudden death of my first husband of 43 years and the loss of my second son due to complications of his type 1 diabetes that caused renal failure, and finally death as he waited for a double transplant. His passing truly tested my resolve and stole the very breath from my soul.
I never shouted at God; I never asked why. As I remembered those terrible times, I had yet to know He would ask more of me. He would take my second husband and oldest son, but all that came later.
As I struggled with the anguish of deciding what to do regarding this newly required operation, I recall feeling so alone―my mind wandering, lost, unable to find my way―and solutions were as elusive as the comforting caress of a summer breeze in winter. Still, even in that bewildered state, I knew that answers are not always given to those who suffer, for that is the way of our Lord. He asks for our patience, our faith, all in good time.
Although pensive and afraid, I finally decided to move forward. I had to be realistic. I was almost seventy-two, not young but defiantly too young to spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair. I would have this new surgery.
My doctor and I set a date, but it was a month off as he needed time to gather his A-team. Now that I’d made my decision, I wanted it yesterday. I didn’t want to have time to think about it and maybe change my mind. You see, as it was that rainy day so many years ago, I was afraid of the unknown, and my fear consumed me.
I prayed. I read the bible, I asked God to guide me, but nothing helped. I tried to hide my worries, to move through the days as if nothing was wrong, but anguish found its way inside me and never left. It’d been a long time since I’d faced fear like this, so I pulled on a garment of false bravado and tried to pretend it didn’t exist.
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I told myself that I had to find a way to stay so busy that I could hide from this fear. Our church had started a program of knitting prayer shawls. I decided this would be good for me.
I bought yarn and began to knit and followed the directions that asked us to pray as we knitted. As I worked each day, I talked to this shawl. I made mistakes, some I ripped out, but others I just left, not able to get my heart into the job at hand.
As I knitted, I wondered about the person who might be given this shawl after I’d finished it and taken it to the church to be blessed. I prayed whoever received this garment might not see all the mistakes I’d made. I just hoped that it would offer warmth and comfort to someone in need even though it was not perfect, like our lives.
I had several chores to take care of before my surgery, an operation that would take over twelve hours. I tried not to think about how scared I was, knowing I had no other choice
I delivered my shawls to the church, several more in addition to the first one, and soon I was ready to move forward. On the day before my surgery, my pastor called and wanted to come to my home and pray with my husband and me.
When he walked in the front door, he carried a prayer shawl. He placed it on my lap and explained that the women of our church knitted these to give comfort and peace. I told him that I knew of the project and that I had made several shawls. In fact, I had made this one.
He didn’t know what to say, except that he would go back to the church and get another one for me. I said no, and clutched the soft purple and gray wool to my heart.
We talked a bit, we prayed together, and after he left, I knew that everything would be okay, no matter the outcome. I had searched for weeks for some sign that God had not left me, and here it was.
I was not afraid anymore, and just as His words of love and comfort gave strength to that little girl dressed in a bright red coat so long ago, the return of this shawl opened my heart and soul, and I knew I had found what had never actually been lost, only misplaced.
As Pastor Paul reached out among the many shawls to pick one for me, I knew that God guided his hand. God wrote our story, then gave us life, and along the way, He has
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asked us to travel many roads, some we might not have chosen ourselves. We have faced trials we did not want, carried burdens we did not wish to accept. However, one day we realize that the road we did not want is the one that has brought us to the place we need to be.
At times, the way we walk seems filled with fear, but when we need a hand, one is always there. When we cry out for courage, we find it, and as we wander, feeling so lost when asked to deal with our unfortunate situation, He touches our soul and helps us know that our burdens have a way of teaching us humility and how to be peaceful.
I may have misplaced my faith, but God never left my side. I know that my story, written so long ago, still reads the same as it did from the beginning, and although we don’t know what the ending will be, we should take joy in the journey because I know that I am where God wants me to be.
Life is a circle, and as we continually move about on this earth, not much is left to chance. God knew that when this shawl came back to me, I would remember my thoughts, how I’d hoped that it would not matter to someone in need that it was not perfect. I’d prayed that this shawl would offer peace and courage to someone who was afraid, someone who felt lost and had not trusted Him to take care of them, and it did.
To understand the mysteries of life, we cannot turn to the back of the book, hoping to know the ending; we must be content to live each day, one at a time, as we trust and believe.
I am blessed and loved. I know that no matter how many times I stumble or lose my way, my Lord is beside me. He continues to guide me to where I need to be, for I live His plan, not mine.