Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Abandonment and Compassion

Abandonment and Compassion
Knowing what to do in my situation was difficult. Naive to a fault, I did not know which end was up. Nothing in my life had prepared me for the predicament in which I now found myself. A muddy vortex was pulling at me as I fought to find a way out, if only to survive with my wits about me. My husband had disappeared just days before and I did not know what to do. Abandonment, an ugly thing, harder than anything I had yet experienced. It was as if time stood still with me adrift not going anywhere but needing to deal with the problems now confronting me. My husband was the one who did the banking, earned the paycheck, was the family provider. I was a full-time mom, taking care of our two little ones at ages fourteen months and three years. The emotional pain was horrendous, there was nothing quite like this, a total devastation with a strange sense of unreality. Never in my wildest dreams had I dreamed of this scenario nor believed this was possible. 

The unknowns were as bad as the knowns. Financial matters were of major concern. Protecting what few assets I had seemed a priority. Who would I turn to? The blanket of grief covering my being made it a slog to even think through my needs or what to do next. The thought of being around people was unnerving. It was too easy to cry and too hard to stop, immobilizing action, inhibiting a rebound response to the difficulty. The worries and fears began to mount, I didn't know what was going on with my husband, what he was doing. I decided to make an appointment with an attorney who attended my church, the only attorney I knew. I hoped he would give me some direction for my predicament..

This is embarrassing, I was thinking as the attorney listened intently while my story spilled out—a moment in time that stands out in my memory. I remember the dress I was wearing, a simple cotton summer dress with ties on the shoulders, a Hawaiian print I had sewn in recent weeks. I told him that my husband had left us, I didn’t know where he was or what was going to happen. I didn’t know how he was surviving or what money he was using. What if he was running up bills?  I told him my concern, “What should I be doing to protect myself for the “what-ifs” that the future might hold?” I asked him about a legal separation, how it works and that type of thing. 

 We talked about my financial situation, some monies from a legacy that I had fiercely protected during the hard times of my marriage. I didn’t want to lose this money since it was my only financial security and source of income. I trusted him to be straight with me. I needed guidance from an impartial person who knew the law and its implications. He and I had never conversed beyond a momentary greeting until that consultation visit.  It was hard for me to tell him what was going on. I felt exposed, naked, uncertain, and shaken, vulnerable. My dignity and calmness felt assaulted by my current situation, my composure was easily dismantling. Being a shy person made the thing extra difficult. I brought my Kleenex but made it through okay, there was a measure of quiet strength within me that seemed to kick in during our meeting. I am sure as he listened he sensed my inner anguish and uncertainty.

The attorney did not react to my statements nor make any comments that were judgmental in content. He knew my husband but he refrained from speaking ill of him. His eyes were kind, like that of a good father. He assured me that I would be fine, I would get through this. Then he began giving me some advice on ways I could protect myself. I sensed his compassion behind his professional demeanor. After asking a few questions to clarify, I thanked him and left. Later on I would implement his suggestions. They proved to be wise, protecting me from greater losses in the financial realm many years down the road. I was grateful for his kindness to me.

For days I waited for the attorney's bill to arrive, but it never came. A couple of months later, I realized that he had given me of his time and there would be no charge, no bill in the mail, his simple act of charity toward me causing me to weep, his thoughtfulness deeply appreciated. I had not asked for any special circumstances but he had given me a gift which showed me that he cared. His act of kindness, by not charging me for his professional advice, meant so much during those dark days that seemed so bleak. In time I heard from my husband, flew across the country to see him, and then returned to my home without him. The future still uncertain and gut-wrenching difficult. I checked the stack of mail that had compiled during my absence. Still no bill. It was then that I decided to write a note to the attorney thanking him for his help and generosity, his kindness to me.

As I write this, twenty-seven years have come and gone. This past week in a conversation with a friend, she happened to mention this attorney. My memory of that visit to his office returned. I remembered his kindness toward me so long ago. My tears came to the surface while I told her about this man’s helpfulness and compassion he had shown to me when I needed it so desperately when my world unraveled before me. In his own way, this man had shown his concern those many years before. One never forgets such things especially during those hard times in life when we are in a world of hurt and not able to function well or think clearly. A thank you is still upon my lips.
Norma Brumbaugh Wieland
-an excerpt, A Quiet Grace
Author:  The Meeting Place

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