20200117-law-hill-col

Stephanie Hill/The Lawrence Herald

"'Sarah'” wore fuzzy socks just like my daughter sports in the winter months," says Stephanie Hill. "I pray and hope that 'Sarah' will be comforted during this time of difficulty and may she be surrounded by love and peace as if she were wrapped in a warm, fuzzy blanket."

“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul — and sings the tunes without words — and never stops at all.” — Emily Dickinson

“Hope is an adventure, a going forward, a confident search for a rewarding life.” — Dr. Karl Menninger

It was her pink fuzzy socks with the swath of white encircling the top of her long ankle that kept drawing my attention — well, the socks and her face — imploring, seeking, and open.

Those socks spoke of youth, vibrancy, and a healthy need for warmth — except that the weather was quirky for winter and, on this particular day, the temperature was exceptionally warm. Plus, this was a warm yoga class with the temperature set at 85 degrees. Still, it wasn’t unusual for people to prefer to practice yoga in socks rather than bare feet.

In direct contrast with the cute socks and her youthful visage framed by long locks, the shade of flax intermingled with goldenrod, were her eyes, that darted, jumped, and searched.

Her energy was frenetic and animated. It appeared that she spoke with the entirety of her body.

In fact, she needed little invitation to talk as one small question seemed to release the valve to the unseen dam within her soul.

My level of empathy and compassion are part blessing and curse. When someone is truly suffering, I can feel it emanating off them as steam rises from the soup pot when the lid is removed. With age, I have tried to learn to develop emotional bubble wrap, especially when faced with angry, negative, or heartbroken energy. Try as I might to seal myself insides off, like the scent of garbage drippings that cling to blacktop in the summer, long after the truck has collected the refuse, so often do other’s emotional dross sink into me leaving me affected for hours and even days.

Thus, when the girl with the pink socks, that I shall name Sarah for the sake of this story, began talking, it was as if offshoots of her pain gradually began to stretch and grow within me. Her story came out as quickly as an overturned cup of wine; and, just as swiftly as that proverbial glass of wine, it had rapidly and permanently stained her life. Without revealing too much, her husband had been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer for which he had undergone one radical and brutal treatment after another. It had been exactly a year since his initial diagnosis, and now, she explained, hospice had been called in. The couple wasn’t yet in their third decade of life, and they had two young children!

As I write Sarah’s story, I can still feel her sadness and anxiety deeply within my gut. Sarah was taking a yoga class that I was teaching. It was a recent visit to her doctor that had prompted Sarah to yoga. The doctor, she reported, wanted to prescribe numerous medications to help reduce her anxiety. Sarah had refused, and instead, decided to give yoga a try.

“My mind is never still. It won’t settle; it is so restless. I can’t pray anymore.”

She went on to explain that she was hoping that yoga would help her quiet her mind, so that she could, once more, meditate and pray. Ironically, the theme of my class on that particular day was focused on the fact that health encompasses more than just the physical body, but it also includes the well-being of the mind and spirit. Additionally, I had planned to read a short passage explaining that one of the traditional purposes of yoga was not only to strengthen the body and make it more supple; but ultimately, to quiet the mind, so that afterwards, one could sit and meditate and/or pray for extended periods. After hearing her story, I just wasn’t sure if this was the appropriate way to proceed, but I decided to give a try anyway.

And while this is an imperfect story, just as life is also rarely defect-free, Sarah did sit still, if only for a few moments, at the end of class. The other exercisers and I gathered around her afterwards. Sarah talked more, and we listened more. We looked at the pictures of her beautiful, and oh-so-young family. One person typed the correct spelling of her husband’s name into her phone, so his name could be added to the prayer-list at her church.

Meanwhile, I still keep thinking of those fuzzy pink socks, and I am reminded of my own daughter who loves to wear those types of socks in the winter. Like my own child, this young couple were once children of parents who loved and cared for them. How those parents must have envisioned their children’s future with such hope and promise. Most likely, those same parents must have felt that same hope rising when the young couple were married, and even more so with the birth of each child — -their precious grandchildren.

I can’t understand this story; I only feel the pain, the hidden hurt of this child with her pink fuzzy socks; the beautiful strands of her wavy, tousled hair; her darting eyes; and all of her words — pouring out of her soul in search of the path of least resistance like excessive rain water travels down hill. However, for this child — there is no path of least resistance — she traverses a path few would want to trudge.

As I write her story, I think of all the events in my life for which I could complain, I could whine, and snivel. In fact, I could write a tale or two of woeful, personal tragedy, but those stories would be nothing, nothing compared to Sarah with the pink socks. Wherever she is, may she somehow be comforted, her pain lessened, and I further pray that her mind will find peace, so that she can focus on being a mom who is full of hopes and dreams for her own two children as well as herself.