History Writers Workshop came to Love & Lunch, the women’s support group I facilitate through IVC. The workshop facilitator, Sylvia, was bilingual and smoothly switched from English to Spanish and back as she assured that all the participants could understand one another. Women had been coming together since September, sharing their written stories with each other.
The process is to find yourself at some moment in your life, not the beginning, and write about it. Who is there, what are they saying, how are you feeling, where are you.
I listened carefully as “Linda” tearfully read her story in Spanish of her abuse as a child. She progressed to her abuse at the hands of her child’s father. She did not want to happen to her daughters what had happened to her as she grew up, and she witnessed her father’s violence against her mother which progressed to violence against her brother and finally herself.
In Linda’s story, her children’s father, “Roc”, hit and hurt her in the presence of her children. Someone heard the fighting on the phone and called 911. The police came to the house as she fled after Roc kicked her out with her 2 daughters in the winter, coatless, and the police called her by name. “I didn’t know anyone would help me.” Roc was escorted from the apartment and Linda and her children were reinstated.
“I was strong enough not to let him back in because of Luisa, because of this group. When I came to this group my youngest daughter was 1 year old, and she is now seven. My self-esteem was very low. I was always sad and depressed. The violence happened when my youngest was 2. Because of the support I had, when he was coming to the door and my girls were crying with fear, I did not let him back in.”
We were doing what we had originally intended to do, mentoring and accompanying women in pain, distress, confusion and under duress. We were creating and being loving family for those whose family turn their back or are far away. Linda had a choice. She was no longer alone.
I was shocked to hear my name in her story. I had not called the police or gone to her house to rescue her. I had not had him arrested or solved her life. I had simply supported her and encouraged others to support her. I had only invited women to come together in a place far from home and love one another. I had only spoken my best Spanish and listened deeply to broken hearts which were speaking a very familiar language.
On November 29 of 2014, her older daughter, Angela, celebrated her Quinceneras, her 15th birthday. Angela invited me to be the “Godmother of the ring”. Apparently there is a dress godmother, a shoe godmother, etc. Sounds a little like a fairy tale. And the day of the celebration was very much like a fairy tale for me.
I have no children, but I found myself on the altar, holding a ring box. The priest asked me to open it, and he blessed the ring with holy water, praying in recognition of the heart shaped ruby representing all the love that Angela had received to his moment, and was to give and receive with this turning point in her life.
At the party, I danced with Angela in her swooshing and gorgeous dress and her glittering tiara. She said, “I could not have done it without you.” I was surprised to hear this teen telling this old lady that I was that much a part of her life. I understood it was more than the ring, it was all the times we had been family for one another. My heart was so full at that moment, full of love and gratitude for this beautiful and gracious young woman, for the group that made this all possible, and for the peace and joy beyond all understanding that was flowing into my heart at that moment. Our lives would have been so much poorer without one another.
Back in the group, one of the new women, “Allegria”, said she has suffered from depression every Christmas for as long as she can remember. This Christmas time is different. Allegria is not depressed. She has noticed that on Wednesday she starts to feel happy that we will meet on Thursday. A new happiness. A new freedom.
So simple. Gather women for love, lunch, support, learning and growing, and watch God work. Relax as the healing happens. Invite the love into the meeting, and magnify it.
“Crystal” was at the meeting with her newborn. We had given her a baby shower which she almost missed because she was bleeding. She left the baby shower with a car full of gifts and went directly to the doctor. Now here was her new son, looking very much like baby Jesus. A new life. We took turns holding him as he slept. Precious and unconditionally loved by a bunch of Godmothers. Prayed into life.
Louise M. Sandberg is a IVC Spiritual Reflector and Volunteer, as Director of the Mary & Elizabeth Center which reaches out to women in need on Long Island, NY. She is a pediatric home care nurse and facilitates Wildflower groups for women healing from childhood abuse, praying for healing of feelings and memories.