The Innate Healer (and what to do when you cannot help)

I shivered in the cold, forced air of the dim hospital room and pulled my shawl tighter around my shoulders.  I listened to the ominous drone of the heart monitor.  He finally fell asleep.  I watched my child, now a man, lay there in the hospital bed with the flimsy covers upon his slight frame, barely covering his tattooed arms.  His dark hair pressed to the side of his face.  His brow still furrowed from pain.  My baby.  I pulled the covers up around him a bit more and held my breath so not to let the pressing tears release.  Breathe.

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I am considered an expert in my field.  I can tell you about hundreds of local plants, their medicinal properties, growing conditions, contraindications, their uses, how to prepare them, and how to heal nearly every ailment there is.  I am an herbalist, a medicine woman, a plant girl, a lover of nature, a great believer in the original medicine, and a skeptic of modern medicine.  And yet, all the herbal knowledge in the world could not help me as I stood on that cold tile floor.

“Help me, Mom!” he screamed over the phone before I got there.  He went in to the emergency room for a fever and back pain and the hospital gave him a spinal tap.  They missed.  Three times.  Spinal fluid pooled into his lower back and created more pain than my child could handle without madness.  But he was in the hospital now, so it was too late, I could not help.  Except to pull the blankets over his arms to cover the goosebumps.  To kiss his head.

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A few weeks later- last weekend- I stood by the bedside of my grandmother, whose tall, thin frame was dwarfed by the hospital bed and flimsy covers.  The drone of the heart monitor and the bustling of nurses outside the door filled the large, cool space.  My beloved grandma had fallen and just had a partial hip replacement.  Again, I could do nothing but watch her sleep.  My children came.  They gathered in the room and talked wildly, trying to catch up on events since the last time they had seen each other.  My new granddaughter was passed around.  Smiles and laughter filled the space as grandma would slowly open her eyes and look around and grin.  So much life that came from her.

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I am a healer.  We are all healers, especially women.  Any of us would take care of an injured frog, or a stranger, or try to bring life back into someone with warm soup or a hug.  Anxiety fills our chest as we feel the pain of others, see their worries, the punched feeling in the stomach when we know we can do nothing.  That is why so many of us become healers.  We have to do something. 

I have learned that the only thing I can do in cases when no one asks for my help, or I simply cannot help, is to release the outcome.  They might die.  They might not be able to change their life.  They may still have lessons to learn.  They are choosing other options.  They are their own decision makers.  They might be paralyzed.  They might…oh the possibilities of tragedy are endless.  And there we are… trying to save the world.  Sometimes we just cannot help.  Once you can release the outcome, you can then breathe and be there to give love and support or to pull the covers up over chilled arms.  We must release what we cannot control or it will control us.  Give it back to the powers that be.  We can only help ourselves and do what we can for others.

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My husband looked so pale.  A colorless sheen crossed his face as he came out of surgery a few days ago.  (It’s been quite a month, y’all.)  I had released all outcomes.  Whatever happened, happened.  But here he was, smiling dopily from the morphine drip, and a long overdue hernia surgery complete.  At home, I help him in any way I can.  He asks me for help.  I can help him.  I give him my own antibiotics and pain medicines along with his prescribed pain pills.  I make him teas for his digestion and tend to his wounds and bruises.  I am so much better when I feel like I can do something.

Sometimes we can help, sometimes we cannot.  My neighbor called me after badly spraining her ankle yesterday.  I took over some muscle healer and she was at the dog park by the afternoon.

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I feel like it is a very good idea to have some basic knowledge of herbal medicine.  Everyone should know what herbs heal wounds, fight infections, handle pain, and heal.  I currently have two books on this subject on Amazon.  The Herbalist Will See You Now; Your Complete Training Guide to Becoming and Working as an Herbalist and The Homesteader’s Pharmacy; the Complete Guide to Creating Your Own Herbal Pharmacy.

They may just give you one more outlet in which you can help yourself and others.

 

In Hilda’s Farmhouse

20180802_152433As I carefully unwrapped each fragile teacup, each plate, I was overwhelmed with emotion.  Each dish is over a hundred years old, hand painted from Denmark, and so beautiful.  How did the young newlywed, the new farm wife, feel as she carefully unwrapped such fine things on her wedding?  A hundred years separates and joins us in a flash of a tea cup.

My beautiful friend, Kat (whom I called mom) had a great love of history, and homesteading, and family.  She knew that I might be the only one to appreciate such things as old linens, and wind up clocks, and this and that, and so for each holiday I was gifted with heirlooms.  Hilda was her grandmother, a farm wife in Iowa and in my home I have her things.  I have never met her but we are connected through time as farm wives.  As women.  As housewives.  We are connected by our love of Kat and by the material things she used that carry memories and love.

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Gunhilda was her given name, but she always went by Hilda.  Her family was Danish and her husband was from Denmark.  A darling looking man named Jorgen, or George once he came to the states.  They were married in 1918 when Hilda was twenty-three years old.

I have read her old postcards often.  I am fascinated by her friends’ scripts and brief notations.  How sweet to receive such correspondence on a snowy day.

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I put on one of the aprons that Hilda made.  They are starting to fray but they are sturdy and lovely in their simple way.  A good sized pocket to gather eggs.

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I will make tea for the ladies that might come by for a visit.  Just as she would have done in that farmhouse past the rows of corn a hundred years ago and just as women will do a hundred years from now.  We are all connected by that nurturing spirit, love of family and community, and of simple things like hand painted dishes so fine.

The Life of a Healer- Part 3 (the darkest hour always passes)

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The fire didn’t catch and the raging husband grew bored and went to break other things.  He would regularly destroy Wildflower’s things, her paintings, writings, photographs, anything within reach.  During this time Wildflower was very confused, for she had never experienced anything like this and it all seemed quite odd to her.  Abuse is when someone hits you, right?  This was not like that.  It seldom is, she would later learn.  It almost always starts with signs of anger, lowering the victim’s self-esteem, estranging her from family, calling names, throwing things, yelling in their face…and then it escalates.  Wildflower got through those particular few months while she was pregnant with her baby girl by praying fervently.

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She remembered the year before when she was at a church and her asthma had been healed.  She had been working for an animal shelter and was taught incorrectly when mixing chemicals to clean and a horrid case of chemical asthma ensued.  The company did not tell her about workman’s compensation and was pleased when she decided to give up the job because she couldn’t breathe.  Many trips to the hospital, nights trying to catch her breath, she now found herself sitting in that church, unbeknownst to her of what would occur, the pastor began naming off people and ailments and even though he didn’t speak to her, she could feel her lungs healing and from then on the asthma was gone.  She often wondered why God had chosen to heal her twice of horrible ailments.

During those dark hours, locked in a bedroom, locked out in the snow with her son, dodging things being thrown at her, wondering why he was so angry at her, wondering what she had done, she listened to tapes from that church and in a month or so he went into a nice phase.  This happens quite often too, she later learned, there is always a make up phase.  Roses, apologies, will never happen again.  When couples that had been married a long time would tell Wildflower, “We have been through some tough times but we made it!” she thought they meant what she was going through.  Half of her family had already been isolated by the raging husband and the other half didn’t believe her.  She no longer had any friends.  Only her little boy, who meant everything to her.

During the nice phase the little girl with the big blue eyes was born and then another.  A little red head.  Beautiful as the other two.  The raging husband and the doctor decided that Wildflower was having too many children and she was wheeled into an operating room after giving birth to the red head and was no longer able to have children.  She didn’t feel like she had a choice.

Over the next few years Wildflower lost her identity.  She loved modeling and was very successful after the little red head was born.  But after awhile she opened her own company and struggled to make it work.  The raging husband saw that several of the models were exotic dancers.  They made several hundred dollars a night and he decided Wildflower should do that, just once so that they could get caught up on bills.  Just once.  She did not want to go but he told her it would be her fault if they ended up losing everything.  Just once turned into three years as every time she tried to quit, his tyrannical rages and guilt trips convinced her to stay.

There were bright lights in this time though.  One was her cousin, Faith, who began dancing with her.  It became a game.  They put on fake eyelashes and hair extensions.  Lots of beautiful makeup and pretty clothes, and since they were both real dancers, would make it a real show and have fun.  They both acted like ladies and did not do anything that would be considered in bad taste (except, perhaps, the dancing!).  Wildflower spent most of the time each evening listening.  Most of the people that were there were widows, divorcees, older gentleman who just wanted someone to talk to.  Wildflower learned to listen and console.  Her job became listening to and comforting the lonely.

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Over those years at the house of the raging husband, unbeknownst to everyone else, there was terrible unrest.  Wildflower was so fearful of losing her children and animals if anyone learned what was going on.  She lied to the veterinarian.  She said that her cat had fallen out of a window by accident because she was afraid if the vet found out that he had been thrown down the stairs and had his leg broken she would arrange to take all of her animals away.  Cats were being thrown against walls.  Wildflower’s beloved childhood cat often hurt.  Dogs hurt.  Horrible names were replacing Wildflower’s name.  Rapes.  Volatile outbursts.  And worst of all, silence.  After a day in the hospital following a particularly harsh fight, after her head had been repeatedly slammed into a headboard and her arm twisted around her body until she was certain it would snap, she called the police.  Her only thought was escape… but could she?

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