Smiling Through The Pain

Since this space went live for the world to see I have had many people reach out to me with incredible stories about the traumas they have suffered and how it has affected them.  Without giving energy to all the bad symptoms that accompany PTSD; the common thread I found between my experience and theirs is the strength we each found in those moments to save our own lives.

I want to tell you a true story about an incredible man I met in the hospital.  His name is Manny. He was the kind of man who would hand out everyone’s meal trays, refill our drinks, push a fellow patient’s wheelchair; he was a man focused on serving others. Even in this awful place he had found a way to look out for everyone around him. He had been in the hospital for over a month and everyone kind of looked to this man as the leader of our psych ward pack and we were an interesting crew let me tell you.  My second morning there I sat down to eat breakfast and as I began crying into my oatmeal he came over and sat across from me. He asked me why I was there in that sort of way you see play out in the movies about prison. Anyway, I shared my trauma and that I had been recently re-triggered.  He listened and comforted me the best he could.  Me, being the curious empathetic person I am, I turned the question back on him. Why was he here?

He began to tell me the most unbearable story. I am going to share it with you here. Unselfishly and so that those of you reading might take a moment to remember this man and his family in your prayers tonight. 

Manny had paid coyotes $15,000 to bring his wife, teenage son, 2 year old daughter, and father-in-law over from Mexico. It was all the money he had and he had worked for months to save it. When he went down to the Rio Grande (this happened along the Texas/Mexico border) to collect his loved ones the coyotes began demanding more money from him. Unable to pay them he stood along the banks of the river and watched as those men shot and killed his precious family and threw their bodies into the water. Naturally, as any of us would, Manny ended up needing extreme psych help and that’s why he was sitting before me.

As Manny told me his story I couldn’t believe he had made it.  He was still alive and sharing his pain with me. I don’t know if I could be so brave.  He was smiling remembering them. He had lost his life before his eyes and he was consoling me! 

This incredible story reminds me all the time that the pain could be worse. That I could be Manny. 

The day he left the hospital; he left with nothing but the clothes on his back. He was moving into a half-way house till he could get back on his feet and he left happy for his new chance at life. 

We all have a story. We all have pain. We all have a choice to keep living with these demons hanging over us or we can choose to be like Manny and keep our chin up, walk with our head held high, and smile. 

Thank you Manny for changing my outlook that day, for helping me count my blessings, and for inspiring me to keep living for my family.