meeting every facebook friend means i get surprised sometimes, by an unexpected hobby or talent, by a challenge someone faces with courage and grace, by a secret heretofore unknown. yesterday, i was surprised by something awful i did thirty one years ago. something i have only recently been forgiven for.
i went to naperville north high school and was friends with bonnie bradlee. bonnie was funny, bright, and we “got” each other. she also didn’t seem to mind the strictures mrs. patrick put on my life–i couldn’t see friends outside of school. bonnie and i shared books, ideas, and we both had dreams. bonnie wanted to join the army. i was a princess who had been put up for adoption to shield me from enemies of the throne and one day i wanted to reclaim that country, whatever it was. i sure hoped it was an english speaking country, because i wasn’t doing very well in french class.
at the end of our sophomore year, things came to a boil in the patrick household. i ran away from home. i dropped out of high school. i was briefly in a juvenile detention center and was also briefly in a psyche ward full of other runaways. i ended up dropping out of high school and studied at north central college. that journey is a long one but the story here is about bonnie.
she finished high school. was rejected by the army–from all the branches of the military–because she has poor hearing in one ear. she was crushed. her life was spiraling. she even contemplated suicide. she asked me for help. i was nineteen and unsure of what was the best thing, but i knew dr. schwarz, the psychiatrist from the psyche ward i had spent two months in. i took her to see schwarz. schwarz immediately advised hospitalization, saying he was sure that her depression was a life threatening matter. i helped bonnie get admitted to the hospital. then she gave me her apartment key and told me to clean up her stuff. especially anything drug related, as her father was a police officer.
but my idea of cleaning was to basically to get rid of just about anything. a full apartment became a few garbage bags of stuff.
bonnie got out of the hospital at some point. i don’t really remember anything about our interactions then–in particular she recalls our last meeting as being very tense and i don’t remember it at all. i graduated college and moved to chicago. she worked at a variety of jobs and cared for her parents. five years ago she came to christ. or perhaps christ came to her. she is a happy, beautiful, settled woman who celebrates everyday the gift of salvation. she has also forgiven me. until yesterday when i saw her, i didn’t realize that i needed her forgiveness. i am grateful for that.
although she was upset with me, she was surprised herself by the fact that her hospitalization had a benefit that came to others. a few years ago, she was at a christian retreat. she was taking a few moments to dance in the rain, a celebration of her love for christ. as she finished dancing she noticed that she was being observed by a woman who was in obvious distress. the woman explained she had just gotten out of a hospital where she had been treated for addiction. her life was a mess because her husband was still a user. bonnie was able to use the experience of having been in a psyche hospital to relate to this woman. bonnie got help for her. it was a turn around for the woman, indirectly made possible by bonnie’s life experiences, directly made possible by bonnie’s generous nature.
i know i’m going to be surprised again, sometimes in ways that will make me feel bad about myself. for a few hours after i saw bonnie, i had a case of the guilts. did that hospitalization do more harm than good? was my scorched earth policy on her apartment a bad thing? had i caused bonnie to get off course in her life? this morning i’m trying to forgive myself. that might take a while.
make sure to meet bonnie yourself at menjesus.wordpress.com!!!!
March 13th, 2011 at 5:13 pm
Beautiful story. An inspiration for Lent.
March 14th, 2011 at 1:13 am
We often have the most difficulty forgiving ourselves. Arlynn, please forgive yourself. As you said, what you did, you did from a place of deep love for me, and like you say above, we were both 19…. nuff said.
Now, to my feelings of guilt, and my prayer that you will forgive me, as I’m not entirely sure I’ve been able to completely forgive myself. — To the best of my recollection, if I was not the last person you came to before you ran away, I was among the last. You asked me for help, but I “had to get to class.” For years, now, I have wondered how things might have been different if I had done SOMETHING to respond to your plea for help then. It’s been a long time coming, but I do hope you can forgive me for that.
Blessings to you and this project and the love and the healing for so many that will come from in in ways we can never know.
March 14th, 2011 at 3:06 am
bonnie, it was incredible to see you this weekend!!!! i admire you so much and i want to come back to visit your church and to get another pedicure with tim crawford (see later post). but let’s forgive ourselves for being, hey, nineteen!! xxoo
April 8th, 2011 at 12:39 pm
[…] way. Just as God used my experiences from decades ago, related by my friend, Arlynn, in her blog (https://arlynnpresser.wordpress.com/2011/03/13/thirty-one-years-ago-i-did-something-awful-but-now-im-…), I think He used Jonah’s disobedience to get the attention of these sailors. Our God is an […]