This is the concluding part of Once Upon A Time Of Feet And Painted Toenails.
“You have a right to be angry.”
“You have a right to be angry.”
“With whom?” I queried in my heart, staring blankly over the shoulders of the Psychiatrist and her assistant standing by my bedside.
The doctors have done the audit. Nobody could explain what went wrong. There was no negligence reported or indicated. So who was I supposed to be angry with? God? I mused, still not saying a word.
“It is important to express your emotions. You can grieve about this. Talk to us.”
“I don’t have anything to say.” I looked straight at her and smiled. “I have asked all the questions I can ask the doctors about this.”
“What is the point of talking with you? What can you do for me? What comfort can you offer me?”
“I'm Ok. I am taking one day at a time.” I told her. They went on about my need to talk. They thought I was in denial. I even found out that they put me on a low dose of anti-depressant. They thought because I wasn’t talking to them I was depressed and not dealing with the issue. They asked the nurse who had known me the longest during my ten years of frequent sojourn on that ward to come and talk to me.
She tried. And I could see that she was visibly upset that I was not opening up to her. So I said to her, “J'ai décidé depuis longtemps que je ne jamais renouncer l’espoir. Mon espoir est à mon Dieu.” I made up my mind a long time ago that I will never give up on hope, and I was not going to start now. It was on that note that she left me alone.
I repeated the same to the Psychiatrist when she came back to see me, and begged her to stop the medication. I told her I did not need it. Hope is my anti-depressant. This was strictly between me and God. The doctors can’t answer the questions running all over my head. But God surely understands where I am coming from when I cry out to Him in the dead of the night when there was not one near to hear my cry.
I finally got myself to hold my stumps. I cradled them in my hands. I looked at what is left of my legs. Tears laced my eyes. I blinked them away. I will not cry, I told myself. Nothing prepares you for this. Not once in my almost 47 years before that day, did I ever imagine I could be at this phase of life as an amputee. It is at such times that you know you have to make an active and deliberate decision to tap into the grace of God that is readily available and sufficient sustain you.
Graham Kendrick's song, To You, O Lord I lift up my soul, from Psalm 25 floated back into my spirit. The lyrics ministered to me.
No one whose hope is You will ever be put to shame.
That’s why my eyes are on You O Lord
Surround me, defend me
O how I need You
To You O Lord I lift up my soul
My hope is in God. I cannot be put to shame because God will defend me and surround me with His love and mercy. I will not be ashamed of my body. If I am not ashamed of me, then nobody can make me feel ashamed of my body. I will not play the victim. I will not, by the grace of God, be a subject of pity. If I keep my head and my spirit high, no one will be able to pity me or my situation.
The psychotherapist working with amputees came and sat with me several afternoons. She had tried to talk to me before the amputation. I was not ready to listen to what she had to say. And I refused to read the information materials. She was resilient. She did not push me to talk. She just wanted me to know that I have to deal with the change in my body image.
Let me note here, if you are ever with someone who has lost a limb, please don’t ever tell the person that there are many people living with missing limbs and doing great. “Why do I have to be one of them?” was my reaction. That is not what an amputee wants to hear, certainly not in the beginning when the person has to adjust emotionally to a body with conspicuously missing parts.
This lady waited until I was ready to talk about the change in my body. Then she supported me and my family to get all the information we needed to cope with our new definition of normal. Then, they arranged for us to watch a video of people living with amputation. We watched it as a family there in the hospital. We were able to ask more questions. It helped us a family to do this together.
But none of these prepared me for the day, I was going to have my first fitting with the prosthetic limbs. I sat on my wheelchair in the open waiting room. It was summer. Every single lady who walked past me on the corridor was wearing dainty slippers showing off their beautifully manicured toenails. It felt like an orchestrated parade to taunt me. I felt as if the enemy was flashing in my face what I had lost and would not be able to do again. Pain and grief welled up from within me. My slippers at home flashed before my sight.
Tears laced my eyes again. I blinked them off. I will not cry here. No, I will not!
A few days earlier, I had struggled with my emotions as the physiotherapist told me that my new feet were to be customized to a fixed angle which will allow me to wear only shoes only 2-3cm high. They strongly recommended sneakers for security as it would clad the entire foot and help me to maintain my balance.
“What? Only one type of shoes every day?” I screamed at them. “That is not possible. I can’t wear sneakers seven days of the week!” They explained to me why I needed to wear shoes with sturdy and broad heels.
“It is for your safety. You have to maintain your balance. You must not fall.”
I am a Yoruba woman. Who wears sneakers with wrappers and long skirts? What was I going to do with all my shoes? I simply refused to accept sneakers as an option. They refused to accept my low-heeled pumps because they were not completely covered, and my feet could slip out of them. Finally, they agreed to the pair of shoes I used on field trips and visits to communities when I was working with UNICEF. They were completely covered with a zipper but 4cm high. They customized my feet for this shoes. This was my only pair of shoes for months. Much later, we went to shops with measuring tape until my husband found me broad-heeled shoes with the same height and a bit dressier.
I shared in Make The Next Move Forward what it was like the first day I tried on my prosthetic limbs.
I knew I had to let go of my shoes. It would be a torture to keep them. Why keep them and moan over them if they can be a blessing to others? So when I got back home from the hospital, I brought all my shoes out. I had a farewell party with them. I gave thanks to God for the joy of having them and asked God to make them a blessing to all those who would wear them for me. We bagged the shoes, many of them with their bags, and with joy and peace in my heart, I released them to go to my friends. I pleaded with a number of them to wear them for me. But I could not let go of my oldest pair of shoes—my first set of purple shoes. That remains a memento of the days of passion for shoes.
I went in search of photographs of my legs, only to find that most of the time, my legs were covered in long skirts, trousers and wrappers. Those in which I was wearing short skirts were not showing my legs or painted toenails. Who goes out of their way to take photographs of their legs and painted toenails? Then, I found the photograph taken at my first son’s high school graduation. It turned out to be the best picture of my old legs. It was a gift from God. He knew I needed to see those legs again in their former glory. The last time I saw them as such was when I stood up and changed into the theatre gown before my lungs transplantation. It was also the last time I stood on them.
I perused every detail of my legs. But rather than be sorrowful, my heart lifted with joy. I bless God for every single step I took with those legs. I blessed Him for all the opportunities He gave me to go places with them. I thank God for the time I had with them. They have fulfilled their assignment and have gone home ahead of me. The season of painted toenails and dainty slippers was over. It was great fun while it lasted. Like a dear sister wrote to me, there await me a glorious pair of legs when I get to heaven.
Feet of Grace 2015 Charity Walk_Hit The Street For Their Feet:
Join me / Support me to walk 5km to raise funds for amputees that they may walk again.