When Sue and I discussed which picture to use to illustrate this post, she said, ” I think a beautiful picture of our trees alongside your new office works for me – they feel like “life” to me.” The first time I saw these trees I felt their magical quality – it’s what Eckhart Tolle describes as the sanctity of trees. Sue fell in love with them the minute she arrived.
Last night I attended the final performance of a play called, “I have Life”. It’s based on a book of the same name. The story takes place in South Africa. One night in 1994 Allison was abducted from outside her apartment by two men. They drove her to a deserted spot in Port Elizabeth where they raped her. They decided to kill her to prevent her from identifying them. They slit her throat and disembowelled her. They stabbed her numerous times and left her for dead. But Allison was not dead. She describes (with not a hint of bitterness or irony) the miracles that took place for her that night.
Firstly it was uncharacteristically warm for that time of the year and so she didn’t die of exposure. As these disgusting men left they threw her clothes out of the car. She was able to use her denim shirt to carry her intestines as she dragged herself and crawled towards the main road. The moon was particularly bright that night which made it possible for her to find her way from this remote spot to the main road. Before they cut her throat they strangled her and she emptied her bowels and had that not happened her intestines would have burst. Despite having her throat cut they did not cut her vocal chords so she can still speak and in the stabbing they “accidentally” performed a tracheotomy which allowed her to keep breathing. Despite literally gutting her they missed all her vital organs – her heart, kidneys, liver, or gall bladder. She lay in the middle of the road aware that she may be run over instead of saved. The car that stopped had in it a student who had just finished one year of veterinary science but he had the fundamentals of anatomy and was able to assist her. His friends phoned for an ambulance and they waited FOUR HOURS for that ambulance to arrive. Shame on South Africa for that!! However when she arrived at the hospital a highly skilled thoracic surgeon was on duty and Allison is alive today.
Allison admits that in the early days of her recovery she struggled with a measure of self-pity and agonised over “why me?” She was clearly traumatized and struggled to make sense of the incident and her life. Today Allison is a well-known speaker on gender based violence, abuse and a motivational speaker. She is married and has two wonderful children. Because it was the final night of the performance Allison arrived in person. That was a treat.
Allison talks about the A, B, C’s of her life. They are that Attitude, Belief, and Choice is what defines one’s life. By the way, the two men who were responsible have been sentenced and hopefully will never find their way back to the streets –ever. The most outstanding sentence of the night for me was that if she had a choice to eliminate that incident from her life she would not choose that. She says the incident has given her life meaning and has amplified her love of life.
What can we learn from this remarkable woman? I have learnt that I can choose my attitude and I have decided to choose an attitude of appreciation for all that I have and stop looking at all that I don’t have. Choose an attitude and start to discipline yourself to perfect it.
Allison believes in miracles because she saw them happen all night. Her mother believed in miracles. When they got Allison to the hospital she had enough strength to write down her mother’s phone number. When the hospital phoned, her mother phoned a friend and began a prayer group that 1000 people strong in almost no time despite the fact that it was now at 4.30 in the morning. When her daughter had the power of prayer with her she left for the hospital. There was not a moment that Allison or her mother thought to reprimand God or have a crisis of faith. They had belief.
Allison is not saying that only people who believe in God will find miracles. Allison is saying that every person needs to hold a set of beliefs. These are our foundations stones through a crisis. Belief in something that is true to you, and is the anchor in a troubled sea. She has spoken to international audiences who hold varying beliefs, of different religions, or no religions. A firm belief in something is a foundation stone around which you build a life.
I hold with the belief that we need to do some of the hard work ourselves first and then we get the assistance we need. Allison crawled and dragged her gutted, bleeding body out of the bushes in search of her survival. Many of us feel that we don’t get the help we need but I must ask if we do enough crawling and dragging to help ourselves first.
Allison talks of her conscious choice to drag herself and crawl to the main road, grasping her intestines in her dirty denim shirt. She remembers leaving her body and looking at it and then choosing to go back because she felt her life was unfinished. Allison chose life. After she chose life, she chose to speak out against rape and help other women know they had nothing to be ashamed of. She chose to speak out against brutality and to help people find meaning in the most shocking circumstances.
Allison didn’t say it was easy. She went back to that deserted spot over and over, seeking answers for why such a terrible thing had happened to a person who sought to have moral fibre as she had done. She feared that no other man would want her or that she would never be able to have a healthy sexual relationship. She suffered but today she is one of the world’s angels and it seems likely that wings only grow from suffering with grace.
Let us all learn something from Allison who chose life.
What are your A, B and C’s?
“Courage allowed her to transcend and transform a devastating experience into something positively life-affirming. Allison’s refusal to become a victim continues to inspire people all over the world”.
“No matter the circumstances, you always control your attitude, your beliefs and the choices you make” Allison.