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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Break (02/06/06)

TITLE: Shattered
By Jan Ackerson


A doctor in blue scrubs is holding up an x-ray, a picture of my daughter’s shattered spinal column. It shows a break of her twelfth thoracic vertebra. He launches into an explanation, using words like hyperextension and surgical fusion and extensive rehabilitation.

His words crash and ricochet against the interior walls of my empty skull; I have not grasped a thing past the word break. I conjugate the horrible verb. She breaks, she broke, she is broken.

She lies on a gurney, pale and quiet but fully conscious. Has she been told? She smiles, a beatific expression. “I feel at peace, mom.”

I do not understand how that is possible. My daughter is the injured one, yet I know that I have been broken, too. My heart has shattered—my spirit has crumbled to dust. I do not feel at peace. I shake my fist at God.

Weeks and months pass in which I drape myself in the semblance of normalcy. When a smile is necessary, my lips part and I show my teeth. I learn how to say the words that are expected of me. In church services, I hear people praising God for keeping their loved ones safe—for traveling mercies. I scream shut up shut up shut up inside my head. There is no mercy. I break, I broke, I am broken.

I can not find God.

You are so strong, they say. You are so brave. You are such an inspiration.

I no longer wish to be strong and brave. I want to crawl into the arms of my Father and weep out all of my brokenheartedness. I want to be rocked, to hear Him hum a tuneless melody of comfort while I bury my face in His shoulder. But I can not get back to Him; I am weighed down by the darkness. I am lost.

So He finds me. I am surprised one Sunday morning to find myself at the altar, and then He meets me there.

Look, He says. I look at His hands. They are holding the shattered pieces of my heart.

Look. I watch as He presses His hands together.

Look. He opens His hands, and gives me back my heart, whole. It is not quite the same as it was before my daughter was broken—now it bears the fingerprints of the Healer.

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This article has been read 1694 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Linda Watson Owen02/13/06
Wonderful writing on a difficult life exerience. You put me right there, and I wept and fought and repented with you. Beautiful recurring images of dust and moving on!
Amy Michelle Wiley 02/14/06
This was beautiful. I would have liked to see it go on a little longer, stretch out the ending. But good job!
Pat Guy 02/14/06
I think I know who this is.

An honest picture of 'Why?' and the struggle back to the Presence of God.

Things too difficult to comprehend or understand yet you paint a beautiful picture of this very thing.

I too would have liked to hear more at the end - but you know, sometimes it's just that simple, when something so complex happens. Good work.
Anita Neuman02/16/06
Jan, this is beautifully written! I just love how you phrased that 5th paragraph.

I know the main topic is the mother's broken heart, but I would've liked a bit of an update on the daughter's rehab - perhaps a comparison of her healing vs. the mom's healing.
Shari Armstrong 02/16/06
Very well done. The words paint a powerful picture.
janet rubin02/16/06
I'm so glad you left a clue. What a wonderful job of capturing emotion and spiritual struggling. Very well written. By the way, I've always gotten a kick out of that phrase, "traveling mercies.":)
Cheryl Harrison02/16/06
"I no longer wish to be strong and brave. I want to crawl into the arms of my Father and weep out all of my brokenheartedness. I want to be rocked, to hear Him hum a tuneless melody of comfort while I bury my face in His shoulder. But I can not get back to Him; I am weighed down by the darkness. I am lost."

So many people can identify with these words. As I read I was reminded of an old Twila Paris song - The Warrior is a Child. Thanks for posting.
James Clem 02/16/06
This is Great - might be three in a row!
Lynda Schultz 02/16/06
The best sentence to me? This one: "But I can not get back to Him; I am weighed down by the darkness. I am lost." He always comes all the way to where we are.

Andre Kingston02/16/06
This was a nice read, but too much was skipped or glossed over. I want more reaction around the daughter, maybe having to tell her. I want to know what happened to the daughter. I want a little longer in the actual time God healed, not instantaneous. This piece left me hungry for more. This would make a nice short story (I mean like 10 pages or so). Ok, in all honesty, it could be made into a novel. Overall, good writing.
Debbie Sickler02/16/06
As others have already said, I thought this was well written, but would have liked a little more towards the end. It would have been nice to see more of what was going through her heart as she came to a point where she was ready to come to the alter.
Joe Moreland02/16/06
I'm not sure if this is from personal experience or not, but from a person who has four children and experienced a loss, I can tell you that it feels like it comes from firsthand experience. I wish I could write out my anguish as well as this. I think it's perfect the way it is, but then, I was able to fill in the gaps for myself.
Crista Darr02/16/06
Jan, I read this earlier in the week and was so moved that I didn't know what to comment. All my words seem so insufficient right now. I love the honesty of this piece. You show your own grief from your daughter's suffering. I wouldn't want you to go anywhere else with this story. This is a most powerful, most beautiful piece of writing.
Maxx .02/16/06
Very nice writing.. smooth and touching. Captured deep emotions. Looks like a winner.
Lynda Lee Schab 02/17/06
Crista said what I was feeling. "Honest" and "real" were the words that came to my mind. You'e displayed true emotions most of us experience from time to time and the overwhelming grace of Jesus Christ. I loved the "Look..." lines. It came together at the end beautifully. A powerful piece.
Marie Gabbard02/18/06
Very nicely written. You did a wonderful job of letting us see our honest struggles when things get broken. That is not an easy task.
Rachel Rudd 02/19/06
Very nicely written...I loved the last line...
"now it bears the fingerprints of the Healer"...His scarred hands healing...wonderful word picture! I, too, could see this as a longer story...but it might be too difficult to write? I do hope you win!
Gwynn Turner02/20/06
I could feel every ounce of pain, fear, hopelessness, anger and despair. And then I felt the hand of God as one who has experienced that feeling of brokenness before.

I agree with the other comments...more, more, more. There is a much deeper story here. :)

Rachel Rudd 02/20/06
Congratulations on your win!
Cassie Memmer02/20/06
Congratulations. This is so painful, yet beautiful. I understand some of those feelings. My heart has those same fingerprints of the Healer's hands. God bless you.
Grace Sempa02/20/06
Congratulations, this is realy beautiful writing.
The three Look lines at the end is so powerful.Just Great!
Marilyn Schnepp 02/20/06
Beautifully written, Jan, and Congratulations! The last three paragraphs brought me to my knees! Thank you!
Jan Kamp02/22/06
Powerful expression of emotions - from initial grief through all its stages to healing and peace. I, too, wanted to know more details, but in all honesty the details aren't what counts...the journey is, because that's where we see God at work. Congratulations, and thanks for sharing.
Tina Abplanalp02/24/06
Your writing richly tells of the distance we've all felt at one time or the other. Through the pain we learn that God hasn't moved away from us. He patiently waits for us to realize how much we need Him and finally ask for his help. Thank you for your story.