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By Judith Gray

PROMPT — Ask Me.

There is nothing more distressing and at the same time, so awesome as being in the presence of a wounded large animal. The sheer size and weight of the beast are at uncomfortable odds with its beaten spirit and sapped energy. Her son lay limply on a tiny hospital bed, his tanned, muscular legs protruding from beneath a rumpled bed sheet. His mumbled words of dejection and powerlessness rose barely above the audible level—craving for reassurance. He refused to have any pain-killers dispensed by a needle, thus he survived the first night following the surgery on codeine sparingly administered. Sleep was impossible to come by, the relentless pain defying all efforts to subside despite his silent calls for compromise. She sat in the silence and sipped a Styrofoam cup of warmish tea, marveling at the magnetic attraction of the body and the spirit, the co-conspirators of human pain.

As the night wore on, dulled by the drone of the air-conditioners outside his window, he spoke more urgently as his focus swiveled to survival topics: Food, water, room temperature, ice-packs for his hand, and ways to become more comfortable midst all the tubes and pillows. He had gone into surgery angry and depressed. He emerged beaten and discouraged. The anger and depression never left him entirely for quite some time, as he began to reconstruct and reevaluate his physical dilemma and its implications. During post-surgery, his murmurs, tempered by the constant pain, came from the depths of his discomfort. This process was curious, waxing and waning and with each iteration it seemed that another level of hopefulness was attained. Her eyes filled with silent pools of tears reflecting and also absorbing his confusion and powerlessness, yet she was able to smile with relief at his complaining and grumbling. That night, before he finally succumbed to sleep he said, “You were right Mom, you were right.”

She will probably never know what he meant by that, however she did know that what is right or not right have little to do with the pain associated with wounds to the body, mind and spirit.


Judith Gray is from Aoteoroa, New Zealand and is assembling a chronological collection of personal essays. She has published books and articles on dance and is best known for pioneering the field of dance technology at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. She co-authored the 365 Creative Activities for Children series (Sourcebooks) which has sold over half a million copies. Judith is the mother of four, a former triathlete and yearns for summers in the south of France. She writes from Seattle, WA.


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