Viewpoint: Healing Through Writing

By Barbara Bould
Special to the Palisades News

When life throws a traumatic experience at you, medical professionals recommend talking or writing about it to speed up the healing process.

Last spring, I was an active woman, full of life—and the next day I was extremely ill in the ICU with bacterial pneumonia. My only knowledge of those several weeks was what I was told later. I learned that my husband of 27 years, Joe, and sons Ron and David, were advised to make arrangements as the doctors felt I might not live.

After five weeks in the hospital I was sent to the Fireside Care Center in Santa Monica. At that point, I couldn’t stand and had to be pushed around in a wheelchair. At the Center, conversations skipped all the trivia and went straight to open and meaningful talk.

My favorite Oprah saying is “to engage in random acts of kindness.” I listened as others aired their problems. It helped them, but I got so much more.

One of my fellow residents, “John,” had led a rather colorful life. He didn’t treat his mother very well, so he decided to write and apologize. However, she returned his letter unopened and he was never able to communicate with her before she died. Hearing his story caused me to share an issue in my family where my eldest son, Russell, hasn’t spoken to me in 11 years. John made me promise to make “one more try to fix it.” I did. I actually made two tries, but they didn’t work.

There was a nonverbal woman in her eighties who spent the days rocking back and forth while holding a doll. If she looked in my direction,

I put my arms up as if I were rocking a baby— and she’d smile at me. Sometimes you don’t need words.

There were some light moments, too, during rehab. You waited to get a shower, but one day the person designated to help me was Sam, not Samantha. He was covered up with a white poncho-like towel. It was kind of awkward, so I jokingly said, “I see you’re going to the white-tie ball, too.”

My experience has made me a more spiritual person. The Rabbi’s wife came to visit and brought what we needed to celebrate Shabbat. Since my illness, I have become a more regular temple goer and have a whole new “family” there. Prayers were said for me by lots of people, including friends of friends whom I didn’t even know.

My doctor told me never to underestimate the power of prayer. My Rabbi calls me a walking miracle.

At first I was too weak to stand. After about a month, I graduated to a walker, and then a cane. Now almost a year later, I am back to my old self physically. I’m working out again, seeing my customers, shopping and fulfilling my Marquez Knolls Homeowners Association responsibilities.

(Editor’s note: Gould lived in Pacific Palisades from 1957-1960. She and her husband returned to town in 2000 when her parents passed away. For the past 21 years, Gould has worked as a sales representative for a candy distributor.)

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