I first met Helen (Arv’s grandmother), when Arv and I decided to visit Brighton for a weekend which you can read about, here.
Any and all nerves that I had about meeting her, disappeared the minute I embraced her. Warm, loving and full of life, Helen made a place for herself in my heart, right away. When my parents came to visit me for my graduation and I decided to take them to Brighton as part of their tour of United Kingdom, I could not NOT introduce them to Helen.
She welcomed me into her life with open arms and since the day we met, there’s been no looking back. She has become my dearest pen pal, a confidante and an extremely special friend. Her ever giving heart has found so much love for me. On more than one occasion, I have forgotten that she is not my grandmother, although it barely if ever feels that way. Daily emails have ensured we keep in touch, updating each other about the minutest changes in our life with the frequent exchange of photographs as well, giving life to worded descriptions about the people in our lives.
During our conversations, Helen and I also exchange music and books. I gifted her This Modern Love by Will Darbyshire and she in turn encouraged me to give Joni: An Unforgettable Story, a read.
I remember sitting next to her, listening to her as she read out verses from the Bible, to my parents and me. Despite being an atheist, her calming voice and steady belief nestled the heavy restlessness I had been harbouring for weeks. Having sensed that emotion and others as well, Helen urged me to give this book a read. I am not one to go out of my way and read autobiographies of people, especially people who have such an unshakeable devotion to God but Helen had recommended it to me and, if it wasn’t evident before, it should be now, that I would readily do anything she asks or tells me to do. Not just because I adore her but also because I respect her tremendously and am inspired by her, every single day.
That being said, the book was a wonderful read. As mentioned before, it is an autobiography. Joni Eareckson became a quadriplegic at an extremely young age. A diving incident gone wrong, led to her breaking her neck and losing function in her arms and legs. The book journeys through Joni’s struggles with this paralysis and taking on life by its horns, relying on God and her faith.
Like every other human, Joni had her instances of doubt and hesitance, questioning the existence of God, harbouring enormous anger, hatred and jealousy at the unfairness of the life she was forced to live. The passion to live though and to make something of herself despite the massively turbulent incidents in her life, is truly inspiring. Bringing in the importance of friends, family and the trinity (spirit, will and hope) Joni trudges through these hurdles, ultimately becoming a woman of her own. By the end of the novel, I was rooting for Joni, wishing her prayers came to life, aching with her when people decided they couldn’t cope with her paralysis and shedding tears as she mourned the loss of those she knew.
I will be honest, I swing between being an atheist and an agnostic but never reach the point of acknowledging myself as a believer. At times, it became difficult to read the book, the extreme faith in God making it hard for me as my own lack of faith was warring with the words swimming in front of my eyes. Despite it all though, I enjoyed the book thoroughly and somehow, with every page turned, let go a bit more of the war within me about people and the bonds I shared with them.
Somehow, in my eyes, Helen and Joni have so many similarities. They smile through life and accept what comes their way. They don’t deny anger or grief but they don’t let these emotions consume them either. They aren’t defined by the sadness they have faced during the course of their lives, instead believed that there will be better and are grateful for everything they have, now.
I am so appreciative of Helen in my life, her positive influence, her accepting nature and her infinite love, guidance and nurturing soul. I eagerly await every single email from her and cannot wait to meet her again, cup of camomile tea in hand, the crash of the waves in the background and simply talking and listening to her, one heart to another.
So Helen, my dearest darling Helen, thank you for finding a place in your heart and life, for me. Thank you for every message, every hug, every email, thank you, for Joni and thank you, for you.
Till then, as Helen always gently reminds me, ‘Que sera sera…’