Yesterday, I learned of the story of Charla Nash, the Connecticut woman who, back in February, was attacked by her friend's pet chimpanzee. I came across her appearance on Oprah, via YouTube, and I am so thankful that I had the privilege of being introduced to this remarkable soul.
After escaping his cage, the 200-pound chimp attacked Charla, ripping apart her face, breaking the bones, leaving her without eyes, nose, mouth, or hands. The surgeons created a small hole in her face where she is able to take in fluids through a straw.
As I watched her remove her veiled hat, I felt a queasiness inside. I don't know what it is about seeing disfigurement that can be so disturbing - but it was for me. I felt a tightness and a discomforting sorrow as I watched her sit and talk about her experience. As I continued to listen, though, that unsettling feeling really did begin to pass, and I was able to simply listen to her words, and to receive who she was, without considering what she looked like.
She seems to handle the whole situation with such an admirable optimism. She focuses on moving forward, on her health and recovery, the moments she has with her family and her daughter. She told Oprah that even on the days when she doesn't feel like it, she makes herself get up and walk.
Right now as I'm writing, I realize what caused that initial sense of dread and queasiness: it was the imagining of what a nightmare it must be to live in her shoes. I imagine it's incredibly difficult and unbelievably challenging, but is it possible that it's a situation that can be lived through without it being perceived as a nightmare? Charla's attitude tells me that it is very possible. I don't get the impression that she sees herself as a victim at all. The notion that she's living some unbearable fate crumbles when I see her attitude. She's an example of not letting her circumstances define who she is.
How valid can my excuses for living anything less that gratitude ever be?
I was so inspired, so touched, and so humbled. Thank you, Charla. You are a perfect, luminous example of the grace, and the strength, that humans are capable of.