As I wrote last weekend, in the annual re-post of ” A gift from the heart “ – the story of how an anonymous Christmas gift provided me with something far more precious than soap - the most valuable gifts are always ones given from the heart.
Little did I know, when I posted that story, that it would lead to another precious gift, this one of healing – and not just my own.
I met Priscilla Judd last year after she emailed to ask if I would cover the Lumby prison story. I did - yet another story of politicians behaving badly – and forged a friendship with this feisty piano-tuner/songwriter/artist/ activist. And talented she is, composing and recording the alternative Canadian anthem that shook many Canadians to the core across the nation this year, when she released the video that was shared by thousands, from sea to shining sea.
When Priscilla messaged me on facebook last weekend, telling me how much the story moved her and asking if she might use it as the theme for a new song, I was quite surprised. Of course, I agreed,noting a certain… feeling in her statement “…your words are unforgettable.”
I woke early this morning, as I usually do, grabbed my morning cup of coffee and sat down to do my morning rounds on the net. I was checking emails, when I saw an email from Priscilla with the simple subject line: ‘song lyrics’.
I clicked on it, began to read… and the tears began to flow so unexpectedly, absolutely uncontrollably, that I doubled over, hands over my mouth. Taking a breath and clicking through my tears, I opened the MP3 file of her recording, and the tears began again,hearing her tears as she sang the story of my past… and more.
5:30 am, on 12-12-12, more than decade and a lifetime since ” the gift” of fragrant soaps carried me through darkness - there I was sobbing at my desk, this time a gift of healing, a gift from one friends heart to another, my story to hers… and soon.. hers to mine.
It was as if her lyrics had unleashed thousands of pounds of baggage and pain, neither of which I was aware I even carried until that moment, this morning.
Over many emails we shared our tears, our gratitude.. and finally, Priscilla shared the reason my story struck her so very hard…
“… the bars all close on Christmas day… So ‘santa’ drops in to sleep… but before that day…
It was a couple of weeks before Christmas – I was attending alanon by then, it was a couple of weeks before my third child was born.
I had no coat that fit – I zipped it from the top down belly outside and I had Dr Scholls sandals cuz my feet were so swollen. I wore bare feet in the sandals even in the snow (I hated wet socks). I was standing in front of the shoe store looking at the boots. A stranger came up to me and asked if I was Priscilla (Roe at that time) I said yes and she handed me an envelope and said that someone wanted me to have this Christmas card.
I was happy – I thanked her – I looked around – I knew no one – she walked off and I started opening the card… $50
Tears came down so hard and my two baby girls just looked at me – they were about 2 and 8 months. Anyway – I bought food for Christmas including oranges for the girls.
I was barefoot when I went to the hospital to have the baby… ‘He’ had a job!
I wore my old shoes after my baby son was born and my feet were smaller. Oh Laila it’s heartbreaking how women can be so strong.
Sorry I’m crying at the end of the song. Gord says we can record it again if it disturbs you. There now, I’ve shared my story with you. I sing for you and me and all the women – all of us – I love you so much – thank you for making our world brighter.”
And damn if I’m not crying again as I write this but I can’t help it. It’s just wrong, so damn wrong that this happens, that this happened to Priscilla.
It’s easy to sit and judge and say: “Well, you could have left, no one made you stay.” - which, by the way, people have said to myself, and other women. But unless you’ve been there, unless you know what it’s like firsthand, you don’t, can’t really know… and here she’s thanking me, when it is I who is so thankful, grateful to have her and others like her in my life, for their strength and courage.. and… well, there aren’t enough words to describe my gratitude.
That’s why this song Priscilla wrote, born of my Christmas story, is about more than her, or I – it’s about all women, she sings, the souls of those we cannot see…. and love,hope and acts of kindness so random yet so vital to our humanity. Sometimes our angels walk among us. They are us, each of us, and we can be something more to another, if only we reach out and forget what everything we’ve been taught about minding our own business.
I considered myself so lucky to get one precious gift in this life from another, it is a miracle to have had another come my way at such a different, happier, point in my life.
Thank you Priscilla. Thank you.