The Grace of Survival

Heather - Brooklyn, New York
Entered on August 23, 2008

On August 9th fifteen years ago I was raped by a stranger in a park in Leavenworth, Washington. Looking up through the trees, I thought I was going to die in that park, in the middle of the afternoon, with families picnicking by the river 50 yards away. Instead I lived through the next eight hours of sheriffs and emergency room personnel not sure how to deal with me, and the next months and years of friends and family not sure how to deal with me and the trauma I carried with me.

I have come to believe that survival in the short-term may be a roll of the dice, but survival in the long-term is about grace. The grace of survival is like a pardon granted, the chance at life accepted. Sometimes I think the grace comes from those who have not survived, whose spirits in their absence signal the importance of living.

I fought hard against this grace. I remember standing on a highway overpass in despair. I remember sitting on the kitchen floor with a knife in my hands feeling the need to cut something out of myself to survive.

I also remember the simplicity of my desire for my first meal after coming home from the hospital and police station: spinach linguine with tomato sauce. I remember sitting on the back steps of a friend’s house, watching the sun on the dahlias. In those moments my world became very small, and that was evidence of grace.

For years I felt trapped and could not understand what I needed to free myself from. I pulled people close and pushed them away. I created half-completed homes and careers, and then found I lacked the belief in the future required to complete them. But step by step, possible futures became real to me. At first they were cloudy, like someone else’s dream. Then they took on definition and color. I began to believe again: the world became very big, and that was evidence of grace.

In uncertain hours, I do not know if I can rely on this grace to carry me through. I fear it will abandon me. I fear murkiness will descend again. But then I remind myself that grace was always there. I only had to believe I deserved the pardon, the chance.