I remember the woman who saved my life. Although if you asked her, she would say that she just helped me save my own life.
Eleanor had just come back from her sabbatical leave. The dinner following Vacation Bible School at the church was almost over. With my heart pounding and hands shaking, I walked cautiously up to her. I whispered in her ear, “Can I talk to you?” Immediately she placed her napkin over her plate and stood up from the table.
She wrapped her arms around me as she guided me into her office. I looked at the floor as I continued to whisper, even though I didn’t need to. At that point, I think it hurt too much to say the truth out loud.
Soft-spoken words tumbled out of my mouth. She moved from her desk chair to the couch to sit with me. I cried. I showed her where I was bleeding. I threw up. She helped clean me up as best she could. I kept apologizing and she kept saying that it’s okay. She held me and rocked me back and forth and patted my back. Like a child, I allowed myself to be comforted.
As the late summer sun set through the windows behind us, she got up to turn on a light. “We need a plan to get you out and keep you alive. And we need to got to the emergency room to get your injuries cared for. The most dangerous time is right now, when you are leaving him.”
That night, I didn’t know that she had been a director of a domestic violence shelter. Then, she was my priest. Now she is a Bishop in our church. I wrote her an email recently and thanked her for helping me through those dark days. I closed with “I am definitely on the other side and it is beautiful.” She responded within hours and said that hearing that news was the best gift of all. And more than that, it had been a blessing and a privilege to help me.
She gave me a pillow and a comforter on the day I left him- escaped from him. Every night as I go to sleep, I am thankful for Eleanor and for every way that she helped me save my own life.
Glen Allen, VA