Hazel's Story

  • Feb. 24, 2016
  • #8823

God is close to the brokenhearted, and gives hope to those in despair when they cry out to Him.

Hazel's Story

Hi, I’m Joni Eareckson Tada with a personal story about being angry.

Somewhere after the first year of lying paralyzed in my hospital bed, somewhere after my bleak prognosis of a lifetime of total paralysis drained every ounce of hope, despair moved in. I refused to get up to go for physical therapy. I turned my head away on the pillow when friends came to visit. I felt numb; I felt emotionless. I didn’t even have anything to say to the nurses and the hospital aids that had become friends.

And Hazel saw this. Hazel was a nurse’s aide from Mississippi and she saw that I was slipping away. She knew I had taken a liking to her. She would amble into my room, pull up a chair, and take her breaks by my bedside. She’d talk about her family back in Mississippi and asked me about my family. On this particular day when she asked how I was doing, I gave her no reply. Lying there, I just stared at the ceiling. Hazel would smile and pat my arm, but I would simply grunt in return. She’d say, “Hone, you feel like bawling, you just tell me. I’ve got a kerchief here handy,” she’d say, patting her pocket. But I didn’t want to talk.

I was so much in despair I didn’t even want to eat. Later that week when Hazel was feeding me dinner, I allowed half-chewed food dribbled out of the side of my mouth. That’s when she stopped, put down the spoon, put both hands on her hips and said in a loud voice, “Girl, what are you doin’?” My body reacted with a violent spasm. Hazel dropped my plate on the tray table and peas scattered everywhere. She forcefully wiped my mouth, crumpled the napkin, and threw it on the plate and said to me, “You get yourself together, girl. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with you that a good look around this hospital won’t cure.” My cheeks flushed with embarrassment. I fought back tears. I was so angry. After a moment of silence, she picked up the fork and plate and said, “Now are you gonna eat this or what?”

Hazel right then had roused deep feelings of resentment. “Yes,” I spat back, “I'll eat it!” The food was tasteless, however, and I forced myself to swallow against a knotted stomach. Not a word was spoken between us. After she left, I struggled harder to contain the tears. I could not allow myself to cry because she had left and there was no one around to blow my nose or change my damp pillow.

But after a few minutes, a strange feeling came over me. And I realized, oh, my goodness, I’m feeling something. Like a hibernating animal waking up, I felt something stir. My numbness and lack of emotions were dissipating and in their place, there was a magnetic pull toward hope. That night, I found myself saying out loud, “Oh, God, if I can’t die, please show me how to live.” It was short, to the point, but that prayer left the door open for God to respond. Little did I realize he would. That’s because Psalm 34 says that “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” That encounter with Hazel was God's way of waking me up and invading my despair. Through her jarring words, God had boldly intruded into my self-pity, brashly calling it what it was and challenging me to leave it behind. And I’m so glad He did. I’m so glad Hazel did. I’ve written about this story and more in a pamphlet called simply “Anger.” And I would love to send you it for free. Go to my radio page today at joniandfriends.org and ask for your free gift of my pamphlet on anger, because no one – absolutely no one – should have to live under a cloud of despair.

© Joni and Friends


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