Sunday, February 3, 2008

Justice & Mercy

How much profanity and cursing do you think I’ve heard, what with the Corps and all!? But one time …

I was in the Parkland Psychiatric Emergency Room, in one of the little interview rooms with a woman, her daughter, her granddaughter, and one of my students. Their story was that the grandmother had learned that her husband was molesting her granddaughter – just as he had molested her daughter. “He’s not going to get away with it again, God-damn him.” The room froze – not just the people, but the air, the temperature, the everything, froze like sharp-edged ice, and then it all broke apart and I realized, with a deep chill, that the woman had just done a real and formal curse: he was already damned, but now formally and truly damned.

Another day a man having suicidal thoughts came in. Actually, every day, people with suicidal thoughts came in. I remember this man because of his story: he was going to kill himself the previous night, but didn’t because he didn’t want his children to wake to that. Then he was going to kill himself when he awoke, but he had to fix breakfast for his children, then he was going to take his children to school and come home and do it but after he dropped his children at school he drove to the Parkland ER instead, where he was cared for and released in time to pick his children up from school. Those were the days when Doug P. was Chief of Emergency Psychiatry and what a decent person and incredibly skilled psychiatrist he was.

A woman came to the clinic last week, crying, looking for help because her daughter’s teacher said in front of her daughter’s class that her daughter smelled bad. The mother wanted someone to smell her daughter and write a letter saying that she did not smell bad. I don’t know the details of how Leslie handled it, but she did handle it – involving the school, of course. And so, the woman found a place that really did help her and her daughter. Where else could she have gone?

All these people, except one, found mercy.

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