Rachel Remen
Sunday November 26th 2006, 5:41 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare,Knit,Life

Anne and Mary Anne asked about my meeting Rachel Remen. Here’s the story.

Dr. Remen did a booksigning at Kepler’s, a large independent bookstore that is a local institution. I love her “Kitchen Table Wisdom” and her “My Grandfather’s Blessings,” and made a point of going to hear her. This was a little after “Grandfather’s” was released.

She talked a bit, she read from “Grandfather’s” a bit, and then she asked the large crowd for any questions or comments. One woman told her how much she’d enjoyed the books; the next one went on and on about saving the planet, imploring Dr. Remen to write about the dire condition of the earth. Dr. Remen heard her out, then gently said that this was clearly this woman’s passion and that the questioner would do well to write the book she had in mind herself for what she could bring to it.

Then she said she had time for one more question. There were a lot of people and many hands went up. I was about a third of the way back in the crowd, and thought, she’ll never call on me. I can only wish. I raised my hand, but only barely; I wasn’t sure she could even see that I did.

There was what I can only describe as a sense of white light that somehow passed between us as she looked in my direction and called on me anyway.

Like the others had done, at her invitation I stood to ask my question. I tried not to make it too long. I told her:

I have lupus. I also have a hearing loss. I have an ear doctor who discovered that the cause of my growing loss was a severe reaction to aspirin, and I quit taking any and the progression of the loss stopped.

Ten years later, I developed Crohn’s disease (something I knew Dr. Remen could definitely relate to.) I was put on a med that, with my history, put my hearing at risk, and I got sent back to that ENT for testing.

He walked into the examining room at the edge of tears, and asked me, “WHY are YOU!! being put on ototoxic drugs!”

I explained that I had Crohn’s now. He stood there a moment, taking it in, and affirmed, “That’s bad.” Another breath. “But…*I* thought you had breast cancer, or lymphoma, or…” as he shook his head, grieving at the loss.

(I didn’t say to Dr. Remen that I have a Daniel Wallace lupus book that says that 80% of lupus patients whose intestines start bleeding die in the first episode.)

I had walked into his room with a heavy burden, and that good man lifted it right off me by his empathy. I walked out with the weight of the world gone. He had heard me, he had been there for me, and he had remembered the cause of my hearing loss–ten years later! I wasn’t just another face passing through, it was important to him that I be okay. He remembered! It felt like my life expectancy was being stretched forward right there in front of me in those moments.

I wanted some way of telling that good man what he had done for me. How much it had meant to me. I knit, I told Dr. Remen–and here I held up a gossamer-fine lace shawl I was working on, by way of show-and-tell–and after reading your book, I knew what I wanted to do. I knit his wife a wedding ring shawl, one that can pass through a ring (again, the one in my hands demo’d) as a way of conveying how grateful I was.

(Note to my readers here: this was when I was new at knitting any kind of lace, much less of that fineness, and had never considered giving all those weeks of work away to anyone other than immediate family.)

I told Dr. Remen, “I did not know what to do or how to say thank you till I read your book. You gave me my voice.”

And then I sat down, as the room exploded in clapping.

6 Comments so far
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It always happens; when I’m down, you always remind me of the good in the world.

I hope that once, even just once, I get to do that for you.

Much love.

Comment by Kristine 11.26.06 @ 7:09 pm

Are you kidding! Kristine, all the times I’ve opened my inbox when I really needed a friend, and there was a message from you! All the times I’ve proudly worn my handknit beaded socks, and if people didn’t notice, I stuck a foot up near their faces and basically went, Look! Look! See? Aren’t these just so cool?!

Sometimes we all forget how much good we can do, and are doing, just by going about our daily lives with an eye towards others.

Comment by AlisonH 11.26.06 @ 7:28 pm

A beautiful story, Alison.

Comment by Mary Anne 11.28.06 @ 11:13 am

Another amazing story! And to think that Rachel Remen helped you find your voice by using her own. Doing what we’re really led to do, while we do what we need to do every day… Your words and your kindness are such an inspiration. As always.

Comment by Joni 11.29.06 @ 11:30 am

The other half of the story is that one of the books I brought to her to sign was a copy of “Grandfather’s” for a friend of mine whose young son had abruptly died. When I got to the front of the line, I told Dr. Remen that I’d felt strongly that reading it would help my friend cope, but I wasn’t sure if she was ready to hear yet the comfort it could convey. So now I had to say a prayer to ask–I hesitated, and then we said it in unison–“When.” I did not know when I would be giving it, just that I should.

She wished my friend her best, out loud, and then wrote an inscription that conveyed great love to a complete stranger whose great loss she understood.

Comment by AlisonH 11.29.06 @ 5:46 pm

[…] And you know how well aspirin and I get along. […]

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