You Are Not Alone

by Lucy Hanouille
Texas, USA

My father died when I was 20 years old. Up until his death, I had never told anyone of his illness or the suffering that our family had endured for the past 15 years. It was a family secret, and we learned well not to discuss it.

Death sometimes has a way of revealing secrets. I was encouraged to take the news of my loss to the Assistant Dean of my art school, Doris Kinsella.

Doris was, in my opinion, one of the world’s best listeners. I found myself pouring my heart out to her. She listened, gave advice, and encouraged me to stay in school and in counseling.

As I left her office, she pointed down the hall at another girl I knew and liked and said, “See that girl? She lost her father this weekend. Heart attack. Very sudden, very unexpected.”

That was all she said. But from that moment, I looked for that other girl. If she was working in the studio, I worked. If she was going to classes, I went. I couldn’t imagine how it felt to lose someone so quickly; I admired her courage. Having known my father was dying… if she could keep going, I could, too.

At the school year’s end, the other student, “Alice,” and I were talking. We shared our deep respect for Doris and the comfort she had brought to our lives in this difficult year.

Alice then told me her story. She also had been encouraged to see Doris when her father died. She also found a deep, thoughtful, compassionate listener in Doris. Doris had suggested grief counseling and encouraged her to stay in school.

When they walked out of her office together, Doris pointed towards me and said, “See that girl? Her father just died after 15 long years of illness. No one really knew what made him ill.”

After that, Alice looked for me every day. If I was working in the studio, she worked in the studio. If she saw me going to classes, she went to classes. Alice said she couldn’t imagine how it must have felt to live with the inevitability of death for so long. We both agreed that it didn’t matter how the loss occurred — it still hurt deeply.

In that way, without even speaking, we kept each other in school. We kept each other going. With one simple sentence, Doris kept us both in school.

We lost Doris to cancer almost 20 years ago, but her kindness and love for me as a student and person have stayed with me to this day. I realize now that the lesson she taught me by her simple statements has been a guiding light keeping me going through the hard times in my life. No matter how alone depression or PTSD made me feel, I knew I was not alone after all.

Her words made all the difference in my life.

Originally published as HeroicStories #840 on Dec 22, 2011

3 thoughts on “You Are Not Alone”

  1. I know a young man of 35 who is a paraplegic and an inspiration to me, because he never complains or feels sorry for himself. He is grateful that he has the use of his arms, unlike quadraplegics, and many times I tell myself that if Jerry (not his real name) can have such a good attitude, so can I. Doris knew the value of looking outside yourself and your own troubles, and made the effort to pass that along. We all need such people.

  2. There are many a teacher like Doris someone we look up in our formative years High School especially
    Our family couldn’t afford us to go on to further education,n so I took the first position I could at 15 years of age in a milk bar
    I did well in Science and most subjects at school
    My Science Teacher and his girl friend came in for a milk shake and said to me “Can’t you get a better job than this” his words spurred me on to look for better prospects that was 1950 In six weeks

    I was able to get an apprenticeship in Hairdressing [ I liked setting my hair up to go to school }
    This year 2015 I finally retired tho only working part time from my home in the latter years I worked 65 years doing a job I loved helping other to look and feel good In fact I am still caring for my own hair needs even at 80.9 years of age YES 65 YEARDS
    SO MR REDFERN may I thank you for giving me your advice and setting me on my career for lifr


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