When they met he was young and in good shape, working in construction. Too short of a time later, he was still young but wasn’t working construction any more. He was too weak to even bathe himself.
You’ll meet him, a wonderful guy named Helmut, in Chicken Soup for the Soul’s edition titled Find Your Inner Strength. You’ll also meet the girl who loved him, and stuck around, knowing the road ahead would be a difficult one, wrought with grief but abundant in blessings too.
Helmut began dating Gail not long after a breakup with another girlfriend. The former girlfriend had bailed because Helmut had been diagnosed with cancer, but Gail adored him. He was strong, handsome and made her heart flutter. As they grew closer, their love grew richer but Helmut’s body began to fail him.
As his condition worsened, Gail’s free time could have been spent with friends, but she chose to spend it with Helmut. When he wasn’t able to keep up with the social activities, she assured him, she'd rather be with him more than anywhere else. Sometimes that meant having a quiet date at home. Sometimes it meant time at his bedside in the hospital.
Theirs wasn’t a relationship built on silly notions but was still likely filled dreams and wishes. It was deep -- a knitting of souls and making discoveries together. Some things are beyond the confines of cancer. Through his illness, Helmut was helping her to discover her own innate talent. An ability to ease pain with a touch.
When the musculature in Helmut’s back and shoulders gave way to delicate skin and bones, Gail’s back rubs lessened his pain more than any of the drugs his medical team issued him. He assured her she was gonna make a wonderful nurse someday.
Those results in bringing peace and comfort that eased the pain of the boy she loved, and the reward of knowing how her care had made a palpable difference, moved Gail to take a different career path. She changed her major from English to nursing.
Gail was eighteen when Helmut died. Helmut was twenty-one.
Fast forward 40 years ...
Gail is now a retired nurse and a not-even-close-to-retired author.
Following Helmut's death, Gail endured a period of intense grief. But, once she caught her breath and got her bearings, she went after her studies with a new passion.
It was born of love's suffering. She was committed to making it count and she did. Her career of caring and helping to ease the pain of countless patients with her gifted hands has been a legacy she shares with Helmut.
In time another handsome fellow won her heart and he's been every bit as supportive of her wonderful skills and talents as Helmut was.
His name is Fred. He's a Viet Nam veteran she met in her last year of college.
Like Gail, Fred was acquainted with the dark side of life and the pain it can bring. He too, had loved and lost.
Their union brought forth a mission to deliver help, knowledge and healing. Gail’s was carried out at the bedside of patients. Fred’s was fulfilled in the classroom teaching young students. He'd decided if he survived his second tour in Nam, he’d be a teacher, remembering the little ones who used to follow him around while he was deployed.
It’s amazing how children can brighten up the darkest of situations. True to his word, Fred dedicated his career to educating them and found his ongoing mission was continuously accomplished in the classroom, generation after generation.
Gail and Fred have now been married for more than three decades and are coming up quickly on their 40th anniversary. Although technically in retirement, they continue to support and work with others in various capacities.
Her story, The Boy I Loved and Lost gives beautiful details of the monumental relationship lived between her and Helmut edition of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Inner Strength. It also shows that given even a short amount of time, it's still possible to make changes in tens, hundreds, thousands and more lives, one life at a time.
Gail’s contribution is just one of the diamonds in the treasure box you’ll find tucked into the pages of this marvelous book.
Whatever challenge you're facing, if you’re in the grip of grief and despair, or just ‘cause you wanna immerse yourself in smiles, hope and encouragement, please, please, please get acquainted with the writers, characters and circumstances that are vividly laid out in this book. You'll maybe even be certain the whole thing was written just for you.
The stories will do more than stir you. They'll change you, in good ways, if you’ll let them.
Even though it’s written just for you, it’s nigh on impossible to not share the good stuff, so please consider snagging some gift copies. The holidays are coming up and these will make for some true treasures where they’re needed most! If you’ve got a friend that you know will benefit from this book, but can't read it themselves, maybe you could read it to them. ☺
There’s another, very different yet superb review of this book and Gail’s contribution to it available on marcoujor’s musings. I encourage you to click the embedded link and have a look at it.
The book’s foreward is written by Fran Drescher, author and founder of the Cancer Schmancer Movement. (More on that in a future edition ... )
There are no big’uns or little’uns in this book. Every single story provides a small, easy read that will leave your heart, full to the brim and they're all jewels of vibrant quality and hue, each unique in their content.
I’m confident you’ll enjoy Gail’s story and style enough to want to seek out her work elsewhere.
She’s been writing for more than two decades with articles and stories appearing in such prestigious publications as the American Journal of Nursing, Delmarva Quarterly, Delaware Beach Life as well as in Mysterious & Miraculous Book I, and Book II, which she co-authored with me and the fantastic author, Maria Jordan, RN, MSN of marcoujor’s musings. Gail is also a founding member of the Legacy Archives Foundation.
Beyond allllll of that, she’s my friend, and I’m very proud to introduce her story to you here on the Pumpkin Run Pulse.
God bless you, thank you for the read and please don’t forget to thank a veteran at your next opportunity.
P.S. Since the Pumpkin Run Pulse doesn't publish on Mondays, I want to wish the United States Marines a very happy 239th birthday!
(It was Monday, 11.10.2014)
You've come a long, long way from tricorn caps, buckled shoes and Tun Tavern!
Of course, the day after the USMC's birthday is Veterans' Day, so from me to all of you military folks out there, past and present, my sincere thanks for your sacrifice.
God bless you and thank you for your service!
The smallest tip goes the longest way--like a good cup of coffee.
marcoujor, Virtual Buskers Guild
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