"Just like Georgia," I smiled.
Georgia does that with life too. When unexpected turmoil gets splashed into her existence, she dons her spiritual beret and quickly beautifies what most of us would prefer to toss into the "no thank you" bin.
Here's what I mean. Seven years ago her (then) fiance was diagnosed with cancer. She had a hospital wedding ceremony anyway, while he was undergoing treatment. The local newspaper showcased a radiant bride next to a hairless groom in a hospital bed hooked up to an IV.
Three years ago Georgia's obstetrician informed her that since her five months-pregnant womb had completely emptied itself of amniotic fluid, the baby boy inside would most likely be born dead, or at best suffer severe brain damage. Georgia refused to give in to fear, notifying the doctors that God willing, her baby would be fine. Two weeks ago, little Garrett was romping around my kitchen wearing Dave's hunting boots, healthy as can be.
Georgia struggles to make ends meet, on a regular basis. Yet I'll never forget the day she called to offer me half of her tax return because Dave was out of work. I refused the offer, but knew it would have thrilled her to put the money in the mail even though she was much more in need, with four little mouths to feed and no husband at home.
I was shocked to learn one day, after knowing Georgia for several years, that she suffers from an auto-immune disorder. She had never once complained of her symptoms.
And there's her past. It's the real reason she should be wearing a frown, rather than penning smiles on envelopes and constantly wearing one too. You see, Georgia's birth mother tried to scald her to death as an infant in a steaming bathtub. She was rescued by social services, only to be placed in one fostering hell home after another.
Georgia knows what it's like to have the blinds shut and door locked every afternoon when you're twelve years old.... She still remembers the way they laughed at school when she arrived wearing the contents of "the bucket" she'd been forced to empty at three in the morning on an icy driveway.... The memories are as fresh as the road kill served for suppers--skunk, raccoon, squirrel and woodchuck. "If it's still warm it's safe" he'd always say.
And there were the cruel and unusual punishments--hours standing against the wall trying desperately to not let the quarter slip off...but she was so tired. And that's when the coffee was brewed. And forced down, black, at four in the morning.
How Georgia hates the smell of coffee!
Sometimes I forget when she comes to visit. "But this is hazelnut!" I always say. We laugh.
Georgia should be throwing Kool-Aid stained envelopes away.
One day she did start over though. It was in a country church with simple folk. The preacher told them Jesus could make their scarlet-stained heart as white as snow. Georgia ran forward and a lifetime of misery rushed out in tears. "If you don't love me, I can't love me. And no one else will," she told God.
I have only scratched the surface of the untold hardships of Georgia's life. The rest are too dark and painful to mention here. Yet since that day at the altar, twenty years ago, Georgia's worn a smile as big as her heart. It's funny. She's the one that cheers me up. Me with a husband at home. Me with the happy childhood memories. Healthy me. (Slightly more) wealthy me. I can only conclude that I need a little more of the Jesus Georgia has.
And a beret.
(This story written with permission.)