Thursday, February 11, 2010

Reply to Laurie

            Recently we posted a note to “Laurie,” a then-unidentified comment-writer to this blog who said she’d been there at the scene of Brooke’s accident, right after it happened.   This was extraordinary:  she was writing in more than a year afterward, and yet was able to supply new details about what happened.  We wrote to her on the blog, as you saw; and she’s just written back.  Here’s what she said. 

Although I've been slow in getting back with you, I have been keeping updated with your blogs.  It sounds wonderful the thought of Brooke coming home, but on the other side - also scarey and intimidating.   If anyone can get through these adjustments though, it will be you and Brooke.   Between the two of you, there is so much strength, power, fortitude, and love, you will be able to get through to this next level.  Look at how much you both have went through and still managed to accomplish in a year.  This time next year, you'll again be amazed at yourselves.  It sounds like a good plan to take one hour, one step, one day at a time. 


City Creek Canyon is a very special place for me as I am sure it is for both of you.  In yoga classes when the instructor says to close your eyes and put yourself somewhere you love, I see myself by that small little waterfall on the north side of the road just before the water treatment plant.   Up until three years ago, I lived in Tooele but would come to Salt Lake City about every weekend just to run up City Creek - a lot of times to the end of the road at Rotary Park.  Finally, I thought what the heck and moved to Salt Lake City which made my drive to Dugway longer but at least it was where I wanted to be on the weekends.


Yesterday I ran up there so I could better describe to you the spot where the accident happened.  It's a curve between the watercress and station #5.  I do have to admit that when I went up there a week after the accident, I picked up pieces of surgical tape and gauze that the paramedics had left behind.  I don't want you to think that's morbid but I'm a firm believer of never forgetting those moments in our lives when we are witnesses of life's breath maybe leaving one's body forever.  I'll never forget watching Brooke mouth the words "I can't breathe".   Peggy, I am so sorry if this email brings up past sorrows.  Please know every morning in my prayers, I ask that you and Brooke have a good day. 

Laurie Chlopek


If you return to the opening of Brooke’s narrative toward the beginning of this blog, a year or so ago, where he describes his recollection—albeit only partial—of the accident—you’ll find that he recalled saying to himself, inside his head, I can’t breathe.  This is just what Laurie saw: she saw him mouth these very words.

            There’s an irony here.  Brooke once wrote a paper about Shakespeare’s play The Winter’s Tale, which focused on the centrality of breath and breathing in the famous statue scene in Act V. There, Hermione, disguised so to speak as a statue, is described by her husband, the king Leontes and his friend Polyxenes as being so realistic as to seem almost alive. (We wrote about this play in an earlier blog, as Brooke was first having some return of movement in his limbs—it was as if he was coming alive after having been as completely motionless as a statue.)  Indeed, Leontes and Polyxenes wonder at the fact that the sculptor has created the statue of Hermione to resemble so completely a living, breathing human being—which, of course, in fact she is.  Breath is central to the ending of this play as a figure for life itself, as it is, in a reverse way, at the end of King Lear, where Lear places a reflecting stone, a mirror, up to his dead daughter’s lips to see if she is still alive—which, of course, she isn’t.  

            Brooke’s central experience at the time of the accident—what would have presumably been his last experience if the flight nurse had not come along—is about breath, about breathing, about that most central of human physiological activities.  And it’s breathing that Laurie at the same time recognizes as the line between life and death, that moment that it is most compelling to observe.  Ironically, Brooke has spent the last year and more learning how to draw his breath again on his own, as if to reinforce that line between death and life. 

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