Tag Archives: mental health

New Goodreads Review of On Hearing of My Mother’s Death!

Byron Edgington (http://www.byronedgington.com/), author of The Sky Behind Me: A Memoir of Flying and Life, has posted his review of On Hearing of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened on Goodreads. I read it yesterday, and his remarks about the book are so kind that I’m still blushing – in fact, his only complaint is that the book is too short (see my comments following the review):

“Here we have an extended essay/memoir on surviving a parent’s psychosis, inventing a life and then learning of the death of the long-forgotten parent many years after her passing. It’s much too easy to compare such works as Ms Schafer’s to other neglected childhood fare: Jeannette Walls ‘Glass Castle,’ Christina Crawford’s ‘Mommy Dearest’ etc. Too easy, because the parents in those memoirs cannot be easily forgiven; they can only be easily explained. Their cruelty stems from ambition, neglect, the depredations of poor parenting skills. Ms Schafer’s mother, on the other hand, offers a much more subtle, we might say inexplicable source of her wanton neglect and cruel treatment: mental illness and its untreated ravages.

Lori Schafer is an accomplished writer at the apex of her craft. Her images and reflections shimmer on the page: “grilled cheese and tomato…butter-brown bread…’ including good alliteration and excellent use of sentence length variation, she keeps readers moving forward. “The sidewalks were empty. I was empty.” Beautiful stuff.

Transitions are well done, despite many flashbacks and oblique references. Only one time, at an end chapter, and a reference to ‘Lila’ did this reviewer lose the thread, but then it picked up again.

Schafer’s use of a fictional device inside her memoir is very well done. She writes as ‘Gloria,’ to explain the horrors of a childhood in crisis, while giving herself a bit of remove as the writer. It’s an excellent device, and it works very well. It’s also entirely understandable. Much like any child will have an invisible friend, or a security blanket, Schafer has Gloria.

The writer’s voice stays consistent throughout, shifting with subtlety between the teenage, angst-ridden Lori and the determined older Lori living in a car in Berkeley and making her own way. “I was learning,” she writes, scraping for bottles and cans in Berkeley “…like the poor man’s Santa Claus.”

There are a few loose threads: We’re never told what happened to ‘Sandra Johnson.’ Indeed, none of the siblings’ lives are explained. There’s a reference to Schafer’s own concern about being poisoned, a thinly-veiled worry that she might have acquired her mother’s mental illness, but this is not addressed or enlarged. We don’t hear about mom’s own family history, or what may have contributed to her instability, only that ‘Judy Green-Hair’ is a serial marrier. Just open a vein, as they say; readers want more details.

Indeed, one critique of this memoir may be that it’s too darned short, that readers want to know much more about who this writer is: how did that young woman survive all she did? What resources did she uncover in herself? How’s she doing now? Has she finally found ‘a safe place?’

Wordsworth wrote, ‘…the child is father to the man,’ and we must assume he meant mother to the woman as well. If so, at the end of her fine memoir, Lori Schafer pays tribute to that young mother of herself. This is a good, fulfilling memoir. I just wish it was longer, darn it. Four stars, only because it’s too short.”

Byron Edgington, author of The Sky Behind Me: A Memoir of Flying & Life

Although it’s not an unqualified five star review, I’m really very pleased with it because Byron’s feedback actually gave me a great idea. It’s true that there are certain parts of the story into which I do not delve, in particular, regarding my mother’s family history, or what ever happened to my sister. I can’t provide answers to those questions simply because I myself don’t know the answers. My mother’s parents died when I was too young to know them; I don’t remember her sister and was merely acquainted with my uncle. I know very little about my mother’s life before me, and virtually nothing about the rest of her family. Likewise, my sister and I fell out of touch even before I left home, and as to Sandra Johnson, she’s a mystery that will forever remain unsolved.

But at no point do I ever make any of this clear to the reader. Most people, I think, see “family” as constituting a group of people; a set of relations with whom one shares varying levels of affection or bonding. For me, “family” meant Mom. She was it; there really wasn’t anyone else to fall under that heading. So it frankly never occurred to me that I might need to explain why I wasn’t talking about those larger family issues. But, of course, Byron is absolutely right; readers will be curious about those aspects of the story, and even if I have no real answers to give them, I like the idea of explaining why.

And this, of course, is one of the beauties of independent publishing. I’m not bound to someone else’s contract, or to a print run of thousands of copies that are already stacked and waiting in warehouses. So why not add another chapter? Even with my current crazy schedule, I can probably even get that done before the release date, and start fresh with an improved version of the story. A good idea is a good idea – even if it wasn’t my idea!

So thank you, Byron, for taking the time to detail what you thought was missing from my book. Your feedback is greatly appreciated, and I hope you’ll be glad to know that someone is listening.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

On Hearing of My Mother's Death Six Years After It Happened by Lori Schafer

On Hearing of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened

by Lori Schafer

Giveaway ends November 23, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

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Detention: An Excerpt from My Memoir On Hearing of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened

The following is an excerpt from my memoir On Hearing of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened: A Daughter’s Memoir of Mental Illness, now available in paperback and eBook:

Amazon (Universal Link)

Barnes and Noble

Also available in Spanish! Al Oír Sobre la Muerte de Mi Madre Seis Años Después de que Ocurrió

“Steinberg! Schafer! Detention!” Mr. Cooper shouted furiously, his nearly bald pointed head bristling with a temper I had never witnessed before. That possibly no one had ever witnessed before. Normally he disregarded his students entirely and went on, in spite of the constant conversation and ill-concealed catcalls, with his physics lectures as if the classroom were empty, or perhaps irrelevant in the face of so much captivating science. But today we had somehow pierced the thick shield of his academic armor and prodded him into unanticipated and unheard-of disciplinary action. I testily kicked aside the pile of tiny paper airplanes that had grown at my feet during the course of the class and glared at my friend Josh, the one who’d gotten me in trouble. I was a good student; a nerd, most said. I’d never had detention before.

“My mom’s gonna freak,” I whispered nervously.

“Good luck with that,” he said, his face going pale.

“It might be all right. But only because it’s you.”

He grinned his characteristic sideways grin, so full of charm, so full of crap. I never could understand what my mother saw in him. Always strictly polite to his elders, laying it on thick with the ma’ams and sirs which had already gone out of fashion, he was arguably the biggest troublemaker of all of my friends, and definitely the one most likely to try to get me naked. Yet he was the only one she’d still let into the house. Would even leave me alone with him in the bedroom, staying tactfully away from my open door. Almost as if she wanted something to happen.

I gave it to her straight as soon as we emerged from the classroom, before Josh, in spite of his valiant attempt to breeze briskly down the hall with all of the craft and subtlety of one of his paper rockets, had even managed to escape from her sight. “Josh and I were fooling around in class and got detention. I have to come back after school.”

Her lips twitched. I could see the internal conflict boiling within her, picture her cheeks reddening under her makeup as we tiptoed through the crowded corridor, drawing furtive glances from curious students. I didn’t blame them for staring. It wasn’t every day you witnessed an otherwise fairly normal teen-aged girl being escorted to class by a conspicuous and over-dressed middle-aged woman. Kids I didn’t know would pounce on me in the bathroom, nearly dissolving into hilarity at finding me for a moment alone and ripe for ribbing. “Aren’t you the girl whose mother has green hair and comes to school with her?” they would snicker.

“It isn’t really green,” I would argue. “It’s supposed to be blonde; something just went wrong during the coloring.” It was more of a greenish tint than anything. The kind you get from swimming often in a chlorinated pool. Personally, I didn’t think the hair looked anywhere near as stupid as the sunglasses. Wearing mirrored sunglasses indoors is surely not the way to avoid drawing attention to yourself when you’re convinced that your ex-husband and adult daughter are stalking you.

She gritted her teeth, grinding them audibly as if literally chewing over the idea. “Then I guess we’ll have to come back after school,” she muttered bitterly, surrendering to painful necessity.

“Thanks. Otherwise I might get kicked out,” I replied pointedly, hoping she’d catch the implicit threat of it. I’d already missed more than a month that quarter and could, according to school policy, be failed across the board purely on the basis of unexcused absences.

Someone had noticed, taken pity on me. Was it one of the string of psychiatrists my mother had sent me to, each of whom I had at length convinced that I was not the crazy one? Was it one of my teachers, someone who understood that honors students don’t suddenly stop showing up to school for no reason? Was it my guidance counselor, who had been in the office the day my mother had tried to force me to sign the papers saying I was dropping out?

They’d made arrangements, the school board had informed her officiously. One of the teachers – the English teacher I’d had freshman year – had volunteered to take me in, and if she didn’t let me come back, they would force the issue. I’d been touched. I barely remembered Mrs. Silverman; recalled more vividly the handsome, witty boy who’d sat next to me during her class and who had eventually become my first boyfriend. I wondered what it would be like to live with her, her and the other troubled student she’d allegedly taken under her wing. Who would even have imagined that a close-knit suburb could hold two such students?

Even my mother, so bold in the face of imaginary enemies, was unwilling to risk official intervention. She’d let me come back. With conditions. I can’t even guess what she told the principal and the superintendent – whether she in fact convinced them that I might be in some sort of danger, or if they merely thought it best not to chance it, never suspecting that the woman to whom they had admitted entrance was more dangerous by far than any of the nonexistent murderers she feared. But they had permitted it, this insane adult intrusion into the lives of unwitting high school students. As long as she stayed outside the classroom, not in it. Inside, they’d insisted, would be too distracting. But as a goodwill gesture they had commandeered for her a set of her own chairs, one parked outside of each of my classrooms, that she might not grow weary during her dull and lonely vigils. What kind consideration, I’d thought bemusedly. How nice that they’d made an effort to ensure her comfort.

“We’re going home now,” she announced. “You can skip P.E.”

“I still have to come back for detention, Mom,” I reminded her.

“I want to go home for lunch,” she insisted, grabbing me awkwardly by the elbow while I slipped my book-bag over my shoulders.

I didn’t argue. I succumbed to her clutch and followed her silently, listening to the swish of her floor-length skirt as we traversed the corridor towards the parking lot where the student vehicles were stored. We passed the vice-principal, a friendly-faced giant of a man, along the way. I nearly forgot myself and smiled. Following my first string of poorly explained absences, he had tried to be kind to me.

“Schafe!” he’d exclaim when he passed me in the hall, punching me gently on the shoulder with his beefy fist.

“Huff!” I’d answer back, grinning, with the kind of liberty in which only kids who were sorely pitied could safely indulge.

But that was before this, before I’d had a permanent, round-the-clock guardian. Now he didn’t speak; barely even glanced at us as he edged cautiously away, retreating as far as possible against the wall, as if afraid to pass too close or too suddenly. The way everyone did. I didn’t blame them for that, either. They were right to do it.

We reached the double-doors that opened onto the parking lot, barred gates of freedom before which I would have cowed had I been alone, but she approached them boldly, as if it were her inalienable right to pass unhampered through the forbidden exit. It was a closed campus, but the hall monitors stepped politely aside to let us by as they always did, even if they didn’t know about us. Parent with child. Free pass; no questions asked. Submission to parental authority was automatic, guaranteed. Indisputable.

An overcast sky was gradually divesting itself of lukewarm spring rain, sending tiny rivulets of rainwater along the curves of my skull and down the back of my neck like the tickling tendrils of an unseen vine. I’d cast the hood of my raincoat aside, as I always did now. I didn’t like the way it restricted my peripheral vision. Our windshield was spattered thickly with raindrops, but she didn’t turn on the wipers; drove instead in half-invisibility, whether in an effort to conceal or be concealed, I couldn’t say. She had covered her badly transformed hair with a plastic rain-bonnet, of an old-fashioned design I’d never seen before and haven’t seen since. It reminded me of the handkerchief with which she’d attempted to cover up her previously long and curly chestnut hair that night we’d run away from the house, only a week before my stepfather, utterly bewildered at the sudden turn of events, agreed to move out. It hadn’t done much to alter her appearance. I was noting carefully now the effectiveness of her various disguises. Preparing myself for when I needed one.

She fixed us sandwiches, grilled cheese and tomato, the butter-browned bread and melted cheddar infusing our kitchen with a near-heavenly scent. I hesitated before biting into mine, unsure if the meal would be suddenly snatched away, as my breakfast had been, on suspicion of it being poisoned while her back was turned. And unsure also, if one of these days it would be she who had done the poisoning. But she sat down and ate with me, apparently satisfied with the attentiveness of her own preparation, and I took that to mean that my lunch was safe. I wondered whether my dinner would be.

At two-thirty I packed up my homework and reminded her that we needed to go. “In a minute,” she said vaguely, sitting taut and erect on the sofa in the hip-hugging jeans she’d changed into and snapping briskly through the pages of a woman’s magazine. By a quarter to three I was nervous.

“We’re going to be late,” I said.

“We’re not going,” she yawned with affected nonchalance, rising casually from her seat to check the lock on the front door.

“I have to go, Mom.” Inside I was panicking. “I can’t let Josh sit for detention by himself.”

Even the mention of her favorite didn’t move her. “Then you shouldn’t have gotten detention,” she answered blithely, nodding to herself in undoubting affirmation.

I inhaled so sharply that my lungs burned with the force of it. Rose slowly from the table where I’d been studying. Deliberately donned my lavender raincoat, my hands shaking, sweat forming along my hairline like condensation over a steaming pot. Chose my words carefully, not wanting to suggest more than I meant.

“I am going to school.”

I nudged past her to the door, placed my hand on the knob, and gave it a yank. She yanked back, all of her considerable might concentrated on the bones of my wrists, dislodging my grip from the door and sending me crashing through the sheetrock, leaving a nearly woman-sized hole in the wall.

“What do you want from me?!” she yelled nonsensically, as if I were a disobedient child having a fit of temper.

“I want my life back!” I shouted, conscious of the melodrama of it, my pathetic cry, but aware, too, that there was no elegant way to express what I wanted. And no hope of making her understand it even if I found the words with which to explain it.

She didn’t answer, but swung me forcibly around again, causing me to hit the opposite wall of the foyer sideways, leaving a smaller, skinnier trench in the sheetrock. And then grabbed me by one hand, dragged me out to the car, and threw me inside as if I were an uncooperative luggage bag that had been carefully packed but still refused to clamp shut.

I swallowed, rubbing my wrist, relief flowing through me like the midsummer rainshower that so briefly releases the nearly constant tension of northeastern summer skies. I could still make an appearance at detention, might still be able to graduate on time and get out of this hellhole once and for all. She backed blindly out of the driveway and took off, far faster than usual. But not in the direction of my school. Towards the border, the state line.

“I could take you away,” she’d told me once, smugly, after the first time I’d made a break for it and had to be hauled forcibly home. “Take you to the airport and fly you anywhere I want to; somewhere no one will ever find you. And I am your mother and there is absolutely nothing that anyone could do to stop me.” She’d smiled complacently, humming cheerfully under her breath. Pleased with her cleverness, the infallibility of her plan, her power.

I held hard to my seat and harder to my fear. I focused on it, drew strength from it. I didn’t speak. In silence I awaited an opportunity, a happenstance, a careless moment, while she screeched around wet, sandy curves, slamming me sideways, partly restrained by the seatbelt that was intended to ensure my safety but which was hemming me in, trapping me in the car with her like a circus animal in a travelling cage.

“You want a life?” she snarled unexpectedly as we approached a glaring red stop sign, barely tapping the brakes. “I’ll kill us both!”

But my left hand was already on the latch of the belt strapping me into the vehicle; my right hovered by the door handle. I felt her fingers snatching at the vinyl of my jacket as I jumped and rolled uncontrollably out onto the pavement. I heard her cursing violently behind me as the car shuddered to a noisy halt. The backyard backwoods of New England sprawled out before me and I sprinted into them, clawed my way through branches and brambles and pricker-bushes, and came at last to a tall wire fence that I climbed awkwardly, my full-grown feet too large for its twisted footholds, and then jumped, catching my jeans on its pointed peak and tearing them nearly the length of the seam, scraping bits of the soft flesh underneath.

I stopped. Listened. No sound of pursuit came to my ears. I stopped breathing. Listened again. Scanned the sky and tried to judge my direction from the clouds hiding the sun. Took a tentative step, my footfall crackling the underbrush. Listened again and heard nothing. Looked and saw nothing, nothing but trees and bushes and pine needles and the slivered remnants of last autumn’s leaves finally freed from the cover of snow.

And then began trudging the miles through the woods back to town.

I didn’t make it to detention. I covered my ripped pants with my jacket and dragged my torn, tired body back through the deserted hallways of the school, leaving dirty footprints on the freshly polished floors and fingerprints on the classroom doorknob that rattled uselessly in my battered hands. Josh told me later that Mr. Cooper hadn’t shown up, either. Apparently he’d forgotten all about assigning us detention. Had viewed it, perhaps, as a temporary, meaningless distraction from an important lesson in physics.

* * *

“Detention” is an excerpt from my memoir On Hearing of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened: A Daughter’s Memoir of Mental Illness, now available in paperback and eBook.

Amazon (Universal Link)

Barnes and Noble

Also available in Spanish! Al Oír Sobre la Muerte de Mi Madre Seis Años Después de que Ocurrió

“Detention” is also available as a FREE eBook:

Amazon.com

Barnesandnoble.com

Itunes.com

Lulu.com

Poisoned: An Excerpt from My Memoir On Hearing of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened

“I’m sure you didn’t mean anything by it,” she whispered conspiratorially, clutching at the wires crisscrossing her torso as if they were lifelines. “You didn’t really mean to hurt me, did you?”

I didn’t answer. I had no answer for her.

She raised herself; bent her back up off the angled, starched-sheeted bed, the skull-flattened pillow. “You won’t get into any trouble. I promise,” she assured me in her most persuasive tone, leaning towards me as if greater nearness would bring her closer to the truth.

I glanced at my mother, ragged now from our endless day of blood tests and EKGs, pitiful with probes attached to her chest and hands. Then averted my eyes and stared instead at my own hands, knuckles white on the edges of the uncomfortable folding chair on which I perched by her bedside, and wondered if they were even capable of doing her harm. Thought that if they were, that surely they would have done it already.

She bent her face close to mine, the urgency in her voice betraying the calmness of her countenance. “Just tell them what you gave me, sweetheart,” she pleaded.

Her breath stunk of metal fillings and stale cigarettes, and I backed involuntarily away. Hasty and harrowed, to her my retreat conveyed confession and it prodded her on, encouraged her investigation.

“It was poison, wasn’t it?” she whispered excitedly, almost hopefully, I thought. “Just tell me what kind!”

Why was she so obsessed with poison? I speculated, not yet comprehending that it was impossible to rationalize the irrational. She refused to eat at home anymore because the food might be poisoned; preferred the anonymity of restaurant fare. But then it was in my orange juice or her coffee, might have been sprinkled like salt on the eggs or buried deep in the butter, this mysterious killer toxin, by some even more mysterious killer who stalked us, who intended inexplicably to do us harm.

“It’s not too late,” she urged. “If you just tell them what it was, there might be an antidote. They could still save me!” She smiled at me and conscientiously ran her hands over her scalp, smoothing down the short blonde hair she’d had colored and cut in fruitless disguise.

Sometimes I even considered the possibility that she herself was guilty of administering the poison she so terribly feared. If that was the real reason why she kept snatching my meals away at the last second, in an attack of conscience over attempting to murder her own daughter. Even I had begun to look suspiciously at my food; wondered whether I should refuse it, no matter how many meals I had lately missed. I was gradually absorbing her paranoia, cinching it to my core like the belt around my sagging jeans.

“It’s not going to go well with you if something happens to me, you know,” she snarled, all at once dropping her coy sweetness. “I’ve left evidence. They’ll be able to prove it was you. You’ll be locked up for good, I guarantee it.”

I listened to the quiet bleeping of the machinery at her bedside and eyed the doctor staring curiously from the hall, the doctor who had been sent away after admitting they hadn’t been able to find any physical cause for the searing pains in her chest, the shortness of breath. My co-conspirator, no doubt.

“And don’t forget about Bellevue,” she spat. “I’m your mother and I can still have you committed. Maybe it would be good for you,” she concluded nastily, sneering her contempt of my supposed sanity.

It shivered through me, this worst of her threats, the familiar fear of the powerless pitted against the powerful. I imagined myself again, sealed into a strait-jacket, shrieking wildly in protest, proving my lunacy thereby. Being trundled into some dark hole and left there forever to rot, to die, while she roamed freely about, seeking, perhaps, another child, a youngster, a victim more susceptible to accepting her incomprehensible illusions.

“So are you going to tell me or not?” she snapped finally, whipping her head around as if to startle me into the truth, her hands clasping the bed’s guardrails, steadfastly refusing to misbehave in public, in front of witnesses. Hanging on to the cold steel as if afraid she might forget herself again, as she had lately made a habit of doing; bruise my wrists with her claw-like fingers, or box my ears with the flats of her palms.

I bowed my head as if in contemplation, perhaps in prayer. Gazed directly into the once-familiar mud-brown eyes, hollow now, as they had become in recent weeks, vague and empty and occupied elsewhere, in vast regions of runaway imagination that I couldn’t see, couldn’t possibly perceive.

I meditated whether I should try to explain it to her, the irrationality of her suspicion. How could I have poisoned her? I was sixteen, and the internet hadn’t been invented yet. I wouldn’t have known what kind of poison would work on a person, even if I’d had access to some. And how would I have bought it, with her watching me twenty-four hours a day, even while we slept?

I stared unwaveringly into them, the eyes so unlike my own, so nearly inhuman yet not animal either; alien eyes. And abandoned the hope of persuading them with my useless reasoning. Her world had an impenetrable logic all its own.

“I didn’t give you anything, Mom,” I said, turning away.

She cursed out loud. I didn’t look back.

She surrendered. Accepted the doctor’s discharge and took me home. But she eyed me mistrustfully as she ordered me into the king-sized bed we now shared.

“I can’t force you to admit what you did,” she conceded as she lay down, fully dressed, on top of the blankets. “But I still know you did it.”

She clasped her hand hard to her chest and let out a gasp, as if in pain. And almost I wished I had relented and confessed to the uncommitted crime, I pitied her so.

* * *

“Poisoned” received an Honorable Mention in The Avalon Literary Review’s Spring 2014 Contest and was published in that issue. The piece is an excerpt from my memoir On Hearing of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened: A Daughter’s Memoir of Mental Illness, available in paperback and audiobook on November 7, 2014 from retailers worldwide, and available now for Kindle pre-order on Amazon.com.

It’s interesting to note that “Poisoned” is actually an alternate version of a flash fiction piece that I wrote and had published in the amazing Journal of Microliterature in November 2013. At the time I had decided to beef up my writing resume by seeking publishing credits, which are naturally far easier to obtain if you write short stories than long novels. However, short work requires more ideas – a multitude, in fact – and as my fingers flashed across the keyboard day after day, the idea well ran dry and I very quickly found myself searching through my brain for memories I could transform into fiction. As It hadn’t yet occured to me that I would be writing a memoir, the original story wasn’t about my mother and I at all, but rather concerned the relationship between a husband and wife when she is taken mentally ill. You can compare the two versions by reading the original along with my commentary here. Which do you like better?

“Poisoned” is also available as a FREE eBook; you can download it at your favorite eBook retailer.

Moving In, Moving Out, Moving On: A Memoir

My short memoir “Moving In, Moving Out, Moving On” has been published in Foliate Oak Literary Magazine:

http://www.foliateoak.com/lori-schafer.html

Although this piece now forms a part of my memoir On Hearing of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened, I was originally prompted to write it for the 2012 Ladies Home Journal personal essay contest. The theme was “The Day that Changed My Life.” Boy, was that tough. Very few of my life’s big changes can be traced to one day. The day I nearly drowned a few years ago was a contender, but I don’t think I was ready to write about that yet. The day I ran away from home would have been an obvious choice, but it didn’t make for much of a story. But then there was this day, the day I became aware that my mother was mentally ill, and that, I thought, had possibilities. Still, I suppose it would be a stretch to say that that particular day changed my life; rather, it was more that it marked a turning point in my theretofore comparatively carefree teenage existence.

It’s an interesting idea, though, isn’t it? Every day, people are faced with calamitous events that, in a flash, change their lives forever: accidents, natural disasters, illnesses, deaths in the family. You can’t even prepare for those kinds of changes because, unlike the string of fairly predictable events that make up the majority of modern life – going off to college, finding a job, getting married, having children, retiring – you don’t know they’re coming. Perhaps that’s why these kinds of stories fascinate us; there’s something wonderful in the way people respond to unexpected challenges, sometimes even something heroic. And while none of us wants to suffer a sudden catastrophe, maybe deep down we all hope that we would have the strength and courage to handle one if it came our way.