June 28, 2006
When Life Intrudes
Reporters are trained to be objective. Get the facts, ma'am — just the facts. No room for sappy emotion or, God forbid, any hint of subjectivity, not when you're in the business of reporting the news.
But sometimes, life intrudes. Sometimes there is a story that manages to crack the hardened surface of a reporter's world-weary countenance, sneak beneath the cynicism and find its way into that soft spot hidden far beneath the world's inquiring eyes.
Such was the case recently when I went to interview Kim Haeg, a young Southold woman who was injured in a tragic car accident two years ago.
That same year, Southold suffered another blow when Jackie Fields lost her son Travis in a devastating motorcycle accident only months after Kim was left a quadriplegic, clinging to life.
Both stories broke my heart and, at year's end, I wrote a Traveler Watchman editorial reminiscing about the stories that were so much more than stories to me — the subjects of those stories, I said, would remain in my heart forever.
Though inexorably linked in my mind, Kim Haeg and her mother Lorraine had never met Jackie Fields. So imagine my utter shock when I went to Kim's house last week to interview her about a recent rally for stem cell research she'd attended and found Jackie standing in her kitchen.
Turns out, Jackie's a nurse who'd been introduced to the Haegs, who struggled for months to find consistent, reliable nursing care. In fact, the subject was one I had written about. Lorraine issued a public plea for nursing assistance when she could no longer bear the burden alone.
Jackie read the article and wondered if she could reach out and ease Lorraine's heartbreak. Kim is 21, the same age as Travis was on the day that Jackie saw her boy for the very last time. Could she get past the sorrow and go on to nurture another family who'd been rocked by seemingly insurmountable tragedy?
Yes, Virginia, sometimes, there is a Santa Claus. Or a miracle. Or, yes, the presence of angels. Because when Jackie stepped into the Haeg home for the first time, two families ravaged by pain were brought together to help one another heal. Two mothers who'd faced the unthinkable were bonded forever as they soldiered on together and began the journey of caring for Kim.
It hasn't been easy. There have been days when Kim has questioned why she was left to live on, when life seems intolerable and death a welcome substitute for the agony of existence.
It's on those days, Jackie says, that she need only take one look at Kim and remind her of what could have been, of what did happen to her beloved son. Jackie freely admits that she would do anything, take her son in any shape or form, just to have him back in her life and arms.
When I walked into that room, a mother myself, and found the two mothers whose stories have touched me more deeply than any others I've ever written, I literally got chills. Never before have I so believed in the magic of miracles.
Needless to say, the objectivity went straight out the door. The three of us, mothers all, embraced, tears streaming down our cheeks for lives tragically ripped apart and then, wondrously mended through the power of love, and hope, and pure faith.
It was one of those times when I knew, really knew, that I am doing the work I am meant to do. Because if my writing in any way brought those two families together, than I am forever blessed.