Quite by accident I came upon a book entitled: Promises to Keep by Robert F. Kennedy. The title was intriguing to me especially as I celebrate 29 years of survival. It is a short book, just 60 pages. But as I read his powerful words, I was overwhelmed with the ideas and ideals talked about in this simple but profound book. I want to use this as the underpinning of my July message --- July, the month that so much changed for me, my family and friends.
Twenty-nine years ago today, I died. Coming back to life was both a miracle and a challenge. I have shared my story many times and in doing so, I continue to recognize the life I was given back has been both a blessing and a test. Initially, this harsh journey involved adapting, adjusting, finding out what I could control, moving forward in the face of intense fear, deep depression and self-doubt. Helping me to overcome and move forward was making promises, both to myself and others. It was rough, but overtime, life got better. I answered to and took on challenges, both big and small, by first promising and then, working diligently to fulfill those promises. I chose to use my come back as a tribute to the efforts of those who brought me back and all who provided endless support to my survival and life after. I understand that promise is a big word. It’s meaning and practice is not taken lightly. It asserts that one will unquestionably follow through. It is a binding declaration giving the person to whom the promise is made the right to expect successful completion of the activity. I interviewed David Faber, a survivor of several Nazi concentration camps during WW II, sharing his story in my book, Turning Tragedy to Triumph. He recognized, after time, the challenge to move forward in the aftermath of traumatic events was necessary but not at all easy. Certain adjustments, adaptations and acceptance of what happened is required. He shared his vital motivation and encouragement toward survival in the camps involved promises made to his mother. He knew she would not survive, so he promised, she made him promise that he would live to tell the story of these horrific events, letting the world know what happened with the expressed intent of ensuring this inhumanity, these atrocities would end and to bring compassion and love into the world. He did, spending much of his life sharing his story in an effort to spread tolerance, acceptance and yes, compassion and love for one another. As he told his story, I thought about the promises I made after my brush with death and how this unwelcomed event uncovered and informed my future, my life attitude, my work and contribution to others who suffer challenges crises and traumas.
I promised to take on life in earnest, focusing more on what I could do and less on what I couldn’t. I let go of my prideful attitude and instead adopted one of openness, when I needed help, I asked for and accepted it. I asserted myself, surrounding myself with friends, family and colleagues that gave good, honest advice, guiding and supporting my efforts and at times, pushing me, making me believe in myself when I could not. These choices and promises brought me back to school, eventually earning my doctorate studying others who had navigated through tough times, enlightening and enhancing my work on posttraumatic growth and Metahab.
When Robert Kennedy announced his Presidential candidacy, he stated “I do not run for the Presidency merely to oppose any man but to propose new polices”. I promise to continue my focus and work on posttraumatic growth and Metahab, not to argue or oppose others but to propose new ideas and promote each survivor’s sense of strength, resilience, and capacity for growth, not in spite of their challenges but as direct result of them. Kennedy reminded us, “the revolution is within our gates”, so especially this month, I continue my efforts toward this revolution and promise to extend gratitude to those who brought me back to life and supported my survival, recovery and growth. I promise to continue working with those who suffer from traumatic events and those who care for them, encouraging and promoting growth as the ultimate result of critical events and work. I promise to live my life in service of those who suffer, sending a message of hope and reminding them of their remarkable capacity for survival but also their ability to grow, to be transformed as a direct result of their sorrow and strain. Prompting all, in the depth of their despair, to find a sliver of hope, promising themselves that they can and will move forward.
Like myself and Robert Kennedy, we all have promises to keep. What are yours? What undertakings do you have planned to better your life and the lives of others? Join with me, as a tribute to this significant anniversary, to make some promises to improve your life and the lives of others.
It is with deep gratitude to all who brought me back, kept me going and showed me a purposeful future, I promise, Metahab promises to continue our service to survivors, their families and communities,
Dr. Joyce Mikal-Flynn and Team Metahab