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Altered Again

September 4, 2010

I never met Jill Hollis.  In fact I had never heard of Jill Hollis.  That changed last Thursday.  I was in the car running errands, listening to bits and pieces of “The Story” with Dick Gordon.  I found myself in back story, not knowing where it began.  It became clear as the story continued that Jill Hollis had, for some time, struggled with some kind of disability and in the midst of that determined that she would not live a diminished life.

I sat in the car outside my next stop totally absorbed by the archived interview with this courageous woman.  As the story neared an end Dick informed his listeners that Jill Hollis had been diagnosed four years ago with ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease.  He spoke of the blog she created as her disease progressed.  And then he was expressing his sadness and sympathy that Jill Hollis had finished her battle two days earlier, Tuesday, August 31.  I was caught totally off guard and felt a sudden sadness that I was only now discovering this woman and her story.

Jill Hollis hovered in my thoughts for the rest of the day.  As soon as I could I went in search of her blog.  I wanted to hear her words, have a sense of her journey, and remember her.  The blog home page loaded.  The title:  Altered.  She had captured her experience in a single, clear, complete word.  I read her thoughts and her family’s in the days leading up to and following her death.  I found courage, fear, determination, growth, humanity, all expressed with unedited honesty as ALS continued to alter her.

Jill’s blog title has stayed with me, surfacing for another look from time to time.  Altered.  Aren’t we all “altered” by living?  We come here so innocent and in a very short time begin to lose that innocence to experience.  Don’t we all, like Jill, have the chance to decide we will live fully and undiminished in the face of loss and limitation.

Sally Jesse Raphael, the talk show host of 25 years ago, welcomed a mother and her 9 year son on her show.  Both had been severely burned and disfigured in a gas explosion in their home a few years before.  The son had had multiple surgeries with more to come to remove scarring and rebuild his face.  An audience member asked the mother how she had helped her son cope with the stares, comments, and questions that often came when they were in public.  The mom responded, “I’ve told him everyone has scars.  We just wear ours on the outside.”  What an insightful mom!  And she’s right.  We do all have our scars, left by the life decisions and experiences that have altered us.  Being altered scars, but it also allows us to discover our own strength and resilience.  And then, we are altered again.

I don’t know Jill Hollis, but her story has altered me.  My thoughts and prayers are with her family during their unspeakable loss as Jill has been altered again to a journey without ALS.  Thank you Jill.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. October 13, 2010 11:36 pm

    paulann,

    i’m megan. jill was (is) my mom. i was getting a little sad tonight, and googling her name. it’s strange what we can do with sadness in this day and age. anyway, i just wanted to say thank you for writing about the impact my mom had on you. she was beyond amazing. it helped me to know that she means something, even to a stranger (technically).

    so: thank you, again.

    sincerely,

    megan bostic.

    • October 14, 2010 10:05 am

      Megan,

      What a wonderful gift to hear from you. As a mother of two grown daughters, I know what a special relationship that can be. Hearing from you confirms what I believe about your mom and her legacy. You have helped make her present for me even though I never got to meet and know her. I’m glad you said she “is” your mom. I hope her presence with and in you will bring you comfort and joy in the days, months, and years ahead. Thank you for sharing your mom with me.

      Sincerely,

      Paulann Canty

  2. February 11, 2012 4:57 pm

    ‘we all have scars…’

    Paulann, this is what I love about this award! I get to read posts I missed; posts that are beautiful

    thank you. this is powerful. XO Jen

    • February 11, 2012 10:06 pm

      Thank you, Jen! I appreciate your friendship and input more than I can say. ~ Paulann

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