This is courage. This is strength. This is a woman’s story of survival and victory. An amazing story told by an amazing woman.
I am driving in my car when I hear Anna Maria Tremonti, of CBC’s ‘The Current’, interviewing Grace Acan, a woman who was abducted as a schoolgirl by Ugandan rebels and now helps other casualties of war reclaim their lives.
Tremonti is gentle in her questioning. Careful to allow Grace Acan space to respond. Or not.
I hear the strength, courage, heart in Grace Acan’s voice and find tears pooling along the bottom of my eyelids.
“I learned to do everything — however hard it was — in order to survive,” Acan says. She was was 14 when fighters for the Lord’s Resistance Army came to her school’s dormitory in the dead of night and abducted 139 girls. 30 would be released. Grace would spend the next 8 years doing whatever it took to survive.
It was all about living. And when her captivity ended with her escape nearly 8 years later, she kept on living. Kept on pushing through her pain and sorrow and fear because, she tells Tremonti, she had to survive, ‘for the family she had left behind and the children she bore while in captivity’.
And my mind travels back to a time when I was released from a relationship that was killing me many years ago. By the end of that 4 year 9 month journey I was emotionally dead. The physicality of my being present here on earth was more of an inconvenience, an annoyance that I knew he would deal with in his own time. That time was getting closer as I had given up on me and fallen into the belief I was powerless over him. I was waiting to die.
And so I waited.
And then, a blue and white police car drove up and two officers got out and arrested the man who had promised to love me until death do us part — as long as he had control of the death part.
I was broke, broken and lost. But I was alive.
What a gift life was!
I remember in those first heady weeks and months of freedom, whenever someone asked me, “How are you?” I’d immediately respond, “I’m alive!” They’d often look at me, surprised, especially if they were a stranger or someone who didn’t know me well. I’d see their confused look and say, “Seriously. Isn’t being alive amazing!”
Most would smile (nervously) and agree and walk on. And I would keep smile and keep walking, one foot in front of the other, as I worked to restore my sense of well-being, my sense of self, of who I am when I’m not carrying the label, “Abused Woman”.
Recovery is a journey. Of hope. Belief. Trust. Love. It is a two steps forward, one back and three forward again. It is a spherical path leading ever further and higher away from the darkness into the light of knowing — Life is a precious gift. Use it wisely. Use it serve others. To create better in this world. To bring light and joy into whatever space you can. Life is precious. Treasure it.
This May 21st marks 15 years since that morning when I got the gift of my life back. I don’t think of those days often. Yet, when I hear a woman like Grace Acan speak, memory tugs and I am reminded once again how blessed I am, how fortunate, how lucky.
I survived that journey. I have rebuilt my life, reclaimed myself, healed and deepened my relationship with my daughters. They were my unseen angels throughout those dark months at the end where I was lost and didn’t believe I had the right to live. It was because of them I never took my own life. It is because of them, I live my life today, passionately in love, honouring the gift of my life fearlessly, totally In Love.
Thank you Grace Acan for having the courage to share your story. Your voice reminds me of the power of my voice and makes me once again breathe deeply into the beauty and wonder of freedom and the gift of being able to joyfully exclaim for all the world to hear, “I am Alive!”
What a gift!