Incredible strength, unbelievable blessings
April 14, 2010
I have no idea how my life will be changed by Charlene Castle. I am overwhelmed by her ordeal and in awe of her strength, courage and sense of humor. She is truly a happy woman, despite the vicious memories that still bring tears to her eyes. She counts her blessings and truly operates out of an 'attitude of gratitude.' When you're in her presence you feel the gamut of emotions and that's no cliché. You laugh. You cry. You get angry. You feel sad. You crack up. You are awed and amazed.
I wonder if I would be as gracious. As comfortable with myself. As at peace as Char seems with the whole thing. How she didn't sink into a pit of despair and depression is beyond me. The physical and emotional pain and trauma she endured is seemingly insurmountable, yet she manages to climb over it and actually find happiness and peace.
Char shares an interesting story about her hospitalization. She was so badly burned and injured from shrapnel wounds that doctors put her in an induced coma. She remembers it, and her recollections coincide with things I've heard about people in comas.
Char says she felt very much like she was in a dream. She describes what she remembers as being in a "dreamlike state." She's not sure what it all means but in the dream she's in a white room, laying there, and her brother Mark and sister Julie are seated on opposite sides of her. She dreams that they're arguing and someone walks in and tells them they'll have to quiet down or leave.
There are two doors in the room, and people come and go through different doors. Her grandfather, who had passed away, comes in through one door. So do other relatives who'd gone on. They enter and exit through the same door every time. In the dream, Char tells her grandpa she wants to go with him. He won't let her. Says she has to stay.
When live friends and family members enter the room in the dream, they always come in the other door and leave the same way.
When Char wakes from the coma she's told that her brother and sister were indeed visiting and sitting on each side of her; hospital staff came and went as did family members, just like in her dream.
"When they say you should treat a comatose person like they're right there with you, it's true," Char says.
Char also recalls visits from a man she calls her guardian angel. He must have worked the night shift at the hospital, because he always seemed to be there when her spirits would sag.
He was a black man with the "the whitest of white hair." Char says he was in his 80s, and he stops at the foot of her bed one evening and says 'Child, you're blessed.' She looks at him and says 'I know,' and after gathering laundry from the room he pulls up a chair and they talk.
He has a calming effect on her.
Days pass without a visit. She asks another hospital worker about the man that does the late night cleaning and the worker says she doesn't know who it is. Some days she thinks maybe she dreamed the guy up. Maybe the pain meds were affecting her brain.
She tells Dennis during a phone conversation that nobody knows the white-haired visitor, that he's so nice and loving she can't believe she always forgets to ask his name when he stops by.
She talks on the phone to Dennis because she doesn't want him to visit her. She doesn't want him to see what she looks like. Every time other close friends visit, emotions run so high that it's traumatizing. One day she relents and lets Dennis pay a visit. She gears up for his disappointment.
"I thought 'here comes the rejection again,'" she says. "I was still having the self-esteem issues."
Dennis of course does not reject her. They're both very emotional, and after things settle down they get an unexpected visit.
"My little white-haired man came in and he smiled and he had a big gold tooth," Char recalls. "We both felt so comforted, and again I didn't think to ask his name. He left and we both felt better."
"I say to Dennis 'that was him,' and Dennis says 'yes, that was him,'" and that was the only time he appeared for both of us," she adds. "I believe he was a guardian angel. He came in a form I'd feel comfortable with."
Frankly, I'm not surprised. Once you sit down with Charlene Castle, you realize that someone so special, so strong and so grateful would of course be blessed with such incredible experiences.
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Catherine Minolli is Managing Editor of the Tri-City Times. She began as a freelance writer with the Times in 1994. She enjoys the country life, including raising ducks and chickens.