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Brooke Jennings

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Member Since: Mar, 2007

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In The Eye Of The Beholder
By Brooke Jennings
Sunday, September 13, 2009

Rated "PG13" by the Author.

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A true story about chance meetings, strange bedfellows and healing.

Sitting quietly in a rocking chair located on the lower south side of Billings, MT, sits Shelly, a 50 year old drug addict without a will to survive. In 1972 a vehicle driven by her sister, was struck after stalling at a railroad crossing. This horrific accident claimed the life of her sister and best friend, Rena. The tragedy left Shelly in a coma for several months and led to many years of rehabilitation. Since then, her breathing is assisted with the use of a antiquated artificial trachea tube. Although  it enables her to speak, her voice is raspy, and  barely audible. Her answers are short and  her sentences sound like whispers. Although I knew she had a long history of prescription drug abuse, I was amazed at the amount of courage she displayed despite her years of addiction and physical limitations, Shelly possessed a unique way of looking at life and people in general. Originally, I was more interested in doing a piece on handicapped individuals and how society views them as less than perfect.However, after meeting Shelly my idea took on a whole new meaning. While sharing her feelings about life and death I could see that although most of her physical scars  have healed,she continued to struggle almost daily from the emotional damage caused from the loss of her friend and sister. Shunned since age 16 by everyone she loved, Shelly resided with her mother for several years after her injury.While those years continued to take their toll; Shelly learned how to perfect her "who cares" attitude. By age 19, she met and married Perry, her husband of 25 years. In the beginning, their lives were filled with all the good feelings connected  with wedded bliss. However,once her second child was born, the verbal abuse had escalated to vicious and brutal beatings.Following her divorce, her husband had manipulated the criminal justice system enough to ensure that Shelly lost custody of her two youngest children.This event helped her to view life as anything other than "precious." In fact, her life was her introduction to hell and she looked forward to dying. During the final 5 years of her life, Shelly attempted to overdose on various prescription drugs on several occasions. Unfortunately , instead of being embraced by death, it  continued to elude her. When I first met Shelly, I was shocked that anyone could have such little regard for life simply because just about everyone I knew including myself wanted to live, love, and embrace every moment.Since her lifestyle and choices were the opposite of mine, I found it difficult to wrap my head around her constant attempts to leave this plane of existence. However,as time went on,I still continued to offer my friendship to Shelly, hoping that somehow, I could influence in her life in a positive way.Still, all Shelly really cared about was leaving this earthly kingdom and reuniting with a mother on the other side. On November 17th, 2008, Shelly finally accomplished her goal. Somehow, unbeknownst to me, she mustered up the courage to become drug free, without any assistance from anyone, including doctors or family.Unfortunately, I was not aware of her victory because I had broken off my relationship with her three months prior. Although our parting was bittersweet,I felt it was necessary for my mental health to "take a break."When I heard about Shelly's death I was very sad, but I was elated to know that she passed away drug free! Her physicians were in denial and acted as though somehow they were cheated when she beat her addiction without their help. Her family continued to act ashamed of her and remained in denial. They also refused to allow Shelly's friends and ex-caregivers any time to say their final good-bye's by not publicizing her death until the day of her burial. At first I was furious that she was treated so poorly in death. However, looking back I now realized that Shelly got the best of them all by  earning the right to go home. Way to go Shelly!

Brooke Jennings is a woman that is passionate about educating the public and preventing nursing home abuse/negligence. Since the death of her son, Michael, she has been active in rallying supporters for The Faith Foundation (fighting abuse in today's healthcare.).

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Reviewed by m j hollingshead 10/26/2012
well done

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