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Of Broken Ankles & Blessings

A glimpse of a place where the sacred and the mundane are the same
Franklin Evans on my front porch, with mint julep, Walker Percy Weekend 2014
Franklin Evans on my front porch, with mint julep, Walker Percy Weekend 2014

A lovely note from our friend Franklin Evans, back home in Philly and healing the ankle he broke at the Walker Percy Weekend:

I am a physically awkward person. Many will have observed me in various situations, where I’m quite capable of moving gracefully and even a sort of artistry, but it is all very hard-won and very much a conscious effort. Therein lies the briefest description and explanation of my mishap. I was simply not paying attention as I should, and paid the price of a broken ankle.

Rod invited me to write about my experience, in light of my emphatic statement to him that he lives in a blessed place. It starts and ends with my heartfelt wish to be surrounded by such people and circumstances, and more accurately stated is that we all seek out such blessedness, though we give it very different labels in different circumstances.

I’m not going to jump with both feet into a personal treatise on all of that… though you know I really want to. Instead, I wish to point out to everyone that we already are surrounded by blessedness, but the trick is to uncover it without sullying it or scaring off those who represent it.

In short, all we need to do is look around us with a slightly different sight. All that we see, especially the most ordinary and mundane, is at the same time the very sacred we crave with our hearts and souls.

In my case, it was people.

First, there was [Dr.] Lee Burnett. He was my guardian in the most mundane sense, keeping me from further injuring myself, asking me questions not so much to get information but to judge my state of mind. He helped me realize that for the first couple of minutes I was in fact in shock.

Then there was Bernie, our beloved Bernie. She thought she was out of my sight and in the background, but I could clearly see her — well, “see” her right through walls and other people — like a force of nature, moving about, orchestrating my “rescue”.

Tremaine was one of the ambulance techs, the other a nice lady whose name I never got. Tremaine stayed with me in the back of the ambulance, and by chance or design was also my “escort” to my final destination in Zachary. He went about his responsibilities with efficiency and a certain grace of his own; his demeanor and simple presence were soothing. I am a very balanced and level-headed person, but it must be noted and disclosed that no matter how balanced I can be, people like Tremaine were there to catch me and support me. I looked calm and collected, as the saying goes, but he and others made that possible.

[Dr.] Adam Whatley [the orthopedist] was the most forceful person of that day, but in ways one will not perhaps understand. He took over my care, issuing instructions, but what I remember him for was the driest wit I’ve ever encountered on either side of the Mississippi, coupled with showing up with his son in tow at one point. I can’t put my finger on it exactly, but that’s got to be the clearest combination of mundane and sacred. His wit kept me focused. Seeing his son kept me grounded.

The list is much longer than just those few. I have a sieve-like memory at the best of times, so I’ll let those others reside in my thoughts, knowing that they were just as important to me as those I’ve named.

I have one final thought to put out there. I intend it as a gift of perception, not as commentary of any kind. I had a very bad incident; there were people there to help me and heal me. People have incidents all the time, and such people who help and heal are there to step in and do what they do. It is the rest of you for whom I have this concern, especially those who are cynical or even just pessimistic about our society and where things seem to be headed. It is for you I have this observation:

You witnessed a play of sorts, a performance. The blessings were not intended just for me, but for you to see. This is the reality of life, not the horrific and bizarre which Rod and others focus on with sometimes morbid intensity. We are surrounded by the sacred at all times, in all things… and my one admonition is to not wait for a friend to break an ankle to make the effort to see it.

Thanks, Franklin. I hope the rest of you will come down to St. Francisville for next year’s Walker Percy Weekend, and can experience some of the goodness Franklin describes here, though without having to break a bone!



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