Literary Yard

Search for meaning

By: Raymond Greiner

Myrna Davis was born in 1950 into a middle class family and raised in a mid-sized, mid-western town.  Myrna was an exceptionally beautiful child a direct genetic influence of her mother, who was stunningly beautiful.  Myrna’s beauty was supported by a very quick and agile mind combining for high potential in coming years.  During her senior year of high school Myrna was chosen the homecoming queen, reveling in the honor and attention from this exciting event.  Myrna’s scholastic achievements equaled her physical grace and beauty and scholarships were offered from several excellent colleges upon her graduation from high school.  Visualizing Myrna in her formative years resembled a Victorian valentine. 

As would be expected popular males sought Myrna’s company during school years, viewed by many with envy.  This amorous attention also brought confusion.  Myrna’s mother Dorothy became her self-appointed counselor regarding male choices, which added uncertainty.   Myrna could not get a grasp on exactly how she felt with all this attention.  She enjoyed her popularity but also felt awkward and disoriented.

Myrna began college at a nearby school but stayed in the dormitory and would come home on weekends.  She enjoyed college making close friendships with dorm mates adding social dimension to her day-to-day life.  The male attention escalated.  Myrna enjoyed this, and was solidly booked for dates to sports events, dances and plays.  At home on weekends a young man in his twenties, Bill Macgregor, the son of the local Chevrolet dealer made great effort to see, contact and call Myrna.  Macgregor was a very good looking young man, also arrogant and accustomed to having his way, drove a shiny new Corvette each year given to him by his father.  Macgregor had a history of short-term relationships with young, beautiful women and was on a constant prowl to locate a new trophy for his shelf.

Myrna eventually gave in to Macgregor’s advances and they scheduled a dinner date.  Macgregor was supposed to pick up Myrna at 7:00 PM; he arrived at 7:30 without a hint of apology.  Myrna’s mother greeted Macgregor with smiles, told him how nice she thought it was for him to invite Myrna to dinner.  Macgregor only nodded and mumbled “yeah nice to be here.”  Myrna looked ravishing as usual, her dark auburn hair and bright blue eyes, creating a contrast highlighting her beauty.  Macgregor offered no compliments.

Macgregor made a reservation at the towns most expensive and lavish restaurant.  He centered his conversation on himself, emphasizing that in a few years he will take over his father’s Chevrolet dealership and his parents would be moving to their Florida home permanently.  He would move into their mansion and he intended to expand the dealership increasing sales and profits.  Myrna was not impressed with Macgregor, his arrogance made her nauseous and uneasy, he showed no warmth or humor, never smiled or even a slight compliment directed at her. 

“Well Myrna, what do you think about you and I escalating our relationship a bit, moving to a more physical level?”

Myrna was silent for a moment, then said:  “William Macgregor, the son of a wealthy auto dealer, accustomed to the good life.  During our dinner date you have done all the talking, a continuous pattering about yourself and a quest to increase your wealth upon assuming your father’s dealership.  So, what am I to think of this?  Am I supposed to feel honored, on a pedestal turning under a spotlight?  Am I supposed to be overwhelmed by my good fortune that you have taken and interest in me?  Is it how I look, my hair, or my body type?  Why are we here William?  What am I here for William?  I want you to take me home now.”

Macgregor was stunned at Myrna’s reaction.  Was at a total loss for words.   Then anger began to show on his face.

“Alright you ungrateful bitch.  Do you realize how many women would be interested in me?  They line up to get my attention.  You are self-centered and think of yourself as beautiful.  You really don’t do it for my anyway.”

The valet brought the corvette around and Macgregor got in on the driver’s side slamming the door and Myrna opened the passenger door and barley got inside when Macgregor squealed the tires lurching forward before Myrna could get her seatbelt fastened.  He didn’t say a word but was driving like a maniac, swerving in and out of traffic, speeding over 70mph in a 40mph zone.  He glanced at Myrna in order to evaluate in his mind the degree of fear he was instilling in her.  Then it happened.  A truck pulled directly in front of them, obviously the truck driver had not correctly estimated the corvette’s speed.  It was over in flash.  Myrna was driven through the windshield.  The police and ambulance arrived, they pronounced Macgregor dead at the scene and Myrna was unconscious and bleeding profusely from deep lacerations on her face, head and neck. 

Myrna was taken to the nearest hospital and after a few hours in the ICU her lacerations were sewn up and her entire face was bandaged leaving only space for her eyes and mouth.  She was put on a respirator and remained unconscious.  It was a horrid and sad scene.

The year now is 2010 and the small medical clinic in a Kenyan village was the focal point of the village, with an attached room that served as a classroom to teach local children.  A gray haired woman with a stethoscope hanging on her neck was tending a long line of patience.  Dr. Myrna Davis had healed from her horrible accident during those early years, returned to college and received her medical degree.   She was the most respected person in the village.  Then one day she discovered a lump her left breast causing concern.  She traveled to Nairobi and had x-rays revealing a tumor.  She remained hospitalized and began radiation and chemotherapy treatments and in a time her cancer was diagnosed in remission, avoiding surgery.  Myrna had become friends with a few of the nurses and doctors, who all knew of her work and her clinic.  Myrna looked terrible with no hair, and her aging, deeply scarred face, but the hospital staff looked passed that and tried every way to comfort her during her recovery. 

One day she was sitting on the side of her bed, worrying about her clinic and many patience.  She was writing in a large notebook.  One of nurses, Julia, and a friend, asked her what she was writing.  Myrna told her it was her personal journal that she began writing years ago.

“Can I read it sometime?”

“Of course” As she handed Julia the thick journal. 

“It describes my early life before Africa, and how I arrived at the decision making the commitment to helping people in this impoverished region.  I am also documenting my life in Africa and recently my experience with cancer.”

Myrna’s bedside phone rang: “Hello Myrna?  This is Monique; I received a call informing me of your cancer.  I requested a two-week leave from the hospital and they were gracious to allow me the time off.  I am at your clinic now and will begin seeing patience in the morning.  Your assistant Kalisha will help me organize.  She’s the one that called.  Please don’t worry I can handle this.”

“Praise God, I have been so worried about my patience.  Kalisha knows as much as any trained nurse.  I have been teaching her since she was a teenager.  She knows all the patience and their ailments.  How can I ever thank you enough, you are my savior.  I love you so much.  My cancer is in remission and I should be back at my work before your two-week leave is up.  Call me tomorrow to update me on things.  I’m feeling pretty good today.”

Julia took Myrna’s journal and thanked her for allowing her to read it.  

“Dr. Davis I don’t think you know the level of respect and admiration we all have for you and your work.”

That evening Julia began reading Myrna’s journal.     

The Story of Myrna Davis:

“As my recovery progressed and the bandages were removed, I could barely stand to look at myself in the mirror.  The facial scars were horrid, and deep.  My right eye muscles had been damaged and the eye was stationary, adding to my disfigurement.  Depression overcame me, and my life seemed to be at an end.  During my entire life until the accident physical beauty had been my greatest asset, carrying me to better places, better opportunities.  When I finally went home, both my parents were very loving and supportive.  This seemed to help, but the anxiety was far to great to overcome and despair grew deeper.” 

“On my dresser was an envelope from New York.  One of my dorm mates was a photographer and she had created a composite of photos of me and submitted these to a major modeling agency in New York City.  The agency’s response letter told me they were very interested in talking with me.  Of course now such a notion was out of the question.   My thoughts ended in a dead zone with no clear pathway forward.  It is a certainty that my social life would come to an abrupt halt, and I was right.  No more fixating stares from male admirers, mostly turn away looks, and women also distanced themselves.  Women are drawn to other pretty women, makes them feel good to be seen with a beautiful friend creating an acceptance and identity mentality.” 

“I healed enough to get back to class, which was extremely difficult.  I did not return to the dorm, stayed home and commuted to classes shunning people as much as I could.  My academic pursuits became my salvation, giving me reason and purpose each day, allowing a small vein of life to flow opening a form of personal sanctuary.”

“A few weeks after I returned to classes an accident injury attorney contacted me and scheduled a meeting.   The attorney was Fred Johnson, known to seldom lose a case.  He told me William Macgregor had a long history of speeding and reckless driving, and I should file a claim against Macgregor’s estate and that in his view it is a clear-cut case.  I told him about the modeling agency’s letter and he said it would be an important factor regarding the settlement amount, since that opportunity is erased because of your disfiguring injuries.”

Johnson: ‘I will seek a multimillion dollar settlement.  Macgregor owned one third of his father’s dealership, and with his tarnished driving record no court would refuse a large settlement.  It may take two years or more to get this through the courts but it should be done.’

“I agreed to the lawsuit and went back to my routine of academic pursuits leaning toward a medical degree.   The lawsuit dragged on as Macgregor’s father put up an expensive and drawn out fight in order to protect his assets.” 

“During this time period I completed my medical school curriculum receiving a medical degree and was assigned to a local hospital to serve my internship.  This was the best time I had since the accident.  The hospital staff’s demeanor was much different that my college contacts.  They accepted my appearance and it seemed to have no effect on how I was viewed or evaluated.  I was beginning to feel a sense of my old self again.  My previous beauty seemed less important now, as I became immersed in caring for patience and learning hospital procedures.”

“At the hospital where I was serving my internship was a young black woman also serving her internship, graduated from another college with a medical degree.  She was an exchange student from South Africa on a scholarship grant and planned to return to Africa after her internship and begin working in a hospital in Johannesburg.  Her name was Monique Destivelle, and her father was French.  A band of anti-government forces killed him when Monique was a teenager.   She lived with her mother and hoped to reunite with her upon completing her medical training.” 

“Monique and I became very close friends, and I looked forward to our meetings and discussions.  She was such a delight to talk with, and I enjoyed her French accent.  She also knew most of the major African native languages from contact with them during her father’s work as a diplomat.   She often accompanied him to villages and small towns as a child.”

‘Myrna, have you ever read about Dr. Albert Schweitzer and his historic work in Africa?  It’s such a wonderful and amazing story, how he and his wife established a small hospital in a very remote region of Africa now called Gabon.  A 14-day trip up the Ocooue River to access the remote village they had chosen to build their small hospital in spring of 1913.  You must read his wonderful book The Reverence of Life.  This book changed my life and directed me to where I am now.’

“My friendship with Monique was like a gift from God, we spent all our spare time together, involving deep and insightful conversations about our lives and the choices that stood before us.  Monique was a brilliant woman; reading and study consumed her life.  I read Dr. Schweitzer’s amazing story and also read more detailed accounts of his experiences and the positive impact he made on native Africans caught in the middles of profound cultural changes as European social designs slowly inundated the continent.  I was enthralled with Schweitzer and his partner wife, their accomplishments, and ability to transcend the many barriers and challenges to establish a hospital for no reason other than to help the oppressed.”

“My despair from my disfigurement has dissipated; my life now is filled with hope and meaning.  I have supporting parents, a solid career goal and a wonderful friend and colleague.  American social structure is geared toward shallowness, image portrayal, monetary status and material wealth.  Modern technology is being exploited and gratuitously applied without forethought creating a dark and bright side.  People similar to William Macgregor have manifested in greater numbers.  Humanity is in dire need of people like Schweitzer and his loyal wife.”

“I received a call from Fred Johnson, and the settlement had been finalized:” 

‘Myrna, Macgregor had a large life insurance policy on his son with double indemnity upon accidental death, and the courts were clearly in your favor from the get go.  I initially tried for a 10 million dollar settlement but was awarded 5.5 million.  The judge altered the amount.  My fee will be 10% the balance will be deposited in your bank account.  I feel gratified to have helped you bring your life to a better place and am hopeful your future will be altered in a positive manner.  It has been my pleasure to represent you.  I would enjoy an occasional message from you telling me how you are managing things and how your medical career unfolds.’

‘Mr. Johnson I am without words now, and I am very grateful for your effort and achievement.  I most certainly will keep you posted regarding my venture forward in life.’

“I was excited to discuss this event with Monique.  We met at her small apartment.”

‘Monique, I have received the settlement on the Macgregor’s estate lawsuit.  I have 5 million dollars.  I’m in a daze at this point.’

‘Myrna this is deserved, all your suffering and long term effort to rise above your crisis may now begin to offer reward combining with your medical skills.  It is so exciting to think of the possibilities.  Money is the source of most corruption but also can be a grand tool for altruistic purposes.  I know you will use this money as such a tool.’

‘I want to open a free clinic in Sub Sahara Africa, like Schweitzer.  If I am careful with the money I can get the clinic built and write grant proposals to potential benefactors for operational costs.  The clinic will represent a valid cause to potential benefactors.  I feel I can do this, and nothing I can think of would bring me greater satisfaction.’

‘I will support you in any way I can.  It’s within the realm of reality, it can happen.’  I know you can do it.’

“After our internship Monique took the job opportunity at Johannesburg in a modern hospital and planned to share an apartment with her mother, also as a supporting element in her mother’s aging years.  I convinced her to take a bit of time off and accompany me on a tour of poverty stricken regions of Africa to assess potential sights to build my clinic.  She agreed and the experience with Monique in Africa was monumental, a life changing event.”

“I had studied in depth the various regions of Africa and knew that someplace in Kenya would be my choice.  Nearly 50% of Kenya’s populous is in absolute poverty.  Many villages have no educational systems or medical services and the next meal is a challenge and also often not attained.  Monique and I rented a car and drove for days and days to various locations in Kenya.  We neither had seen nor could have imagined the degree of squalor we observed.  Children were roaming the streets with swollen stomachs from malnutrition, gleaning trash heaps for anything of the slightest value.  One small boy kept saying in broken English ‘Pepsi, Pepsi’ over and over again.  He had discovered that often large discarded plastic Pepsi bottles would have a swallow or two remaining in the discarded bottles, and he was ever watchful to discover such a treasure.  It was heart wrenching beyond my ability to describe, and tears formed in my eyes as Monique and I talked with this child, sadness to a level I had never felt before.  When I compared my ordeal to this child’s day-to-day struggle I feel a deep sense of guilt that I was in such despair overtaken by self-pity.  Kenya needed me and I needed Kenya.”

“Monique left for Johannesburg and I focused effort on central Kenya about 250 miles South of Nairobi.  Several small villages were in this region and one in particular stirred my interest, Takulu.  The government red tape and paper work was overwhelming and I hired an enabler who spoke the language to help me navigate the bureaucratic complexities allowing me to purchase land.  Also by owning land, building and residence my visa became permanent with the same rights as a citizen.  Building permits of various types were required but within a period of 2 months I had everything in order and began talking with local builders.  Before I left the US I contracted an architect to draw a plan of my clinic based upon my input and research on similar types of clinics.  Finally all things were in place and construction began.  I stayed in a tent on my property while the construction was in progress.”

“It was an indescribable emotion to witness my dream materialize, building this small clinic to add a new dimension to the lives of so many in need.  The villagers gathered in groups each day as they observed this project evolve.  I immediately began to introduce myself and explain my mission.  A young early teen girl named Kalisha visited each day and she spoke English well.  Kalisha became my interpreter and guide.  She schooled me each day on the native dialect, which was an immense help.  After completion of the construction the organizational phase began and Kalisha became my paid assistant and invaluable source relating to the entire effort.  The clinic was named Place of New Hope opening on June 1st 1982.”

“I had not anticipated the depth of need this village had for medical services.  It was a powerful realization and also taxing to know where to begin.  My building plan included a small traditional school classroom attached to the main building.   I would see patience until around 1 PM, then the remainder of the day taught the younger kids basic school curriculum.  This became my routine.”

“I began to write grant proposals in the evening, sending them to every source I could locate and with the eventual evolution of the Internet this effort became more efficient.  In time, responses came, and enough money flowed for me to meet operational expenses and basic personal needs.   Also to pay and help Kalisha in any way I could.”

“Monique married a fellow resident doctor, Alain Bissonette a Frenchman.  Over the years they have visited often and built a small house on my property planning retirement and both envision becoming a part of my effort to assist these wonderful and beautiful people.  As age descends on me such assistance is most welcome.  Monique and Alain are both gifted and dedicated physicians.”

“Now I am fighting the invasion of cancer and am so grateful to be in remission.  Cancer has a tendency to reoccur and I will do all in my power to prevent this.”

Nurse Julia returned Myrna’s journal the next day. 

“Dr. Davis your life has been a challenge that few ever could imagine.  I am so grateful that you have allowed me to read your journal.  Reading about your life inspires me to realize that whatever barriers appear in front of us, fate, faith and fortitude opens a path for us to a better place.  This is an amazing story.  I will never forget reading of your life.”

Myrna returned to the clinic and was delighted to be back at her workspace and home.  She greeted Monique and Kalisha:  “I feel like I escaped from prison.  I still feel somewhat weak, but I’m improving each day.  Monique I am forever grateful for your help.  Your presence here erased all my worries.”

That evening Myrna and Monique discussed things overall.  Monique and Alain planned to retire next year and are looking forward to moving permanently into their small house and assist Myrna with clinical duties. Myrna had a great desire to expand her school to include more students and if Monique and Alain handle the patience cases she could spend more time teaching the kids.”

‘Monique, I must discuss something with you that has been haunting me for a long time.’

‘Of course, tell me.’

‘When I think deeply about how my life has unfolded, how I arrived here with you and this clinic, I feel an odd sensation that settles in heart and mind.  Thinking about my early life, the horrid experience of the crash, William Macgregor, the money from the lawsuit, my meeting you and your introducing me to Schweitzer planting the seed leading us to where we both are here and now, must have a divine influence of some form.  This cannot be ignored.  It’s so abstract, yet so clearly evolutionary, generating from so many issues that fell in place in such a perfect and natural manner.  It just seems impossible that what we have experienced is coincidence.’

‘Myrna I have never believed in coincidences.  I have always felt that our lives and destinies are pre ordained and how we react to those pre ordained energies forms our manifestation to personal goals and achievements.’

Epilogue:   The following year Monique and Alain moved into their small house.  Myrna was so very grateful as her patient count was now very large and difficult to manage.  Myrna performed some medical duties, but Monique, Alain and Kalisha carried the bulk of patient load.  Myrna simply loved working with the kids, and became immersed in her teaching.  At the present moment in time all is well at the Takulu village clinic as a small group of dedicated people came together to deliver love, harmony and assistance to many in dire need.  Myrna’s cancer did not return.  Monique and Alain frequently told Myrna how much they loved living in their simple house and truly looked forward to each day.  Myrna sponsored Kalisha to attend advanced nurse practitioner training in Nairobi allowing her the potential for a higher paying job.  After she completed her training she returned to the village clinic and told Myrna this is where she wants to stay.  The word spread about their small clinic in a remote village in Kenya.  Benefactors came from everywhere, and the clinic organized a free food bank with the increasing monetary gifts.  Dr. Myrna Davis had made her mark on the world and Myrna was stunningly beautiful woman.                 


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