Everyone has a story. Some stories are predictable, some inspirational, some full of challenge and sadness, some full of love and the joy of life My step-daughter’s story is as unique as she was and worthy of being told.
Wendy Paul entered this world a rebel . . gifted with an unbelievable abundance of talent. She was a creative soul with the survival and battle instincts of a warrior. Although she never doubted herself or her abilities this restless bundle of pent up energy was not able to find confidence to develop her talents beyond her personal needs or wants. Throughout her life she followed a pattern of behavior that was inconceivable to most. First, she would create a world that was supportive of her needs and interests at the time. Within each world she would be a star, an unwavering leader, kind and generous to those who accorded her the attention she demanded. When the substance of that world was found wanting – she simply walked away and created a new world.
Family was low on her list of priorities although, on and off, through her adult life she would suddenly appear to repair relationships. It was one of the few repeat actions she initiated as she moved from one reality to another. For those left in her dust too many times there was no trust and hence no belief in her sincerity.
At 47 years of age Wendy quietly moved to a new dimension. While her passing was mourned it was not unexpected. There was a sense of relief that her pain and suffering was over. You see Wendy had polio when she was 2 years old. Although she survived, it took many operations to repair the resulting damage to her legs. In 1987 she was diagnosed with what at that time was a relatively unknown disease called Post Polio Syndrome. It attacked the weakened limbs and her entire immune system. She was relegated to a wheelchair and given a prognosis that did not hold much promise.
True to form and undaunted Wendy simply took stock of this new reality and advantage of whatever system was out there to help her. She read the Government Bill of Rights as it pertained to the physically challenged and worked tirelessly to get Post Polio recognized as a debilitating disease. She redesigned her kitchen and house to facilitate her special needs and manipulated Government Services to install it. The tile she laid herself by lying on her stomach and inching about the rooms. Nothing would stop Wendy when she was on a mission.
The high points in this woman’s life were huge. Her innate sense of balance, texture and color drew her to the world of art. With no training she picked up her first paintbrush and created art that was beautiful in its simplicity. Again – with no training – she wrote words that flowed as naturally as the music that was part of her soul. She was a captivating storyteller and a resourceful spirit always in search of a new high. For awhile it was wheelchair basketball, then scuba diving, teaching and preaching on the essence of life.
It was in the early 90’s when Wendy wrote her book of poetry called Come Look Into My Heart. On the cover the words were broken by the sketch of an eagle in flight, wings spread majestically across the page. She self published her work under the name Down In The Dungeon Publishing and promoted it on the Internet. It was not a run-away hit but she sold enough to cover her costs. The poems were a combination of introspection and philosophy. They reflected her long association with the Native Community as well as huge swings in her life – from the depths of depression and hopelessness to the euphoric rush from personal achievement.
The low points were almost as huge. She went through three marriages. She spent her life seeing the grass being greener on the other side and never achieved peace in her world – or stability of any kind. Although a pretty girl with big brown eyes that radiated her every emotion, her weight swung from 98 to 300 lbs. dependent on her mood and circumstances.
At Wendy’s funeral the medical specialist and nurse, her primary care givers, were both in attendance. For almost two years she’d been bedridden and on a self administered intravenous drip of a powerful narcotic. It was a rare and controversial treatment but necessary for her to have any quality of life. These two professionals both said they were only facilitators. Wendy knew more about her disease and the treatment than they could ever hope to know. Both showed only admiration and respect for their patient and friend.
It’s impossible to speculate on what experiences, impacts or genetic make-up was responsible for the creation of this unique, restless and unpredictable individual. Perhaps Wendy herself sums it up best in one of her poems: