|Birth: ||Aug. 6, 1956|
St. Louis City
|Death: ||Jan. 26, 1973|
St. Louis City
A Golden Ticket to Heaven
Who am I? Only I and God and the angels know. And a few people - a few who are living, but the majority are dead.
The doctor who delivered me was incompetent and used forceps during delivery and crushed my skull which injured my brain. I also had hip dysplasia (which is fairly common and fixed easily now, but not so at the time of my birth). As a result of this trauma I was made blind, was unable to turn over and would never learn to walk.
Due to social prejudice, fear of the unknown, and no family sympathy or support, my parents placed me in a children's nursing home before I was one year old. My hearing was excellent, but I never learned to talk. No one worked with me, no one tried. The idea that I might be taught to speak was never entertained because I had been labeled damaged, retarded, useless.
My parents were lower middle class and it was hard for them to pay the $850 a month bill for my care. This was in the late 1950s and that was a huge amount to pay each month. The costs kept going up as I grew larger, and soon the bill was approaching $2000 a month, plus I had outgrown the child stage and my parents were told that I needed to be moved to a different home.
Not able to afford the expense of my care, my parents were forced to put me in the Missouri State Home in St. Louis, MO. It was a very progressive thinking institution that brought new light to people with brain impairment and mental disorders. People called it "the nut house", not understanding that many of the patients were there due to physical damage as well as mental problems. Either way, it was not a place of torture and pain. The doctors and staff were very focused on new methods of treating their sort of patients. My parents felt the social judgment from friends and family who knew where I had been placed. If anyone had tried to help or inquire about my care they would have found that I was safe, saw a doctor daily, and had adequate nursing care and testing as needed. But no one came.
My main physical ailment was frequent pneumonia from chronic upper respiratory problems, caused by inactivity. I could only lie in bed on my back due to my hip problem.
How different my life could have been if physical therapy, hip surgeries, and speech therapy had been offered to me! I may have been able to at least talk if I had had someone by my side daily, speaking to me and encouraging me to make my gibberish clearer.
I never got to know my sister (she was told that I had died) or meet my brother. I rarely saw my parents. No one was allowed in to see me, although spies from the family did try to visit to report back to the others who taunted my parents about my birth. I was the subject of much whispering at family gatherings. I was the weapon my paternal grandmother used against my mother to beat her down as she was known to do to many family members.
In spite of all this, I did have some good days. Sometimes the nurses would turn my radio on so I could listen to music. I would laugh at bells and animals sounds, I loved birdsong and whistling. My favorite person at the home was a man who cleaned the floors; he whistled while he worked; I could tell he was coming because his whistling would get louder as he made his was down the hall, cleaning rooms.
AND THEN HE WOULD BURST INTO MY ROOM AND FILL IT WITH BIRD CHIRPS AND BIRDSONG. If I laughed (and I always did), he would then start whistling gay little melodies that I would nod my head to. His songs would get softer as he made his way to the door, and I never heard him leave, not once, for his whistling would send me to slumber land each time.
Sometimes my bed would be rolled over by an opened window where I could feel cool breezes in my hair, and warm sun on my legs.
A few miracles happened. I WENT OUTSIDE FOR THE AFTERNOON! IF I was well enough, and IF there were enough nurses on duty to take me, and IF the weather was "just right" I was moved into a very narrow bed and taken outside to lie under the trees. The sunlight would filter gently down onto my entire body, not just my legs. I could hear many strange, new and unknown sounds, sounds that were muffled by the time they reached our one open window on the fifth floor of our brick and concrete home. One of those days would put me in a delicious trance for days on end.
Occasionally I would be placed on my stomach and someone would massage my back and legs. This would always start with a fight because I wasn't used to the position and didn't understand that I had to keep my head turned to the side so I could breathe. One of the nurses would hold my head in the right position and I would go into a tantrum! Then one day an aide came in with a rubber helmet that had holes around it for air circulation and it was made to stick out farther than my face. Now I could lay down face against the mattress…so I course I now promptly turned my head to the side. Everyone laughed which made me laugh and I learned to relax, breathe, and enjoy having my sore back and legs muscles massaged
Sometimes my parents came to see me. I always knew when they came because the nurses would be sure that I was awake, clean and had already eaten so I wouldn't be crabby. My mom's voice was always soft and sad sounding, but my dad's was vigorous and lively and it always gave me goose bumps from its thrilling vibrations. He would ruffle my hair, and then mom would smooth it back. I always heard new music when they came, and after they left too, because they would bring music boxes that could be wound up for me when I was having a bad day.
Finally, when I was fifteen, God set me free from by body. Pneumonia was the vehicle, but it was an old companion of mine so I felt no fear, nor pain. I just slipped out and the next thing I knew I was in my parents' home, watching them eat lunch. My sister was in her room, working on some final preparations for her wedding the next month. My younger brother - hey, that made me the OLDER brother! - was irritating the neighbors by riding his Honda motor bike up and down the dusty gravel road. Zoom, zoom, up and down. I was getting impatient for him to stop, for I wanted a better look at him but I was also impatient to "get going". Walking, running a bit, seeing all the glorious colors of my surroundings were almost overwhelming for me.
What was truly amazing to me was that I "knew" what all the things were that I saw, and I could make myself understandable to the lady who had come to guide me from my hospital bed. We didn't talk with our mouths (that would have probably been TOO much for my brain to manage!) but mind to mind we could "speak".
My angel lady informed me that the "zooming" could continue for some time, possibly for an hour or more, and suggested that we move on. I think the neighbor who was watching my brother kick up dust that floated onto her newly swept porch made my angel lady nervous.
I can't say in this short story all that we saw and did that day, and how quickly. It seemed that my angel would name a place and we would be there. I got to see where I would have gone to school if I had been born "normal", who my friends would have been and even saw a few of the relatives who shunned me at birth and talked in whispers behind my parents' backs. Wondering why I was being taken to see these things, my angel said that before I went to my next home it was important that I actually see what Good and Evil were so that I could recognize them in my future work.
Wouldn't you love to know just how, and just what, happened next? Well, I can't tell you yet, as part of the wonder can't be translated into human language. And part of it is secret, for you to discover on the day you are allowed to slip out of your body.
The one thing I can tell you is to be sure you know the difference between Good and Evil. Make Good your companion. Keep Evil far from you. Whichever penetrates your being the most will determine your future home.
I guess I was really lucky, in spite of what people thought about my life. I was kept away from evil due to the circumstances of my birth. I really got the easy way out of my human existence. I got a Golden Ticket to Heaven.
Will you be so lucky? Who is your companion, right this minute?
Dictated by "Will" to his sister, Cathy, on 20 Dec 2009. ©CaC
William Clyde Dickerson (1933 - 1980)
Catherine Joanna Viola Penner Dickerson (1933 - 1996)
"Tread softly, for an angel band doth guard the silent dust, And we can safely leave our boy, our darling, in their trust."
Saint Matthew Cemetery
St. Louis City
Created by: Cathy A Dickerson Champi...
Record added: Aug 18, 2010
Find A Grave Memorial# 57274325