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Finding Gracie's Joy

by Jan Ackerson  
9/25/2006 / Short Stories

The file on my desk told Gracies tragic story. She had been in her mothers car with her twin sister and baby brother, on an evening errand to the grocery store. As her mother rounded a curve, the headlights caught the startled gaze of a deer. Nora had swerved to avoid the frightened animal and skidded on wet pavement, sending the car spinning into another vehicle. Gracie and Nora had survived; Sophie and little Jack had not.

That was six weeks ago. The cast had just been removed from Gracies broken arm, but Nora was concerned about the deeper injury to Gracies spirit. The little girl never spoke of Sophie or Jackand she never smiled. Nora had called me for an appointment, frantic that her remaining child seemed to be disappearing into grief.

I knew that Nora and Gracie were in my waiting room. Surveying my office and the play areas that I had set up for my sad and wounded little patients, I breathed a prayer. Lord, help me to find Gracies joy. Through the peephole, I saw that Gracie was sitting solemnly beside her mother, her feet inches from the floor but motionlessas if the simple act of swinging them might somehow betray her sorrow.

I opened the door, and knelt next to Gracies seat. Im Meg. Whats your name?

Gracie shot a look at her mother, who nodded. Its okay, sweet pea.

Her wide green eyes studied me for a moment. Thenalmost a whisper. Gracie the Great.

Ive learned this: let the child guide the session. Well, Gracie the Great, would you like to see whats in my playroom?

She slid out of her chair and followed me, then quietly surveyed each play center. I saw that she was wearing a dishtowel, pinned cape-like to her pink tee-shirt. As good a place as any to start. Gracie the Great. Do you have any superpowers?

Gracies eyes flashed. Yes! She took a few steps toward the road mat, a carpet printed with streets and traffic signs. Taking a toy car out of a nearby bin, she hesitated at the edge of the mat. Her grip on the toy whitened her knuckles.

What are your superpowers, Gracie?

Gracie the Great!

Im sorry. What are your superpowers, Gracie the Great?

She took another car from the bin and tapped their bumpers together, ever so gently. It doesnt hurt me. She looked at me, then at the cars in her hands. When cars smash up. It doesnt hurt me.

Thats a really useful superpower, isnt it?

But Gracie didnt say a word for the rest of our time together. I made arrangements with Nora for a series of sessions.

Over the next few weeks, I learned more about Gracie the Greats powers. She could talk to animals, and see in the dark, and she had no bloodjust more skin. Clearly, Gracie was working through the accident, trying to regain control. Always, her face remained solemn, her eyes wide.

One afternoon, Gracie the Great revealed another superpower. Twisting a corner of her dishtowel cape, she gazed at her shoes. I never need to drink juice. Then, to my astonishment, she sank to the floor, sobbing.

Gracie? Why dont you need to drink juice, honey?

Several weeks worth of emotions poured forth. I told my mommy I wanted juice but we didnt have any so I told her to go get some. She didnt want to because daddy wasnt home to watch J-Jack but I cried a little bit and she had a mad face and said okay well go get juice Gracie stopped, her broken heart choking back her words.

Oh, Gracie. Do you think the accident was your fault?

A nod. Shuddering gulps.

I gathered her into my lap. No one thinks it was your fault, honey. It was just an accident.

It was just a dumb deer?

Yes, Gracie. Just a dumb deer.

Gracie sniffed. I dont like dumb deer. She peered at the framed print on my walla smiling Jesus surrounded by happy children. Is Sophie in heaven?


Is Jack in heaven?


Do they know he likes his tummy buzzed?

Yes, Gracie. They know.

Gracie sat silent in my lap for a minute. I have another superpower.

What is it, Gracie the Great?

I can see your underpants. I drew back and looked into her tear-stained face. She was not smiling, but a twinkle played at the corner of her eye.

Jan is a Christian who has traveled through sorrow and depression, and has found victory and grace. She dedicates all writings to her Heavenly Father. Check out Jan's website at
Copywrite Jan Ackerson--2006

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