The doctor’s waiting room. Martha was sick to her stomach. These were supposed to be her golden years. But the “C” word had changed all that.
She was angry at the world. Angry at herself. And scared.
Doctors confirmed that it wasn’t serious. They operated. It was an outpatient procedure, she was cooking supper for her grandkids that same evening.
But she was anxious. The fear kept her from up at night. She couldn’t focus. She spent days, weeks, months feeling sorry for herself. It was hell on earth.
In the waiting room, a little girl sat beside her. She was the only one in the room with Martha.
The girl was reading a magazine, swinging her feet. She wore an Atlanta Braves ball cap. A brace on her leg.
Martha’s anxiety was bad, it almost swallowed her. She had to talk to someone. Anyone.
It was the usual kid-to-grown-up conversation. How old are you? How do you like school? Martha had spent a lifetime raising kids, she knew how to talk to them.
The girl was a conversationalist—which a rarity in a technological age. Martha asked where the girl lived.
“Used to live here, in the hospital,” the girl said. “But now I live at a foster home. I don’t got me no parents.”
The girl was small. Her joints were unusually big; her limbs were hickory switches. A thin tube ran from beneath her shirt into a hip pack.
“What grade are you in?” asked Martha.
The girl shrugged. “No grade. Can’t go to school because I’ve always been in a hospital.”
“Since I was eighteen months.”
“Wow, that’s a long time.”
The girl set her magazine down. “Hey, know what’s cool?” she said.
The girl held up five fingers. “I died five different times.”
“Yessum. Last time, I was dead for forty-nine seconds, I don’t remember it. All I saw was just white, bubbly stuff.”
Martha noticed the girl’s skin was white, it was almost translucent.
“You were actually dead?” Martha asked.
“Yessum. Forty-nine seconds is the longest I’ve been dead so far.”
How about that.
The girl told more stories. She used words that were above her age. Like: “resuscitation,” “trach tube,” and “ventilator.”
Martha changed the subject. She pointed to the girl’s shoes—they were lit up with blinking lights.
“I like your light-up shoes,” Martha remarked. “Those are nice.”
“Where’d you get those?”
“The church kids.”
“You go to church?”
“No ma’am, a church used to visit us in the hospital, they’d bring us presents and stuff. My friend, Tajima, got these shoes.”
“Tajima, that’s an interesting name.”
“Yeah, wanna know what WE called him?”
“I know. He loved that name. When he died he said he wanted me to have his shoes.”
The nurse appeared in a doorway. She called the girl’s name.
“Nice talking with you,” said the girl.
“You too. I’ll see you later.”
The girl stood on legs that were as skinny as number-two pencils. She hobbled to Martha and gave her a hug. The nurse told her to remove her cap. She gave the cap to Martha. The girl’s head was bald.
“How you doing today, Jo?” the nurse asked the girl.
“I’m doing super-awesome.”
They slapped hands.
“I love you,” said the nurse. “You super-awesome girl.”
The door shut. The child disappeared. Martha stared at a cap in her hands.
I don’t know where life finds you today.
But I hope you’re doing super-awesome.
Afi Scruggs - January 19, 2018 4:40 pm
After reading this, I will be. Thanks to Jo for being a light, and thanks to whomever shared this story with you.
Summer Hartzog - January 19, 2018 4:49 pm
Perspective is a powerful thing. I met a Jo once at one of our daughter’s many visits to Children’s Hospital in Birmingham. It changed how we faced our child’s chronic illness and taught us to be grateful for anything curable. God bless her.
Cindi Bonner - January 19, 2018 4:51 pm
Super awesome story, Sean!
Teresa - January 19, 2018 4:58 pm
You just put my day into perspective. I have as worrying and feeling sorry for myself and BAM. Thank you.
Afi - April 14, 2019 8:39 pm
I come back to this column from time to time. Just to remind myself to have perspective. Hope you’re doing well Teresa.
Afi - August 6, 2021 2:58 am
I am still reading this classic in 2021. I hope you’re doing well and your perspective is still on what’s good and important.
Caleb Halstead - January 19, 2018 5:16 pm
I’m an old guy who enjoys heart-warming stories. God knows, we need a lot of them and Sean always delivers. Thank you,
Jack Quanstrum - January 19, 2018 5:26 pm
Sharon Hand - January 19, 2018 5:32 pm
How prophetic this story is. I lost my little sister, Jo, back in 2015 to the awful C.(Complications from the surgery) It must be the name”Jo”. She was always so cheerful and always gave God the Glory. Thank you, Sean.
LaRee Baker - July 1, 2019 4:30 pm
Sharon I went to church with your Jo (really everyone’s Jo). I miss that sweet smile and her piano playing, she shared so much love to everyone she knew. Blessed to call her my sister in Christ.
Linda Chipman - January 19, 2018 5:39 pm
If you are feeling sorry for yourself you need someone like this to wake you up to how fortunate you really are.
C.F. David - January 19, 2018 6:11 pm
Holy shit Sean.
Diana Williams - January 19, 2018 6:21 pm
To God Be the Glory! Amazing as usual! Live the life that God has given you to the fullest! He is always there!
Lynda Thompson - January 19, 2018 7:09 pm
Wow! Sure does put life in perspective. What an awesome little girl. We could all learn a thing or two from her. Thank you Sean.
Jan - January 19, 2018 7:32 pm
I too am super-awesome! I just did not recognize it until Jo opened my eyes!
Connie - January 19, 2018 7:33 pm
I believe that God sends people to us, like angels, like this child was sent, to open our eyes. Beautiful story.
Celeste Sheppard - April 12, 2018 6:29 pm
Thanks Sean I needed that today! You are super awesome and I love you Sean Dietrich!❤️
Connie McAliley Chartier - April 12, 2018 6:42 pm
I love you Sean, you have made me find that sparkle that was once in my life, it was hiding deep down inside and is slowly coming back.. I have tons of stories myself but cannot write like you, if you ever need inspiration
Annette H. Bailey - April 12, 2018 7:26 pm
Dear Sean…with all my problems at the age of 60, I feel very embarrassed to say that I think only of myself right now. Pain is a powerful feeling but so is compassion. I don’t have to dig very deep to feel ashamed of myself after reading about little “Miss Awesome”. Thanks for putting many things into perspective for me. Maybe I’ll quit feeling so sorry for myself now. I’d rather have anything at my age right now than to see or read about a young precious life, be it a little boy or girl, undergoing so much sadness like little “Miss Awesome”. I will pray for her. Thanks Sean……
Afi - March 7, 2022 6:11 pm
I read this column every year. Sean your writing is helping so many of us. Thanks to you and to Super-Awesome Girl for showing us what really matters.