Trust me, this is the oddest thing you’ll read today. And it’s really quite moving. Rebekah is a frequent commenter here at CMR. Last night, she sent an email to Patrick and I explaining how she met up with Sarah Palin on a rope line. Now Rebekah doesn’t just detail the story. She taped it. So grab some popcorn and sit back and enjoy. It’s a great story and I promise you it’s one of the oddest you’ll ever see or read today. Trust me, you can’t see this one coming.

Hi Matthew and Patrick,

I read your blog every day, and have loved your posts on the election and everything else. I comment every once in a while, and thought I’d email in my story of meeting Sarah Palin yesterday.

I’m an amputee, and have had a lot of health and mobility problems over the past couple of years. I just got a new leg, and am finally getting back on my feet. (Pun intended!) Even standing for fairly short periods of time was impossible without a lot of pain a few weeks ago. At the McCain/Palin rally in Virginia Beach yesterday, we stood for around eight hours straight, and I wasn’t any more sore than anyone else. But that wasn’t what made the day one of the happiest of my life.

Since we were the first people in line, we were able to rush like mad when they opened up the area around the stage, so we were only about six or eight feet from it. There was something I really, really wanted to request if I was lucky enough to meet Governor Sarah Palin. After the speeches, when Sarah walked down the stairs, my mom’s was the first hand she shook. People were already crowding in and shoving things at her to sign, and she started moving away. I was so disappointed, but Mom grabbed her hand and asked her if she would grant my request–to sign my leg.

She kept moving, and Mom said, “Sarah!” one last time, and this time asked her to sign my artificial leg. Heh. Sarah’s face lit up and she said, “Oh, yeah, okay!” My sister Libby got a picture of her right when she realized what Mom was asking and looked at me. I just about melted into a puddle. (That’s my mom in the left of this photo, not me.) (By the way, you know how they say people on TV and in magazines are airbrushed within an inch of their lives and don’t really look that nice? Well, neither does Sarah Palin: she looks better. I joked with Mom that if she were any more radiant, our eyeballs would melt right out of our skulls. Photos and videos don’t do the woman justice.) Here’s a link the video Mom took. It’s shaky and super close-up in some shots, because we were all smashed so close together. The camera’s focused on Palin’s waist some of the time, but you can hear what was said and watch most of it. It ends with a shot of Sarah’s back when she hugs Mom, then one of Mom’s hand, and then I think Todd Palin’s feet…ha. The only thing missing from the video was when she first came over. There were several Secret Service men (and one incredibly dour woman) on every side, scowling the way they do, so I jokingly asked her if her guys would pounce on me if I took my leg off and tried to hand it to her, and she threw her head back and laughed.

I thought she’d hurriedly sign one ankle, but she signed “Sarah” on one side, then flipped it around and signed “Palin” on the other. It was all I could do to keep from turning into a weepy, snotty mess–and I would have if I’d looked to either side and realized Mom and one of my sisters were crying. She gave me a hug. I stepped back into my leg, and she kind of leaned over the barricade thing to check it out, and said I looked beautiful and was inspiring. I just barely managed, “So are you!” before I started crying, and she said, “Thank you!” and then hugged Mom, too.

When I shared the story with some lefty friends, I said I couldn’t explain why I see a totally different person than a lot of them see when they look at Gov. Palin, and I didn’t particularly care to try as I didn’t want to argue. What I see is someone who radiates love and compassion, someone who reminds me of my mother and other wonderful women in my life, someone who makes me want to do great things. What I wish I’d been able to say to her is that the major reason I consider her a hero is the way she stands in stark contrast to the false compassion of our day, in which otherwise good people believe love means trying to eliminate suffering by doling out death like it’s the ultimate gift. Modern humanitarians think, “I wouldn’t want to live like that,” and they never have a chance to see that (as Gov. Palin said in her RNC speech) with a special challenge comes a special joy. Even when we can’t see those special joys right away, our faith lets us trust we will see suffering turned right-side-out someday. I would still be here if my parents had known about my leg before I was born, because my mother is a lot like Sarah Palin, and they both have a heart like Our Lady: wise and brave; one that “ponders all these things,” when “all these things” includes the promise “a sword shall pierce your own heart, too.” But thousands of babies with my condition and others–cleft palate, club foot, Down syndrome, etc.–never had the chance to live.

In response to people who said it would have been better if a certain disabled little girl had never been born, the great Flannery O’Conner wrote, “In the absence of faith, we govern by tenderness. And tenderness leads to the gas chamber.” If Flannery had lived to see Roe vs. Wade and its effects, I think she would have added “abortion clinic.” Flannery knew about pain, suffering, and disability–she died of lupus when she was only forty years old. She lived her adult life dying, and knowing it, and you know how she wrote about it? “I have never been anywhere but sick. In a sense sickness is a place…and it’s always a place where nobody can follow. Sickness before death is a very appropriate thing and I think those who don’t have it miss one of God’s mercies.” Sickness and disability aren’t one and the same, but they share that quality of being a place apart–and a mercy, if only we let them. I admire Flannery greatly–oddly, all of my heroines either died or were born in 1964–Flannery, my mom, and Sarah Palin. Or maybe it’s not so odd–I can’t help but think Flannery passed a torch. Feel (more than) free to share this if you want! 🙂

Thanks Rebekah for sending that story over. I don’t think your cinematographer will be winning any awards come Oscar time but I give your film 4 stars. Thanks.

Here’s some of the pictures you took: