I have two brothers and a sister, but it is as if I never did. We are estranged. Once, I had another brother. At seven years old, Mike drowned on the first camping trip of that fateful summer. He was only a child. I was nearly five, but I will never forget my mother’s screams that day. They were from the very depths of a broken soul.
The man responsible for my brother’s death and our family’s estrangement died in 2008. It has been 10 years. His name still haunts us. This man was my father.
My childhood involved molestation, rape, violence, and abuse like being locked in the dark basement for fun. My adulthood included parenting a disabled child who was born at 1lb, 9oz. My husband abandoned us, and I was left in a financial pit of medical bills. In my 30’s, I was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor the size of a football in my abdomen. I lost a kidney and gained five years of CT scans and fear.
My name is Nancy McGregor. This is my Kintsugi Story
I had watched my father snatch out handfuls of my mother’s beautiful hair in his bare hands. I had seen her face turn purple and green with dark bruises. Her cries echoed in the night as he beat her time after time. He used his fists. In our home, each child had been a target of his rage. Each of us had suffered either physically, emotionally, and/or sexually.
My father was also guilty of Mike’s death. After Mike had fallen into the lake, he pulled him out of the water. Then, my father left Mike to die with my two young brothers who did not know how to save him.
After Mike tragically passed away, something in my family grew worse. Silence and darkness stalked it. Guilt and anger festered. My father became more violent. Increasingly deviant, he began molesting me at age five. My father completed a full rape the summer I turned 10. My response was silent. I made a promise to myself that “The Hurt Stops HERE!” I decided I would become a “sponge” and just soak it up. Saying nothing in silence, that's exactly what I did.
Pain & Tragedy on Every Corner
As time went on, my brothers and sister left home. My grandmother passed away, and my mother finally divorced my father. I was bullied, teased, and tormented in school. I spent time hiding in the library, which gifted me with a love of reading. It was during those hours in the library that books comforted me.
At the tender age of 15, I ran away from home with a 31-year-old man. He gave me one gift along with much pain. He taught me photography and gave me my first 35mm DSL camera. I realized what he was and how he’d manipulated me by the time I was 17. I left him. I went back home to my mother. I finished high school, got a job, and was completely self-sufficient at 19.
I decided to go into therapy. I also went to classes and group sessions. I found religion and began to explore spirituality. By the age 20, I felt I had survived the darkness, and I was pretty healthy. I didn’t drink. I didn’t do drugs. I wasn’t obsessive, compulsive or neurotic. In fact, I thought my life was pretty great. I never gave my father a second thought.
I married my boyfriend but divorced after only six months. After we’d moved in together, I realized he was also a violent man. He perforated my eardrum with a few blows to my head and was arrested. I moved out of our new apartment and never went back. I was heartbroken; I felt I did not matter. Would no one except my mother ever really love me for myself? But I did find love again. Soon after I left, I found out I was pregnant. My son was born early at 26 weeks gestation. He weighed only 1lb, 9oz. He was not expected to live.
He did though. My son survived and has a normal IQ, but he has Cerebral Palsy and severe vision impairment. There were many ups and downs throughout his upbringing, too many details to mention. Today, our lives are definitely better.
My health was not strong. I had heart issues due to stress and then came cancer. A tumor the size of a softball was found in my abdomen. After a six hour surgery, the tumor was removed. I lost my kidney and was told there was between a 50-75% chance it would come back. For the first five years, I had yearly CT scans, awaiting answers, not knowing if this would be my last year on earth. I became tremendously grateful for every second of every single day. Fortunately, it never returned.
Where is the Gold?
My life had been tragic in so many ways, but I believe everything can be mended. I went back to school to a two-year school for photography. I became an international award-winning photographer. I have written and photographed a book of inspirational poetry. I write a fashion blog. I have worked with victims of domestic violence. I use make up and photography to show them a new vision of themselves. I help show them the person they truly are and could be.
In my personal life, I have learned so much. I remain thankful for every hardship. The suffering was difficult, but I’ve never seen myself as a victim. I’m a fighter who doesn’t give up. One big lesson the hard times taught me was the most valuable of all: I had to learn to matter to myself.
My career was excellent, but in my romantic life I kept choosing people who reinforced the idea that I didn’t matter. It was all I knew. Constant rejection or being wanted just to fill something in someone else’s life but never my own.
I had to learn to matter to myself before I would ever matter to other people. Overcoming that was probably the hardest thing I’d had to learn. I had to see myself clearly and be willing to look my weaknesses and fears in the eye. It was easier to think I didn’t matter.
But I do matter. No matter what, I matter. I deserve love. I deserve a life with humor, delight, and joy. I also broke my silence and wrote to my brothers and sister. They did not reply. Only one of them read it. But I did my part.
Ten years ago, I met a wonderful man online who became my best friend and greatest champion. We’ve built a beautiful life together. We have a gorgeous home, and we are happy.
I visited my 90-year-old mother. She told me that she feels when she dies, so will the family. We are estranged. My life played as a movie in my mind. When it ended, I heard the bleak note in my mother’s voice. I was so sad. I had never realized how much she needed to hear someone tell her that it wasn’t her fault. All this time, I thought she knew. So, I told her. “Our family may never be close, but Love is never wrong. You loved a man. It was his choice to hurt you and his children. It was never your fault. I don’t blame you for anything. I am strong. I have gifts, skills, and talent. I am loved. I am able to love. I am able to laugh, and I’m happy.” Finally, I told my mother how much SHE matters.
That’s when my strong mother, who has endured so much, began to cry. They were healing tears because for so long, she needed to hear that she wasn’t wrong and above all, she needed to hear she matters. It turns out, I DO have the power to help end her pain. The hurt still stops with me. Now, the hurt does not stop with my silence; it stops with my voice.
I am Kintsugi.
To learn more about Nancy, visit:
If you have a story of joy after hardship to share, no matter what was the hardship, test or tragedy please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org