When Your Supernatural Helpers Need Supernatural Help

Today, I am sad. And I’m thinking a lot about the helpers in my life.

Joseph Campbell is famous for investigating many hero myths from many cultures and distilling a pattern from them. This pattern, often called “The Hero’s Journey” can be broken down into about 15 steps. (And to prove I’m not making this up, I’ll cite Wikipedia to support my credibility.)

First, the hero receives a call to adventure. And then, naturally, the hero refuses that call—because adventure sounds scary and it might mess up her hair, or require a bathing suit, and she hasn’t tried on one of those since 1989.

Then, eventually, she finds an elastic hair band and her ancient one piece, sucks it up, and begins her quest. She is almost immediately met by a guide/magical helper who provides supernatural aid.

And this is where today’s thoughts come in.

My Freshman year of college, one of my best friends lost both her grandparents—who she was very close to—in a car crash. I was totally distraught that I couldn’t rush home and be with her, so I called my student mentor, who faithfully drove over to my dorm, picked me up, and listen compassionately while I ugly cried/snotted in his car. And somehow, I felt better afterward (if a bit more congested and red-faced).

That mentor happens to be Kent Brantly, who has been all over the news, as he recently contracted Ebola in Liberia, where he and his wife were serving as medical missionaries. I’ve been sending him healing thoughts, and I’m sure many of you have as well. I will forever be grateful for what probably appeared to him like mundane support, but to me felt like supernatural aid.

I’ve also been thinking about my buddy Karla, who we learned passed away this weekend. Karla was just a few years older than me, but was truly a legend in my mind.

When I was a teenager, I was gawky and awkward, with a face full of pimples, a mouth full of braces, and huge hair. (Please, everyone, talk to your daughters about the purpose of mousse.) I never felt like I really fit in anywhere, and Karla was one of the cool older kids in my youth group and at my school. She took me under her wing and adopted me, taught me important life lessons like “Boys are stupid,” and made me feel cool.

When I didn’t see anything worthwhile about myself, Karla did, and she nurtured it. I owe her for her supernatural aid as well.

So I’m sad today, after such devastating news. And this is the time to be sad. I even sent myself home early from work today, which is kid of shocking.

But the beautiful part about all of this is that the hero’s journey continues. Campbell says that “One has only to know and trust, and the ageless guardians will appear.”

And after that, the hero crosses over the threshold into adventure, separating from her known world and journeying into the unknown.



  1. Mom says

    I think I’m offended that “someone” believes we have no natural feisty in our family. I think Gran would be offended too. 😉 It breaks my heart that Karla is gone and that Kent Brantly’s kids may grow up daddy-less. It is true we have been blessed to know them both, but that doesn’t mean I’m ready to let them go.

    • Abby says

      I’ll let y’all work the fiesty part out. 😉

      But I take an iota of comfort in the idea that the hero’s journey continues. So if we are each the hero of our own stories, then those continue whether we are physically here or not.

      I kind of hate this, but I think it is true.

  2. Jacquelyn says

    You have always been such an eloquent writer and your writing has ALWAYS made me feel better. Thank you for this post.

  3. says

    Feisty. That’s what came to me when I read Dylan’s comment about Karla being one of his mom’s favorites. So I thought “Feisty.” Feisty Edith. Feisty Karla. Feisty Abby. Of course,Kristin belongs in there too. I mean, the feisty must have come from outside our gene pool.

    Beautiful memories.
    And wonderful adventures ahead.

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