Rarely in life do we get the opportunity to interact with someone who radically changes our life! DeAnna McClary was one of those people in my life.
On March 3, 1968, during his 19th reconnaissance mission in Vietnam, DeAnna’s husband was critically wounded by an enemy attack. Clebe and DeAnna had only been married a few months, and he expected her to turn and run when she saw him. He was missing his left arm and left eye and was told that he would never walk again. DeAnna lived the commitment for better or for worse, and stayed by his side during the two years and over 30 major surgeries he had in military hospitals.
I heard Clebe McClary speak in 1981 in my hometown. I had no idea that a few years later and almost 900 miles away my life would intersect with DeAnna.
In 1985, my husband and I went to New Orleans for a conference. There were several thousand people, and we didn’t know anyone. We were adrift in an ocean of people, and things weren’t going well that Saturday morning. A server dropped a huge tray of breakfast plates almost right on top of me. I was dripping scrambled eggs and had a cut on my leg from the broken plates. I went to the restroom and cleaned the eggs the best I could but decided I needed to change clothes. As I walked away, I sniffed back tears. I had felt invisible the whole time we were there, and especially when I was wearing eggs and no one noticed.
My tears triggered the radar of DeAnna McClary who was walking into the conference. She asked me “Honey, are you ok?” I tried to say that I was fine, but it was obvious to her that I wasn’t.
She looked down and saw my leg and said “You’re hurt.” She led me over to a bench and asked my name and told me that she was a nurse and she wanted to make sure my leg was ok. She said if I cleaned it and put on a bandage.
She told me that my hose were the biggest casualty. That’s when she offered me the shirt off of her back – well almost. She offered to give me a pair of her own hose to replace my torn ones.
To me there was nothing more selfless that she could have done. In that moment, she made me a person, someone to care about. I wasn’t invisible.
I saw Clebe and DeAnna a few tables away from us that night and went to say thank you. She introduced me to her husband, and then she told me that I should have taken the hose because she had a pair that would have been beautiful with the dress I was wearing.
I went away from that experience knowing that I could make people feel like they mattered. I could notice them and let them know that they weren’t invisible that someone saw. It could be as easy as the tissue I gave the crying girl at the ER, or the help I gave my daughter’s friend who told me that no adult had ever kept their word to her.
Here’s a link to an article about one of those special people in Clebe McClary’s own life.