A Story of Hope and Healing
© 2001 by Nancy Kurth Bustani M.S.
Cookie was my first client –
ever. I met her through my friends Bill and Carol Harper who founded
the Hope for Children Center in Kansas City, Missouri. In 1986
Bill and Carol were holding a
series of meetings in schools and churches in South Florida with the
intention of educating people regarding the horrors of child abuse.
They were my houseguests that
year. We had known them since 1970. Often we stayed up late at night
discussing the many critical issues they faced as they pushed their
way into our dysfunctional world attempting to shed light on a
despicable, dark subject.
One night I shared my story
with Carol about the time my uncle molested me. I was ten years old,
and for most of my life I had minimized the incident. “It was no
My uncle was an enormous
Hispanic in his late 50’s. He rarely said much to me, until the
night he was drunk out of his mind. He didn’t know he was touching
me. I don’t know who he thought I was; he was calling me by
someone else’s name.
When my mother told me he died
a few years ago, I registered no emotion at all. I secretly hoped he
was burning in hell.
Carol listened attentively as
I spoke, and then she said, “Now I know why you are always
cleaning. It’s called a compulsion. You’re a compulsive cleaner.
Somehow if you can clean enough, clean everything around you, it
might make all the dirtiness of what happened to you disappear.”
That conversation took place
ten years before I completed my graduate degree in psychology. At
that time I wasn’t familiar with that concept.
I’m an extrovert; I’ve
always had good people skills. I like solving problems, and in 1986
I was a volunteer counselor working at a local non-profit
organization. When Carol asked me if I would be willing to counsel
with an adult survivor of child abuse, someone they had met at one
of their recent events, I didn’t even hesitate. “Of course I
will!” I responded.
Several nights later at the
conclusion of the Harper’s program on child abuse prevention,
Carol called me aside and said, “Nancy, I have someone I want you
to meet. This is Cookie.” She introduced us and then she walked
I noticed Cookie before we
spoke. She had been standing off to one side of the main group of
people. She looked about my age – mid-thirties. She had been
crying after listening to the Harpers’ presentation on child abuse
prevention. Her face was slightly swollen, and her eyes were red.
She had cried off all of her makeup.
We awkwardly said hello. “Carol
said you might want to counsel with me?”
“Yes, I can do that.” I
answered softly without hesitation.
“You’ll have to drive to
my home because I don’t drive.”
“I’ll do that,” I
“I live in Boynton Beach.”
“It’s okay. I don’t
“You look a little Hispanic?”
she smiled weakly.
“I am. My father was German,
but my mother is Mexican and Indian,” I said.
“Are you sure you don’t
mind driving to my home?”
“I don’t mind at all.
Really. I can come on Wednesday before I teach my art classes, if
that works for you.”
“That works for me,” she
said shyly as she glanced at my young son standing a short distance
from me. “Who is that?” she asked.
“That’s my son Joey. Come
here Joey, I want you to meet someone.”
Cookie began to cry very hard.
That first Wednesday I drove
to Cookie’s home in Boynton Beach. As we sat at her dining table
sipping strong Spanish coffee, she recounted one of the most
incredible horror stories I had ever heard. She had experienced a
seven-year period of trauma-induced amnesia. In addition, she had
almost zero memories to age fourteen. Her defense mechanisms had
blocked a huge portion of her life in Colombia. Most of her earliest
recollections began when she came to the United States as a
She told me that she and her
three sisters had been sexually abused over a period of ten years in
Colombia by their stepfather and their mother’s boyfriends. Some
of her blocked memories were returning, with a vengeance, and her
sisters were validating them.
This was devastating Cookie
and she needed to be healed so that she could, once again, give her
attention and love to her husband and four children. At the start of
our first meeting she said, “I told God that I would be willing to
see a counselor if He would guarantee my healing. To prove this, I
asked God to grant three requests: 1) my counselor had to be about
my age and from a Hispanic background, 2) she had to be willing to
drive to my home because I don’t drive, and 3) she had to have a
son named Joey because my youngest child is a boy named Joey.”
We both cried. We had an
awesome sense of the supernatural. God had answered all three of
Before I left her home that
morning we held hands and prayed. God gave me another miracle at
that moment, and the same astonishing sign has never happened since
God spoke to me and said, “In
six weeks she will be completely healed.”
Each Wednesday morning for six
weeks I arrived at Cookie’s home precisely at 10:00 a.m. and left
at 11:30 in order to teach art classes at noon. For six weeks Cookie
recounted soul-wrenching stories of terror and unmitigated selfish
pursuit of sexual gratification by male relatives and other men.
The first three sessions were
the most difficult I’ve ever experienced, and I cried often with
her, something I don’t normally do in counseling sessions today.
But, I sensed deep in my spirit that God was reconstructing a life,
and I was immensely humbled to be a part of the miracle He was
By the fourth session a
transformation had begun to show. Cookie met me at the front door
and her beautiful face was glowing. She was wearing makeup. We
laughed and hugged as I told her how stunning she looked. She is
uncommonly pretty, but that morning she was exquisite.
At the fifth session I told
Cookie how I had heard God’s voice telling me that she would be
completely healed in six weeks. She laughed; yes, she was genuinely
laughing, and she said she knew our time together was nearing an
During the sixth session
Cookie said that she knew it was going to take time to work through
all the issues she had with her mother. Her desire was for complete
reconciliation for herself, her sisters and their mother. She had a
lot of memories, now, that she would have to work on, but she was
committed to the task.
I drove away from Boynton
Beach that morning in 1986 knowing that I had been privileged to
participate in an incredible restoration. It was a phenomenon.
My relationship with Cookie
was the beginning of my career as a counselor. I went to graduate
school and completed a degree in psychology. Today, I am still
humbled and awed by the countless healings that I am honored to
witness and participate in. Although I don’t often cry with
clients, I am still deeply touched by their human suffering.
Today, Cookie leads a
wonderfully normal life. She has a great husband and four grown
children who are married, and she is the grandmother of four. Her
life has turned around. She is fulfilled and happy.
I am also grateful that I
belong to a growing population of mental health professionals who
have an indelible desire for the healing of broken lives.
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