Scars can be beautiful things: A review of Bridget Oyefeso-Odusami’s, “Built for the Storm” – Toni Kan

What is a scar? A scar is both knowledge and reminder; knowledge about an incident, often ugly or painful and a reminder of that knowledge.

Bridget Oyefeso-Odusami’s book, Built for the Storm: Journeying through Life’s Wounds, Healings and Scars is a searing and pain-filled musing on what can happen when life throws you a curveball. It is a sobering reminder that our life can seem no more than a lottery and winning or losing is often up to chance and fate and God, if you believe in him. And for those who believe in God, this is a book that will strengthen your faith and also try your faith beyond measure.

The book opens with a jogging accident which leaves a scar but that superficial scar is a symbol of a much deeper and visceral scar albeit a mental and emotional one.

A quick business trip leads to an incident on a London street and suddenly the lives of many; from wife to two sons, business partner and siblings, church groups and professional colleagues are impacted in unforeseen ways.

Wale Oyefeso-Odusami is a business man on a business trip to London. As he steps out from a client meeting into a bustling London street, Wale collapses in a heap. His business partner, Seyi, screams for help and an ambulance ride later, the doctors tell the stupefied man that Wale has suffered a stroke.

Wale is out. The left side of his body is paralysed and he can neither talk nor move. Seyi is left to make the painful call home to a wife awaiting her husband’s habitual evening call. Instead what she hears is a request that is not really a request: ‘Hello, Bridget, can you come to London tonight?’

That wife is Bridget Oyefeso-Odusami, botanist turned marketing communications professional. She is the one who breaks the news to her sons, Adeoluwa and his brother, Oluwatomisin, as well as the extended family.

Bridget flies to London that same night and her journey which began on July 13th, 2011 is, in many ways, not yet at its terminus. Her husband Wale survived the surgeries, suffered through the therapies and rehabilitation and can now walk and talk but he is a long way from the 41 years old young man who used to play eight hours of golf on a good day.

Life threw Bridget and her family a curveball that Wednesday afternoon in London and this book, Built for the Storm: Journeying through Life’s Wounds, Healings and Scars, is a no frills, warts and allaccount of that journey, the wounds, the healing and the stubborn scars that remain.

Bridget Oyefeso-Odusami

I am not a big fan of self-help books or confessionals. I am a man who loves to read a rollicking good fictional tale. But I started reading an e-copy of this book while out shopping and waiting for my ride. But two hours later I was still reading with tears in my eyes and deep resolutions about lifestyle changes storming around in my head.

How does a healthy young man of 41 who did not indulge in alcohol or cigarettes suffer such a debilitating stroke? How does a 40 year old woman suddenly become not just mother but father and all round provider for a family of two young teenagers? How does a family that has lived a life of simple luxuries suddenly have to pay £150,000 in hospital bills?

This book will stir emotions in you that you did not realize you were capable of. It will make you laugh and cry and think and then make resolutions. This book, chockful of life lessons and miracles, is one that every intending couple must read before they say “I do.”

This book will make you reconsider the question; what does one do when the bottom falls off the bucket of his or her life? This book will test your faith then make it strong.

Bridget tells a story that is heartfelt and sad, stirring and sweet and angry and healing. Her story is a testimony of faith, a paean to true friends, a celebration of the kindness of strangers, a primer for career success as well as a manual on love and devotion.

Built for the Storm: Journeying through Life’s Wounds, Healings and Scars throws up many questions; a lot of which are answered but many of which hang in the ether; what is love; what does love mean? Why do we love people and what happens when that love we think we have is tested?

What is patience, how do you deal with life when your rope of patience is stretched to its very limits?

How do you behave around one who is in pain? Do you reach for scriptural verses, do you share your own experiences or do you shut the eff up and offer your silent support?

Anyone conversant with Shakespeare must be familiar with this quote, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose/By any other name would smell as sweet.”

How wrong! The bard missed the mark in Romeo and Juliet. Reading Bridget’s book, two words kept coming to my mind, strength and resilience as well the primacy of names.

The author’s name is Bridget which has a Gaelic/Irish root and can often take different iterations from Bridgit to Briget or Brigid. It comes from the Gaelic word “brigh” which is a noun meaning   “power, strength, vigor, virtue”. It can also mean “exalted one”

Her Delta Ibo name is Chinonyelum which means “God Abide with me.”

Who can argue that her name has not been a source of strength in this odyssey?

Another quote comes to mind but this time from the scriptures – “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.” This quote taken from Hebrews 13:2 will resonate for readers because without the kindness of strangers and friends, we may well be reading a very different book.

Bridget Oyefeo Odusami has written a book that reminds me in many ways of Joan Didion’s memoir The Year of Magical Thinking. But in Bridget’s case, her book is a chronicle of a decade of miraculous living – taking care of her incapacitated husband, raising two teenagers, advancing in her career and suffering deprivations mental, emotional and physical that such a health emergency can cause.

Our author has gone through an emotional rollercoaster capable of destroying marriages and driving people bonkers but she has managed to keep her head and she captures the turmoil in one succinct sentence couched as a question – “I don’t know how many people will go through what I’ve been through, in the last 10 years and even beyond and remain sane.”

This book is about hurt and healing, adversity and resiliency as well as grace under pressure. ‘Wound’ appears 24 times, ‘wounded’ appears 9 times while ‘wounds’ is used 9 times. Reading through what becomes increasingly obvious is that Bridget has taken vicious blows from life and has been wounded over and over again but through prayer and faith and the kindness of friends and strangers as well as a huge support system she has healed but the scars remain.

But the scars are nothing to be ashamed of as she says at the tail end of the book:Remember that wound I sustained in November? Going through the healing process all through Christmas 2020, I was ashamed of my leg, ashamed that people would see the big ugly scar. I began to wear long apparels to hide the scar until I learnt that your scar is a badge that shows just what you have been through. These days, I run in my cyclers. I know people are staring at that place and I just look away, because whoever sees it doesn’t know me, doesn’t know that I am going through a season of healing. Don’t hide your scars, wear them as proof that God heals.

That is a summation of the most important lesson from this sobering and beautiful book; scars can be beautiful things and we need not be ashamed of them.

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