What would you do if your mother found a hateful note on her windshield?
On Oct. 29 one Vernon woman found out.
Bailey McDonald is still reeling after seeing a “disturbing” note her mother, Medea Gunnip, found on the windshield of her car while it was parked in an accessible parking spot outside the Walmart Vernon Supercentre.
“Your not disabled!” the note read. “Your just an obese lazy cow abusing handicap parking, because your to lazy to walk, thats why your fat.”
“Those words were hurtful, and they are powerful words…tragically misspelled, but powerful,” said the 25-year-old Okanagan College student.
But it is those words that McDonald, who plans to attend law school one day, hopes will spark a “much needed” conversation about compassion, stigma and “invisible” illness.
“I think this person who wrote the note was, in their own misguided way, advocating for people with disabilities. They looked at her, didn’t see that she has an accessible parking permit and felt it was then morally right to go in and correct this.”
Hurt and outraged, McDonald posted a photo of the note on a popular Facebook page, along with a heartfelt post defending her mother, and urging others to “take a closer look” before passing judgment on an individual.
Disclaimer: the note was written on Lordco stationary, which is easily obtained by anyone. It is not a reflection of the company itself, or the values of the employees who work there.
“You do not know that my mother is not an anomaly,” McDonald wrote on the Vernon Rant and Rave group page on Nov. 14.
“She can walk without an aid, but not far and not for long. You do not have breakfast with her, which she eats on the floor at the coffee table, because it causes her agony to sit. You do not accompany her to the pool, where the water allows her a generous buoyancy so that she may exercise. You have not sat with her while she cries after countless doctor appointments, trying to calm herself and remain strong while she copes with the notion that she may never get better….I urge you to be more considerate of this going forward. Education is the first step to eradicating ignorance. I hope that you read this, and know, that my mother, as kind as she is, forgives you.”
Though it’s difficult to tell at first glance, McDonald says Gunnip suffers from chronic pain.
The 43-year-old mother of two lives with fibromyalgia, a syndrome often characterized by persistent muscle and joint pain, sleep problems and exhaustion. That pain was compounded after she sustained a back injury in a car accident in 2014.
The condition leads to a litany of problems, including numbness, fatigue and trouble walking, standing and sitting.
“At this point in my life, I can’t go for a hike. I can’t do a lot of things I like to do. Whether I walk or stand or sit, everything hurts. But I know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and I am working with some really good health-care professionals that are trying to figure out how to fix this. In the meantime, I try to push through the pain,” she explained.
When she found the note on her windshield, Gunnip admits she was taken aback, but ultimately, her feelings are “not hurt.”
“I kind of laughed it off,” Gunnip said of her discovery in October, before making light of the author’s poor grammar.
Her actions, on the other hand, tell a different story.
As her fingers twitched furiously, an indication of her physical discomfort from sitting too long, Gunnip revealed that, while she continues to display the parking pass — she has stopped using it, even though the use of it would make her life a little bit easier.
“I count my blessings where they’re hatched,” she said.
“Things for me could be a lot worse, and really, this thing could have been much worse. I’m glad this happened to me and not someone else. If someone found a note like this and they were in a bad place, it could have knocked them over. It could have really hurt someone.”
When she showed it to her daughter a week after discovering it, she jokingly referred to it as a “love note.”
“For a second, I was kind of excited — then I read it,” recalled McDonald.
“I really had to think it over before I posted that photo. If we were out and someone had shouted those words at us, I’m not sure I would have thought as much before I reacted. I mean, it’s my mom we’re talking about here,” she said.
McDonald said she deliberately chose her words after realizing the post could be shared to shed light on a pervasive lack of understanding around the definition of illness.
“What happened that day was my mom was robbed of her own narrative and I wanted to tell the person who left that note all the reasons they were wrong. But, I realized the only thing preventing this person from being an ally is education.”
Touched by the young woman’s well-worded plea, more than 200 have commented on McDonald’s post since it appeared on Rant and Rave Tuesday night.
Nearly all of the comments are positive and Mcdonald said many have since shared their own stories with her.
The pair said they are “humbled and overwhelmed” by the outpouring of support from the resulting conversation.
“The best part of this, and the saddest part of this, is that everybody shared — but that means everyone has a story like this. I just want people to learn from this. And to be kind and compassionate to one another.”