Friday, March 21, 2014

Twenty Years Later

Twenty years ago, on March 20, 1994, I awoke to a knock on the door early in the morning.  My Mom's brother and best friend were standing there.  They told me my Mom had been in a car accident, and flown to a bigger city for the "right kind of doctor", and something about a hurt back.  I remember thinking that she probably wouldn't be able to lift anything heavy for awhile, but not much beyond that.  When we drove to see her later that day, I found her all puffy lying in a bed with a metal halo attached to her skull, abrasions on her arms, in a room that smelled like blood and medicine, I guess.  Oddly enough, I don't remember anything about her left wrist which was completely shattered.  Worst fracture the orthopedist has seen in 10 years, as I recall.  I remember asking about how she got this mark, or that mark, and when she answered that she didn't know, she sounded like a robot and said something like "I'll be fine." 

Unlike my older sister, I don't remember being told that she'd never walk again.  Maybe that happened during the following week when I was gone on my high school spring break choir trip to Disneyworld.  I didn't want to go, but everyone felt it was best.  Mom was going to live, and beyond that, there wasn't anything I could offer by staying.  So, I went. 

For the following three months, Mom lived in the rehabilitation hospital, re-learning how to eat, brush teeth, bathe, and basically, survive.  This is the same hospital I visited, so she could see me in my junior Prom dress.  The same hospital where we slowly learned what our new life would look like.  Throughout this time, my younger brother and I lived with our aunt and uncle.  We were 16 and 14.

My mother became a quadriplegic on that fateful night, 20 years ago.  She broke her neck and left wrist.  She was 43-years-old.  It has been a long, long road.  Lots of things come with a lack of mobility.  Bed sores, incontinence, pneumonia, blood clots, digestive issues, chronic pain, total lack of privacy and self-sufficiency, and all manner of emotional and psychological adjustments besides. 

But, none of these are why I'm writing today.  Today, I am thankful for what I have gained from walking with my Mom through part of her journey.  Through it all, I was only her right-hand lady for  about four years, and a back-up beyond that.  But, I learned a lot in 4 years.  I wish that I could say that I served her well.  But, I was often bitter and unkind.  However, twenty years later, my experiences with her are still positively impacting the decisions I make. 

On Monday, I am going to embark on a new chapter in my life - pursuing hospital chaplaincy.  This begins with a 10-week internship at a local hospital, and will follow with a Master's degree in Pastoral Theology.  I could not feel more suited or more excited.  Because of my mother's accident, I took the course to become an Emergency Medical Technician during my Senior year of high school.  From there, I worked in our county's EMS service and emergency room through college and beyond.  I loved the people, I loved the work, and I loved the environment. 

As my youngest starts kindergarten next year, it is time for me to expand my stay-at-home-mom gig.  As Providence would have it, all of my personal experience, work experience, and passion about the spiritual life are coming together as a new vocation.  I am going to be a hospital chaplain. 

I'm with my Mom and all fellow Christians when I repeat Romans 8:28 from the bottom of my heart,

We know that all things work for good for those who love God - who are called according to his purpose.

Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for my Mom.  Thank you for preserving her life.  Thank you for her perseverance, her forgiveness, and her continual effort to grow closer to You.  Thank you for my aunt and uncle who absorbed us into their lives, as if it was the easiest thing in the world.  Please give me the grace to imitate them, when others look to me for something they should be receiving from someone else.  Thank you for my co-workers through my EMS years, and for their model of Christianity in the workforce.  Thank you for all of the opportunities You have afforded me because of another's misfortune.  Thank you for all of the things that seem easy, because of going through something really hard.  Please purify all of the good that I do poorly today, and all of the days of my life.  Please bless my pursuit to become a hospital chaplain, if that is in fact Your Will for me.  If not, please take away my desire and replace it with Yours.  Amen       


  1. Knowing you is a privilege Heidi. I was meant to look up your blog today. Your twenty year follow-up story about your mother and what she means to you and how her accident changed you for the better are very dear to my heart. You are a beautiful person inside and out and you are right. All things work together for good for those who love the Lord. He is faithful and teaches us gentle qualities through hard lessons.

  2. Thank you, Doreen. I can't wait to read your story. I have seen the fruit of your life in the beautiful and compassionate woman that you are. I know my awe at God's grace and mercy are going to soar ever-higher as I learn more about the mountains you have scaled!