When Everything Changes… Finding Strength In The Tragic
Life can turn on a dime. One moment all is peachy keen and the next moment, you are fighting for your life. Today I share a personal story of finding strength in the tragic.
Ok – just so you know ahead of time… I encourage you to grab a cup of coffee or a glass of sweet tea and sit a spell. Today’s post is kinda long one, its all about finding strength in the tragic.
I want to share with you one of those “The Day that changed my life” type of stories. Heck, you may wanna grab a snack before we get started. Go ahead, I don’t mind – I will wait. 🙂
A couple of days ago I jumped into my car to run an errand. As I pulled out of the driveway a familar song came on the radio…
You are so beautiful
You are so beautiful
Can’t you see
You’re everything I hoped for
You’re everything I need
You are so beautiful
~ Joe Cocker
My mind flashed back to the very first time I heard this song.
My grandmother introduced me to it.
I clearly remember waiting by the window in my house watching for her arrival. I remember being so excited when I saw her car pull up and she got out. I still see her opening the chain link gate and coming up the steps to the front door. When she came to visit it was always a “little happy” (a just because present) (Grandmas are the BEST!).
My 8 year old self tried to wait patiently until all the hugs and greetings were accounted for. Finally we sat down on the couch and she pulled out of her purse the long anticipated surprise.
It was a record and a pair of socks. I asked to be excused to grab my record player. I brought it into the living room and played the gift. I had never heard this throaty singer before but the words… the words had me tearing up and I looked at my grandmother with an inquisitive look.
She began to speak, “Joy, I know how much you feel that you are not a pretty girl and I know you have felt sad. I wanted to bring you this song . I want you to listen to it everytime you feel that you are not pretty and remember that you are BEAUTIFUL to me. “
I jumped up from the floor in my new pair of bright yellow “knee- hi” Fonzi socks (yes, Fonzi, Happy Days’ King of Cool was screen printed on both sides with the iconic “AAAY”) and wrapped my arms around her.
Flash forward 10 years.
October 4th, 1990 to be exact.
I was still struggling with the whole outward beauty thing so much so that I did not find taking pictures fun. On this particular day, I had an appointment at the photographer’s studio. For extra senior portraits I had bought a package of 4 (8×10) photos. I used three for senior pics but had this last one looming.
I remember waking up the morning of the 4th feeling uneasy. I tried to brush it off but the feeling tagged along throughout my morning routine. Little did I know that today would be the day my life would change forever, that I would be placed in the proverbial “crossroads of life” is an understatement.
I will explain more…
October 4th at around 11:30 am, I had a horrible car accident. Left eye was knocked to the back of my head, face shattered, left wrist almost ripped off, every tooth knocked loose, right knee shattered and femur broken.
My appearance was destroyed, I was almost unrecognizable.
Even though my outward appearance was brutally compromised- I sustained NO internal injuries.
I endured hours of surgery with the doctors telling me afterwards that it would have been simpler to amputate my left hand due to the extreme damage but they saved it and not to get my hopes up – it would only serve as a decoration, a claw.
My face was so shattered that they could not operate due to the severe swelling. They braced me for the fact that I would have to have a “new face” . Wire mesh would have to be used to recreate.
My left eye would have to be pushed forward and I would probably lose all my teeth- they were on the verge of falling out.
Finally the doctors shared with me that there was a good chance that I would never walk normally again -if I walked at all.
If I was able to walk again- I would have a severe limp and would never be able to play any sports.
Think Igor style…dragging my right leg behind me.
Bottom line -I would have to be happy to get from point A to point B.
I listened patiently to the “reality” of my life and had to finally say, ” with all do respect sirs- I am going to ask you to stop.
I’m going to be all right.
God will heal me.
They replied, “Joy, you do not understand the depths of your injuries.” I said, “I know I can not see my face (no one would allow me to have a mirror and I could barely see out of my right eye and when I spoke my teeth moved freely – I knew it was not good) but I know what I know.”
“God has promised me.” I said. The doctors shook their heads and gave me a patronizing look and left the ICU room.
For you see, when I was in the midst of the accident – I was very calm and coherent.
The car was spinning and fish-tailing, I did EVERYTHING that you are supposed to do in that type of situation. It was of no use.
My car began to spin toward an oncoming car and my fear was that I could possibly take another life and so I prayed. I asked God to take me at that very point if it was my time to leave this world but if it wasn’t – I knew He would heal me. The only thing I could control was to try and not hit the oncoming car. I pulled the car away with all I had and I ended up flipping the car upside down in a deep ditch.
I met the gentleman in that very car months later and as I was talking to God – he was telling God- “Not today, please not today” then he braced for impact and watched my car go pass him and flip.
To make a long story a little shorter…. Days later my doctors came to see me again.
The doctor who would be restoring my face stood in the hospital room door way staring at me.
He then began to say, “I don’t believe this… this doesn’t happen”.
He walks into my room and begins to turn my head back and forth. He continues to mumble unbelief. He looks at my nose which is in place (the cartiledge had been smashed to nothing) my left eye was in place and all my teeth were secured. He called for an x-ray – immediately.
When the report came in – he said it is as if nothing happened. All the bones are back in place. I was still swollen but the facial structure was fine.
After what seemed like a 100 people vacated my room and all was quiet, I began to thank God for healing my face and in that very quiet HE spoke to me.
He said, “You see- I put YOU back together because I like YOU the way you are”.
The tears began to stream down my face.
He likes ME.
Folks, let me tell you a bit of truth – YOU are HIS Perfection- just the way you are.
You have a purpose and YOU are needed in this world. Of course- as I say this I giggle at a southern saying I grew up with- If the barns needs painting… paint it. I didn’t say rebuild it. 😉
I was out of the hospital in 9 days total.
They had said ICU for a month then they would move me to a room.
I eventually walked again and though I can not feel all my fingers in the left hand – no one can tell.
I create everyday.
This year marks my 25th anniversary.
I would love to say the struggles ended the day I went home from the hospital but, they didn’t. The left eye received a cornea transplant after I lost my sight due to disease. The right eye has plastic rings to combat the disease. Doctors feel the disease was brought on by head trauma.
I had to have a knee replacement in the right leg (after 4 surgeries). The left hand spasms from time to time and I deal with a very arthritic body.
Saying all that- I am here. I have been blessed to live life and through the wreck I have received a depth of compassion and love for others I would have not known. I am blessed to have a wonderful husband who stands by me and loves me, three beautiful, smart and caring children, and precious family and friends who have stood with me all these years.
Today I could take account of what I lost and what I have had to endure. But I choose to celebrate all that I have been given.
I apologize for this post being so long but those who know me- I always have a lot to say and this is only a snippet! Ha,ha
I am toying with the idea of writing the WHOLE story into a book- we will see- maybe it is time.
I will close for now but before I go – take this little gift- from me to you. And when you feel that you are not enough or you just can not keep going- pull this picture out and know you are so beautiful and you are so perfect.
So beautiful, Joy. Just like you!
Thank you MJ! Amazing how we can get so caught up and become entrapped. Goodness- it is still a fight for many of us. Thankful God is patient!
Wow! I just read this for the first time, and you surely do have such an amazing story to tell! And I believe it all 100%- God has the power to perform miracles, and you are living proof! And that is one of my favorite songs too!