The week before the commemoration of my accident is always a strange, surreal, reflective one for me. Not only does seasonal depression set in, but the challenge of remembering another year has passed since my life changed so drastically. Tomorrow marks 12 years since my accident. I struggle to put into words all my thoughts and feelings, but I will attempt to do so here.
It’s amazing to think of what life was like then, walking, running, snowboarding one minute, and that the next minute, everything could just change. So much grief, depression, frustration, anger, yet at the same time, so much gratitude and joy along the way. What has been evident to me through the journey and through recovery was the mere fact that spiritual and mental preparation made all the difference in weathering through the storms of life. Never in my right mind could I have imagined that my life could change so drastically from independently walking to being full dependent on a wheelchair to live my day-to-day life. I didn’t realize at that time that everything in my life had prepared me for that very moment when the storm would hit me so hard that it literally knocked me off my feet.
As a student at BYU, I was required to take courses and delve deep into learning about the gospel of Jesus Christ through scripture courses (I’m so, so grateful for it because let’s be honest, I wouldn’t have made time otherwise). The more I read stories and accounts about Him, the more I wanted to get to know Him and came to love Him. I wanted to have a relationship with Him and my Heavenly Father, and the more I prayed to have the Spirit with me. Just as with any relationship, I put in time and dedication to talk and listen intently and it made all of the difference to deepen our relationship. Because of this, I know I am a daughter of God, that Christ is my brother and that they are always with me when I need them.
I have been asked, “Well, if He loves you so much, why would He allow something like this to happen to you?” And as I’ve pondered this question more and more and as I’ve gone through many other trials since then, I’ve learned faith in the Lord does not mean that you are shielded from storms, but that faith will allow you to weather through those storms. That is why it’s called faith. Holding onto something you can’t see, choosing to believe that it’s there to guide you and recognizing those feelings are true.
The accident taught me to really practice relying on the Lord and allowing my Savior to carry me through my trials. Doing so has helped me through those hard days then and it continues to help me through days now. Days of feeling defeated. Days of uncertainty. Days reliving painful experiences from the pain I’m going through now. Days where my wheelchair is tripping over every single little Lego, threatening to throw me out of my chair. Days when I’m stuck inside my house and my mind because my hands freeze up and it’s too miserable to leave the house. Days when I feel I suck as a mom because there’s so much I wish I could do but can’t.
On these days, as I bow my head in prayer to my Heavenly Father and have a good cry, I’ve always, always, always come out feeling loved and reassured that I can do it. Practicing my faith in God and relying on our relationship have opened my mind to the strength within me. I’ve learned to look for the good things that I can do. As I’ve continued to challenge myself and live life purposefully, I’ve learned there’s actually little that I cannot do and there’s actually some perks with the paralysis. I’ve skipped the line at Disneyland and ridden the Rockin’ Roller Coaster three times consecutively. I’m always the first to board a flight. I’ve had fun experiences with my children, such as being their personal roll around stepping stool, providing them with free rides, and teaching them wheelies. But most importantly, I’ve been able to teach them firsthand, the challenges of a disability, to look for ways to help, and to have compassion.
I’ve also learned that I can’t and shouldn’t do this life alone. I need to lean on others. Over the years, God has blessed me with some of the best people in my life and I’m so, so grateful because they’ve always lent me a shoulder to cry on with no judgment and words of encouragement to push me on. I’m so grateful for my husband, AJ, who has stuck with me through everything all of these years, providing me with so much strength and hope, and advocating for me when I’m too tired to stay on the phone with medical insurance companies. I’m so grateful for my siblings who have undoubtedly given me so much encouragement along the way. I’m grateful for my parents-in-law who have helped me out in so many ways, being amazing grandparents being one of them. I’m so grateful for my friends, both old and new, who have stuck with me through the years and have frequently kept in touch and reminded me of how valuable I am as a person. And last but not least, I’m so grateful for my children who are the fruits of my labor and remind me how much they love me on a daily basis.
Friends, I leave this with you: invest in your relationships with God, others, and yourself. Hard times will come but relationships will help you get through it all. Grow your mind to be strong, to know that you can weather through any storm and become the person you were meant to be. Be grateful for what you have and who have. Together, we will get through it all.