This is my last week as a 23 year old. Nevertheless, because of how much pain I’ve been in as of late, I’ve been walking around more like an 83 year old. My grandma calls this “waddling” and I must agree, my daily walk has been a lot more like “March of the Penguins” than I would like.
In a week, it will be 8 years since the accident. Oftentimes, it seems like it was only yesterday that I was getting ready for my Sweet 16 when one random mistake – one split second – one wrong turn changed my course in life forever.
I still remember the way the rain felt against my face that morning. We’d been in such a hurry to get everything prepared for “my big day” – a party that my mom could scarcely afford but was determined to give me – that we never could have imagined that our haste would be so costly.
I had just gotten my nails done and was more concerned with examining them than helping my mother find her way to the hair salon. My two sisters were in the back seat and were carrying on loudly with my mother, who was lost. “Turn left.” “No, turn right.” “I’m sure it’s left.” “We’re gonna be late.” My mother quickly turned left, speeding through the rain, anxious to get me to my appointment on time. None of us saw the signs that indicated we had gone the wrong way on a three lane highway. But in a few short seconds that played on like hours, we saw the car speeding towards us, swerving between the lanes ahead of us and we all understood the terrible mistake that had just been made. I turned to the center of the car, put my hands against my sisters’ chests, fearful that they would come through the middle of the car, yet still, I could see what was about to happen. As if I had experienced it in slow motion, I felt the impact of the cars crashing, heard the metal crushing into metal, felt my head crash against the windshield. And then, everything went dark.
I opened my eyes and heard my mother and sisters screaming and crying. “Nancy, open your eyes. Look at me,” they yelled, but I could barely lift my head. I finally looked up and saw that the windshield was broken. Light was streaming in through the cracks that spread like a spider web through the glass. As I tried to lift my hand to touch it, I felt the pain rush down my neck into my back and down my arms and legs -- a pain that would stay with me for 8 long years, cause my confinement for 2 long months and ultimately result in a series of spinal surgeries that proved unsuccessful at helping in any way. In one moment, all of the things that I had come to love so much: cheerleading, swimming, softball, gymnastics, rollerblading, and simply running up the stairs, were taken from me. Worse than this, and aside from the physical changes I suffered, I lost my hope. I forgot God. I was angry and hopeless.
It has been many years since that accident and still I try to put the pieces back together of why it had to happen. The pain oftentimes seems so unnecessary. And I ask myself daily: What is God trying to show me through this? Though I still grasp for answers, I realize I have learned a lot. I’m older and wiser now, and though the pain of the past still follows me, there is not one step I take that does not remind me of how far I’ve come --all because of God’s grace, all because I am walking with Him. And I thank God for every step I'm able to take. My walk has surely changed, but I am stronger for it. And I am thankful.