Nothing brings hope and healing like sharing our stories. It’s difficult, sometimes, to be so raw and real because with raw and real comes exposed. That’s what drew me most to Heather…she wanted to share her story. She know the value it has to bring hope and healing to others. Here is her story~Susan
Healing Words in the Emptiness of Tragedy
“Don’t talk to Schultz like that,” my bossy three-year old self snapped at my six foot four inch three hundred pound father after he scolded our beagle dog for causing a near fall. Granted, when tall people fall, they have a long way to go, which understandably, could have been bad. But Dad’s response seemed completely unjust to me and I didn’t have any hesitation expressing it.
While that very early encounter of expressing myself so naturally may appear as a simple scenario in needing to correct a child, it was actually much more. The minor incident was an indication of how well I connected with my feelings and how effective I was in being able to communicate them. This was a critical component in the days that lie ahead.
From my three-year old self to my thirty-five year old self, I’ve always valued the power of words– whether spoken or written, I view words as nuggets of treasure we pass between people. Sometimes we have to go on a hunt, exploring and digging to unearth the words to express the depths of our feelings. Other times we have to water and soften and possibly chisel to receive those priceless words from the ones we love.
In any event, giving and receiving communication may come with great effort and potentially great pain.
In one moment, my words were gone. My seven-year old arms were strapped down, braced to the bed. Machines were all around. A tube was in my throat. The nurses said it was breathing for me, but it didn’t feel like it. I actually felt like I couldn’t breathe and the one thing I wanted and needed was to be able to use my words. But I couldn’t. That tube helping me breathe also kept me from being able to speak. Nevertheless, I gave everything I could to communicate my concern. My one question, “Where is Jon?”
The last time I saw Jon, my nine-year-old brother, was when we were driving back home on the motorcycle. We had gone to visit some friends a couple miles away. Traveling there was uneventful, but going back home was an entirely different scenario.
We pulled onto the dirt road behind a truck. Dust encircled us, but we forged on to get back home where we were supposed to be. My eyes were burning, stinging from the dust. I know Jon’s were too because he kept swerving back and forth and back and forth until our last swerve to the left impacted our lives, head-on, with an oncoming truck. Our bodies propelled in opposite directions.
I landed in a ditch that caught fire from a gasoline leak on the motorcycle. My entire body was burning, but all I thought was how very hot my face felt. I was inside the blur of the flame when suddenly I felt someone grab me from under my armpits and pull me out of the fire.
The helicopter transported me to the nearest burn center where I was diagnosed with a third degree burn covering eighty-seven percent of my body, and a total transection to my descending aorta. I know what that means as a nurse today, but my seven year old self could only understand that my heart was hurt. The major vessel in my heart had been completely sliced requiring six hours of open-heart surgery.
Every time I came out from the fog of sedation I’d give everything I could to find out where Jon was. “He’s in the room next door,” one nurse told me. “He’s better and got to go home,” another one said. The psychologist, Howard, encouraged my parents to tell me. They couldn’t bear to inform me. He persisted, “It is imperative she trust us.” My parents had no other choice but to face the unimaginable.
The moment took place when I was recovering between surgeries, during a period when I was extubated; meaning I didn’t have that tube in my throat, so I could talk. But when the words fell upon my ears, there were none to come out of my mouth.
Jon died on April 27, 1988. His life never saw a day past the one on that dirt road. I didn’t know what “killed on impact meant,” but I knew those words meant we would no longer share adventures on our one hundred sixty acre farm. We would no longer swap rooms in the middle of the night, no more summers swimming together, no more Christmas mornings, no more dares and competitions.
In that type of emptiness, there typically aren’t any words.
Through the tragedy, the loss of my brother, the disfiguration of my body, the one hundred plus surgeries, physical therapy, eating disorder and depression, one tool pulled me through— words.
When I didn’t have words of my own, God gave me His. When I couldn’t let my parents see my pain, the Lord came near.
The fatal accident on that beautiful spring day took every word of my heart, but only for a time. God let me give Him the words of my deepest darkest hurt and He bandaged my heart with the healing power of His. The ability of expression He gave to me as a little girl was the gateway He opened to my new beginnings.
I’ll live a lifetime with the void of my brother’s life. I’ll live a lifetime bearing the scars of our journey that day. But my words will forever speak of God’s faithfulness and love in the tragedy. My words will testify to His miraculous touch on my life and the goodness of His plans for me. For as long as I live, my words will share the hope He provides for all our yesterdays, our todays and for each and every new day given.
Luke 21:33 NIV “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”
Heather Meadows is a wife, mom to four fabulous kids, burn survivor, writer, public speaker, and NICU nurse. She is currently writing a memoir of her story about God’s presence in life’s darkest moments. Join her on her journey by visiting www.heathermeadows.com to subscribe and view her story at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZP-3u3RONI8