Thursday, July 14, 2011

Thankful for my shoes

I received the phone call on a Thursday evening.

One year and one week ago.

"Anne (my sister-in-law) was in an accident. She fell down the ravine."

I lost my breath upon hearing those very first words. I barraged the caller with questions.

"Is she okay? What happens next? What did the doctors say?"

At that moment, we had no answers. We knew that she was removed from the river and airlifted to the nearest trauma center, Mission Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina. We were told to wait. Wait for the next phone call.

My husband was several states away on a business trip. We tried desperately to reach him, to inform him of his sister's catastrophe. I was home alone with a two-year-old. She was tugging on my arm, begging for snack, asking for a movie. She wanted to play. All I could do was sit in shock, willing the phone to ring with good news. I had to talk to someone. I called my parents, desperately trying to hold back tears, and passed along the shocking news.

The next call finally came, and it was not what I wanted to hear. My sister-in-law suffered a severe spinal cord injury and would face the rest of her life paralyzed from the chest down.

My husband was finally on an airplane, headed home. We made plans for an immediate drive to Asheville early the next morning. We made arrangements for my parents to meet us and help with Amelia. On the way, we would stop by the mountain house to gather clothes and toiletries. The hospital stay was going to be a long one.

One glimpse inside the house and the tears stung my eyes. I willed the tears not to fall. Hairbrushes and toothbrushes were placed haphazardly on the bathroom counter. Breakfast dishes sat in the sink with crumbs and traces of syrup. Suitcases were open, a pile of worn clothes sat on the floor. The house told the story of a family who woke up on a regular summer day and rushed out the door for some mountain fun. It shared a tale of happiness, of ignorance, of complete oblivion as to what would come next.

It takes a lot to make me cry. I am, in fact, a master at holding back my emotions. But the shoes...

The shoes broke me. There, in the sunroom, were Anne's cute white flip-flops. Sassy shoes with sparkles on the straps. Summertime shoes. Shoes that showed off happy painted toenails.

Anne will never walk on those shoes again.

 - - - -
I would give anything for this post to be fiction. But it is entirely, heartbreakingly true. 2010 was a painfully difficult year for our entire family. My sweet sister-in-law still struggles daily to learn how to care for herself. My selfless mother-in-law works herself to exhaustion each day, taking care of her eldest daughter's needs. We thought paralysis meant simply not walking, but it is so much more than that. A year has passed and we feel lost in a government system that spends and spends and spends, yet cannot help us. We fight back the urge to ask God why He has forsaken us. We continue to pray and cling to hope that answers will come.

The one thing my sister-in-law will NEVER lose is her family. For the rest of our days, we will be fighting by her side.


This week's prompt: Shoes
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