This picture may be of little importance to anyone other than me. After all, it’s just a picture of part of my family, wearing frumpy clothes, walking up a hill.
But this hill…it broke me…and I’ll never be who I was before then.
It was just 2 days after Christmas. Wrapping paper, and packaging from eagerly opened gifts was still strewn about our home, as we headed out the door for a busy day of celebrating. I had just opened a Cricut my husband gave me for Christmas, and I spent all morning playing with it. I was using the machine to cut pieces of paper to make birthday cards for the parties we were about to attend, and I made a HUGE mess with my creativity. I cut and glued until time ran out, and I never did clean up my mess. “I’ll get to it when we get home.” I said, and off we went, on our merry way.
The first birthday party we attended was for a precious friend’s 60th birthday. I couldn’t think of a more amazing person to spend all morning making a mess—I mean card for. She’s so special to me, and spending the afternoon celebrating her birthday was an absolute joy for me. I could have stayed all day in her company, but we had another party to attend. We were going sledding to celebrate another special girl’s birthday.
On our way out the door voices called out “be safe…” And I laughed and replied “I don’t even want to go…it’s cold out, and I’m not a big fan of outside!” But I love the birthday girl and I was willing to be bundled in layers of snow gear to make her day special, and make memories with my own children. Little did I know, I would never have to go sledding again after that day.
We pulled into the parking lot of the snow hill, suited up in layers of sweaters and snow clothes, and made our trek to the top of the hill. The kids may have ran to the top, I’m not really sure, I just know it took a whole lot longer, and a lot more breath for me to get there. The older you get, the longer it takes to get to the top, especially wearing a ton of clothes and carrying arms full of sleds.
We made a few passes down the icy hill, and then in the blink of an eye, everything changed.
Suddenly my oldest daughter and I were headed for the side of the hill that is full of trees with a big rock at the bottom. No matter how hard I put my feet down, it didn’t slow down our sled. My husband was yelling from the top of the hill, “BAIL!!!” while running as fast as his legs could carry him, but I knew I wasn’t strong enough to get both my daughter and myself safely off the sled. We were going way too fast, and I was too afraid I would end up leaving her on the sled alone.
As my legs pressed harder into the side of the hill, my boot hit a rut and it spun our sled backwards as we went down the side of the hill. The edge was very steep, and suddenly I was face down in the snow and bushes, unable to breathe.
My daughter stood over top of me and screamed at the top of her lungs “MOMMY!!!!” and her voice cracked as she cried and screamed for help. I will never EVER be able to get that sound out of my head. I hope I never, ever, ever, ever again, hear her scream with such fear in her voice. It was the worst sound I have ever heard, in all my life. (Tears well up in my eyes as I type this.)
It took all the strength I had to flip myself over onto my back, and it felt like an eternity before I could get enough air in my lungs to scream for help. The pain I felt was beyond anything I can describe.
We hit a tree, and it broke me in every sense of the word.
With every bit of air I could gasp, I screamed and begged for someone to call the paramedics. I knew I was hurt badly, and I couldn’t get up on my own. The pain was too intense, and it took all the strength I had to breathe/scream. It hurt too bad to cry. As my husband rushed to my side, he placed his hands on me and prayed the hardest he has ever prayed. He truly thought I was going to die. The sensation of him touching my legs as he prayed, intensified the fractures in my back, and I cried and begged for him to stop. The pain was more than I could bear. That was one of the most agonizing parts of the whole experience.
The paramedics came and tried to get me stable. I cried and pleaded with them to cut my coat and clothing off rather than trying to take it off the conventional way. No matter which way they tried to maneuver my clothing to get an IV started, the pain was too much, so they left my coat and clothing, and administered pain medication through my nose to try and get me stable enough to transport. Looking back, I still wish they would have cut that coat off of me, because to this day, it’s still too hard for me to wear it. When I see it in the closet it still has the tear stains from the day that hill broke me, and I can’t bring myself to put it back on. It holds too many bad memories for me.
As the imaging reports came in, in the hospital, I asked over and over for them to show me where I was broken. If I could see the fractures for myself, I felt like somehow I could wrap my mind around the pain I was in. They counted over 20 fractures throughout my shoulder, ribs, and spine. The doctor in the emergency room told my husband they stopped counting after 20. Even knowing I had 20 broken places throughout my body, I just couldn’t wrap my mind around the pain. How can one stupid tree, break me like this? And now, I’ll never be the same.
It’s been 2 and a half years since my accident, and my body still feels the effects of that day. I’ve lost an inch in height, and I have quite an impressive hunchback for someone of my age. Most of the time I try to make the best of my accident, knowing that God worked a miracle for me. After all, I burst part of my spine yet I am able to walk. I broke my body in 20 different places at the same time, and I never lost consciousness. I fractured almost all of my ribs, but I didn’t have to be intubated, and had no damage to any of my internal organs. We slid into a tree and it broke me, but my daughter was unharmed. God worked a miracle! But I’d be lying if I said there weren’t days where it’s still hard to know that I have a hunchback, and my body aches horribly if it’s about to rain. I still have things that trigger me to panic, like being on an inner tube on a water slide, or on top of a big hill. The damage runs deeper than my body.
This past week is the first time I have been back to the hill that broke me. I finally started physical therapy to try and help with my back and for the first time, I realized how much healing I still have left to do. The healing is not just physical, it’s emotional too. It wasn’t until my physical therapist asked me how big the tree is, I realized I have a lot of emotional healing left to do too. Until this past week, I had never seen the tree that broke me. I didn’t see it when I crashed into it, I didn’t ever want to go back to that horrible place after. I didn’t want to see the hill, or the tree that changed my life, but this week I realized, I needed to. It was time.
As I stood on that hill, and faced the tree that broke me, I cried harder than I have cried in a really long time. (You know that ugly cry, where noise comes out and you can’t even help it?) Going back to a place that has hurt you (physically and/or emotionally) brings back everything you felt at the time. It can be scary, or make you angry, but for the first time since the paramedics carried me screaming in pain off of that hill, I felt free. I may have been broken the last time I was there, but God restored me to a place I never would have known, had I not been broken, and face down in the snow.
At the time I broke my back, my spirit was the most broken and hurting it has ever been. The year of my accident was the hardest year I have ever endured. We faced things I never imagined facing in life. The most difficult times included miscarriage, secondary infertility, and then my accident all within one year. That’s a lot to deal with, in 12 months. There were many times I wondered what more God wanted from me. Did He want me to serve more? Pray more? Did He want me to be a better wife? A better mother? What lesson did I have left to learn? Had He forsaken me?? Why did my prayers seem to go unanswered for so long? Why did the heartache keep coming? God, WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME?!
In the midst of the fiery trials, God showed up more real, and abundantly than He ever has before. My faith grew in ways it never would have had I not been broken. He kept His promises. He promised to work all things together for our good, and He did just that.
He provided family and friends to take care of our children while we were in the hospital. He provided family and friends to clean up the mess I made of our house after Christmas, and for months afterward. He provided family and friends to feed us, and pray for us, for several months as I was recovering and unable to work. He provided family, friends, and even complete strangers to help cover our bills while we were down to one income. And in the end of it all, He gave us a beautiful baby, to carry up that hill, when I finally faced the tree that broke me.
He kept His promise to me, that He would work all things together for good, just like He did all those years ago.
You see there’s another hill, and another tree in my story.
“And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” And they divided His garments and cast lots.”
Luke 23:33-34 NKJV
The hill is called Calvary, and it’s where they took my King. It was on that hill, where Jesus hung on a wooden cross taking all of the sin and suffering of this world onto Himself. It was on that hill, through His death on the
cross that I went from broken and hurting to whole. I am whole. I am redeemed. I am made new, because of Him.
So from now on, I’m not going to let fear and the thoughts of what broke me have power over my life anymore. When I see a tree, or a hill, I’m going to think of Jesus.
His body was broken, and nailed to a tree on a hill for me…
and I’ll never be the same.
In His Love,
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