Though an experienced rock climber for many years, my dear friend Vanessa’s life changed dramatically almost three years ago after she fell 40 feet, landing on her back – her head just below a large rock. She remembers several people looking down at her, but she suffered brief memory loss and could not figure out why she was unable to get up. She had no pain at first, but her injuries were significant – she broke her back and her arm, and her femur was pushed up into her pelvic bone. Vanessa had several surgeries and stayed in the hospital for two months.
When I was eight years old Vanessa’s family moved into the house next to ours. We became fast playmates and although I don’t remember much about what we would do every afternoon…I remember laughing a lot around her. She moved away a couple years later, but she always kept in contact with me. We exchanged letters through the years and she sent me a hand-made birthday card every June. I even received one from her my freshman year of college! She has an amazing ability to keep in touch with so many people, and she genuinely wants to be your friend. We reconnected again in our mid-twenties and shared a lot of fun memories, most of which include a tremendous amount of laughter. There’s something about being in her presence. She came to visit from the east coast two weeks ago and again I spent a lot of the evening laughing.
I remember talking to Vanessa on the phone one day when she was in the hospital almost three years ago – it was a few weeks before Thanksgiving. She was hoping to be able to go visit her brother for the holiday and was unsure if she would be out of the hospital before then. She cried on the phone. I know Vanessa must cry, but honestly I’ve never heard a negative word come out of her mouth, nor have I ever heard her cry. It made me cry. And a few minutes later she resumed back to her positive self, and asked me about how I was doing.
Vanessa was able to make it out of the hospital before Thanksgiving (and was able to go to her brother’s house), but she continued to endure a long road of recovery. Three years later, she still struggles with a numb foot due to nerve damage in one leg. She also struggles with blood clots that cause extreme pain in her lungs and rob her of her normal energy. However, she still rock climbs. She runs races. She rides her bike. And she is still the joyful, fun-loving friend with the contagious laugh.
Oh, and she walks with a subtle limp….
Due to the shattering of her pelvic bone, one hip sits slightly higher than the other. Each step is a reminder of her past, but a demonstration of her courage.
Most of us do not walk with a physical limp, but we may walk with an emotional limp. I dare say we all do. The limp can either remind us of what we have lost or it can be a testimony to what we have gained. In Vanessa’s case, her limp inspires me – mostly because she is still in the “process” of healing. She went back to the rock where she fell in hopes of climbing it and tackling her demon. She wasn’t ready. But she went and I don’t know that I could have done that. She faced her pain. And she continues to live out her loving personality despite that pain. I think the limp gives her a special flair. I’ve been thinking about my limps…boy there are a few. I haven’t always let them make the story of my life better. But I’m learning…and I’m grateful for examples like Vanessa, who have chosen to limp well.
© Kristin Gordley and Moments In The Story, July 2012.