Last night I ran into an old friend. I say “old” because our friendship started as pen pals in elementary school. She reminded me of this last night and promised to scan the picture of us when we first met. I’m super excited. We shared lots of laughs last night, as we always do. She has one of the most contagious smiles and vibrant personalities…Leah, you know by now I’m talking about you.
But we never talked about it. The accident. The event that changed her life. Until last night. Part of me didn’t know what to say and the other part didn’t know what she wanted to say.
But she brought up. The day she got into the wreck. She told me all she remembered, which wasn’t much because she was flown 50 feet from her car out the back window.
She thought she left her phone at her boyfriends (now husband) , so she started searching for it while she was driving 55 mph. She looked up. Suddenly- she had a decision to make – hit a telephone pole, go into the corn field, or try to get to the other open side of the road…she went with the last option but over corrected.
“Oh shit!” she said.
And then she woke up in a hospital bed.
The story breaks my heart. She is one of the most inspiring and loving people I know. You’d never wish her to go through something like that. So life changing.
But does she feel sorry for herself? No.
Is she hopeful? Yes.
Does she inspire me? More than you’ll ever know.
She told me about the accident and how her life has changed. Everything from getting ready in the morning to falling out of her chair, which she encourages me is actually more funny than sad.
She told me she hates when people stare, but even more when they walk over her. Looking past her like she is nothing. People can be so incredibly mean and it just breaks my hear that every trip to the mall, gas station, bar, or even probably at that very wedding- people were starring.
Of course, some were probably trying to question what happened to this beautiful, young girl in a wheelchair who is actually pretty healthy. But others just stare because…But the wheelchair doesn’t define Leah. She is more than that. Way more. In fact, it’s just a small part of the who she is. She can do everything I can do. Except run, jump, and dance. For now. And I’ll pray that one day I can do those things with her…
Her recovery was amazing. Most people who have the same spinal injury as Leah are in the hospital for 2-3 months. Leah was in the hospital for only one month and a day. Inspiring.
She told me stories about a guy who travelled to Mexico to get injections to help with his injury that left him paralyzed from the neck down. After those injections, he turned into a pro on the balance beams- a true miracle as they told him he would never feel or move from the neck down.
But what really broke my heart was when she turned around and saw everyone dancing. Her eyes started to fill up. She looked up at the sky trying to fight the tears back, but a few streamed out.
“You know what really gets me though?” she asked. She turned around again toward the crowd of people and said, “That. Dancing. I’d love to dance again…”
She apologized for crying, but she didn’t need to. My eyes started to fill up too. And I thought of the kid on Glee who dreamed of being a dancer. And I wanted to make sure Leah danced that night…no matter what.
We would dance.
And we did.
And it was awesome. We got to share the last dance together! =)
So what did I learn last night? I learned the importance of the saying “dance like no one is watching” – Leah – you make me so proud to be your friend. You remind me that it doesn’t matter what people think of you in life. Live your life with what you have because life is truly what you make it. I know there are some days when you want to give up and cry because you don’t understand why? How? What if? But please know your story serves as a beautiful foundation for cherishing what you have in life and staying positive through all situations. I’ll never take dancing for granted again. And I’ll always, always dance like no one is watching. Thank you, Leah- for reminding me to do so. Until we dance again, cheers my dear.