Today I Took A Walk

Today I took a walk.

I’ve taken this walk countless times in my mind, but today I physically took the steps down the road. It’s an emotional journey. A journey I’ve traveled for 29 years today.

Some years are more difficult than others. This year falls on the more difficult end.

The walk came to me as a thought, but I dismissed it, as my to-do list automatically started rolling like end-credits in a movie.

  • Work on the PowerPoint for presentation.
  • Scan documents on the desk.
  • Go through mail.
  • Reply to text messages.
  • Start a load of laundry.
  • Send email.
  • Finish writing chapter for book.

I had too many things to do for a walk. But the thought came to me again. Instead of a to-do list, I got a little real with myself.

I don’t want to go for that walk today. I don’t want to revisit it today. I just don’t think I can.

Still the thought lingered. So I put on my tennis shoes.

Taking Ruby seemed like a good idea. The weather is so beautiful and I never just take her for a walk. I could take this walk and spend some time with my dog. But no. I began to understand this thought to go for a walk was more than a thought. It was a prompting. And the Lord was calling me to go alone.

I got in my car and drove to the road I needed to walk.

The road I needed to walk today.

It’s not like I never pass this way. I drive this road several times a week on our way to soccer practice and baseball practice and games. But today, my mind was in a different place, not hurried by the schedule, not distracted with conversation. I was completely present, willing to face my memories, my pain, my disappointments, my grief, as I physically put my body where the Lord challenged to take me today.

The comfort of the sun shining, the gentleness of the soft breeze, the sweetness of the bobwhite’s chirp accompanied my steps. My pace was slow; my spirit was strong as my thoughts went back to April 27, 1988.

It’s been a lifetime, but the memories are so vivid.

God called me to write a book. Seems like a bigger deal than simply being called to go for a walk. But there’s a critical component to both. Obedience.

Because the Lord called me to write this story of overcoming life’s darkest moments, I’ve needed to learn details I never knew from the accident. The accident that happened on the very road I walked today.

Those details. They are specifics I’ve learned from interviews over the last few months. The scene was playing out in my mind walking step-by-step this morning.

Jon and I—nine and seven years old, riding on a motorcycle, coming home from visiting friends, behind a truck, on a dirt road, unable to see from the cloud of dust. Swerving to the left and the right, and the left, and the right and the last swerve to the left lane we hit an oncoming truck. Gas leaking. A fire igniting. Tragedy transforming our innocent world.

I walked that road today. That road where my brother died. That road where I laid burning on fire. I walked that road today.

Yes, I physically walked that road today, but I have walked that road every single day of my life since April 27, 1988. I have walked that road every single day of my life for the last 29 years. I’ve looked at this scarred body every single day and remembered that day, every, single, day. No escaping the memories. The memories go with me wherever I go. The tragedy is etched throughout every piece of my existence.

Which is why I’ve reflected on a question we’ve all considered. If we could go back and change just one thing in life, what would it be?

If I could just have one, just one do-over, I would go back to April 27, 1988 and make one decision differently. I would choose against going to a friend’s. I would push and persist, as my personality naturally did and does, for us to instead play at home. One decision. One decision would mean I would have my brother alive to meet my husband and my children. He wouldn’t just be a photograph on my dresser whose name I share in stories. One decision. One decision would mean I would not have experienced a life-threatening injury, enduring indescribable pain, countless surgeries and challenging recoveries.

I stood for some time today at the place known as the scene of the accident. My mind was clear. I felt such peace and stillness. There were no words in my heart or my mind to speak, no prayers, or requests, pleas or questions. I began to think about the brief time I was alone on that road 29 years before. The driver of the truck used a blanket to smother the fire on my burning body then ran to call 911. Jon was gone. I didn’t know it then, but standing there alone today in that place I thought I’ve been alone here before.

Memories can be a source of much hurt and sorrow. Quite naturally, we want to avoid what hurts. We aim to box it up, set it in an area of our heart for pre-planned, scheduled moments to revisit. Some give much effort to that approach. Had it not been for the burn injury’s physical reminder, maybe I would have done the same. But that wasn’t an option. And what I’ve learned because of it is: there is strength in remembering. There is hope in remembering.

Lamentations 3:20-24 NLT
I will never forget this awful time,
    as I grieve over my loss.
Yet I still dare to hope
    when I remember this:
The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
    His mercies never cease.
Great is His faithfulness;
    His mercies begin afresh each morning.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance;
    therefore, I will hope in Him!”

On my walk back to my car, I looked at the fence posts and the telephone posts and thought how so much stays the same as so many things change. I looked at the field where the helicopter landed to take me to the hospital. I looked at the cattle, picturing the scenes of spring calves in the pasture as the events unfolded that day.

As I walked alone back to the car, I instantly had a vision of people walking behind me. The man who took the first step to save my life and put out the fire. His brother who ran out to help. The man who stopped and held my hand while help arrived. The officer who worked the accident, and carried the memories for decades following. I had a vision of them there with me, walking behind me.

Walking back to the car, I could feel my doctors, my nurses, my physical therapists. I could feel my friends and my mentors. I could feel my nursing school class, my educators and the amazing NICU team I get to work with today. I could feel the presence of countless people who have walked into my life because of the journey on that road. And there I began to cry. As I walked I could feel in this group of people the Lord brought to me through this tragedy and in that group I could feel Brandon, Brooklyn, Jaron, Caden & Gavin.

I can’t help but believe that our journey that day, led to this journey today. I can’t help but believe that the tragedy which changed the trajectory of my life, was setting the scene for God to introduce His greatest miracles to my life. My heart, my mind and my spirit are inclined to believe that the source of my greatest pain is also the source of my greatest joy. I don’t see them separated. I see them connected, one leading to the other. It’s what God does. He brings good things out of the worst situations.

It’s why I can’t see the word tragedy without thinking triumph. It may take a lifetime, but know God is working during that time. Sometimes it’s a big job and it takes a lot of work. But He’s a big God. Maybe we can’t see what He’s doing, but He is doing. He is working. He’s working all things to the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).

It’s why I remember. There is strength in remembering, even if we feel weak. It’s okay to cry. In fact, I believe our tears are important to God, because the Word tells us He bottles our tears (Psalm 56:8). There is hope in remembering. I have a glorious hope, not just hope, but a glorious hope of seeing Jon again. And I pray the days I live bring honor to the life he lived and to his memory I’ll carry forever.

It’s why today I took a walk.

 

Choose this link to see a video of our story

 

13 thoughts on “Today I Took A Walk

  1. Heather, as I woke this morning I had a heavy heart didn’t understand why but after reading your story I now know why. Hard to believe it’s been 29 years since that tragic day. I still to this day every time I pass that road I think about the accident and how you and your Brother looked that day. I will never forget this day. You have turned out to be a very strong and spiritual woman because of this accident. I will always pray for you that you find the inner peace you deserve. Keep the faith as God has has a plan for us all. G Fears.

  2. Heather, such an inspiring message. Did you experience any fear before you began the walk? What a brave thing to do; to face the past headon and alone. But not really alone – Jesus walked with you.

  3. Oh my sweet Heather, you have brought me to tears of sadness, and joy! You have astoundingly uttered aloud for all of us to read the depths of your soul, and in that we each see a part of ourselves. Our journeys may not have had the same road, pain, and triumph, but the journey is the same…to see Gods hand at work through it all, to learn who we are in Him, and to get a glimpse of His great love and plan for our lives. Thank you for the courage to take that walk today, so that we could be encouraged to take our walk down the road we each hold somewhere in our own lives, so that we too can pass the hope of Jesus Christ to all we come in contact with. I love you my Sister for who you were, are and will be! Thanks for your heart! He is so very proud of you, or He wouldn’t have chosen you to be His instrument of peace!

  4. Beautiful message Heather. So honored to call you a friend & coworker. You set such an example for us all to strive to be like….caring, insightful, forgiving, God loving. Thank you for being the wonderful you that you are!!!!!

  5. Beautiful words, Heather. Very emotional. So proud of you. You have done such an honor to Jon with your life. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Heather, I enjoy your posts so much. God has given you such a gift with words, and I am sure you are an encouragement to many. I look forward to seeing all that God is going to do in your life as you share your gift and testimony with others. God bless you.

    In His love and service, Carolyn Rowe

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  7. Heather, Thank you for rise words of encouragement. I do find myself not wanting to remember because it hurts. But your words encourage me to wait upon the Lord. I too believe this tragedy will give God the opportunity to show up and show out. God bless you.

  8. I’m reading this a few days late, but wow. . . you capture your thoughts so eloquently here. You are a blessing to all who meet you and I know your book will be a source of inspiration to many. You certainly are to me. 🙂

  9. Dear Heather,

    What precious perspective! What wonderful truths! A little of the mystery of “why?” is unfolding! God doesn’t bring great triumph into just anyone’s life; into their experience.

    Of course there cannot be triumph without the prerequisite testing; that awful battle. None of us would sign up for such testing, though we think we would love to triumph.

    Chosen. That’s what you were, you are, you will always be.

    Thanks for sharing your journey, Heather. Nice walking with you, dear!

    Love and Prayers Always,

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