Tuesday, November 17, 2009


I know Heather posted about this on her blog, and I don't want to "steal her thunder" or anything, but I always think about her and her accident around the anniversary. I don't know if I've ever really told Heather about it from my point of view, and since I'm thinking about it anyway, I figured I'd write about it.

Like Heather, my day started out completely normal. I was a senior in high school that year, and I loved all the fun things I got to do. The past few years Heather and I had gotten...maybe not closer, exactly, but the meanness and the animosity we'd had for many years had really faded, and I had started to think of her as an actually nice person! We fought all growing up, so I thought at the time that it was quite an improvement. She even helped me out (or rather, bailed me out) for my senior pictures, doing my hair and makeup. I was so grateful then because well, I wasn't very good at those things, and I'd been rather jealous of Heather's good looks for quite some time!

At any rate, I was sitting in my seventh hour class, college prep English, with several of my friends. I never got in trouble (or almost never), so imagine my surprise when I was called up to the office over the intercom. There was the expected teasing from the rest of the class. I left my books, figuring it would be a short trip, and went upstairs. I knew the secretary in the office because I'd dated her son (albeit for a short time) while I was in the color guard and he was in band. When I got upstairs, Kathy looked at me. I knew something had to be wrong because she was almost crying. She said to me very simply, "Laura, your sister's been in a serious car accident and they can't find your mom. You have to talk to the people from the hospital," and she handed me the phone.

I was completely stunned. I barely remember the phone conversation, except that the nurse wouldn't tell me anything because I was a minor (still 17) except that Heather was in critical condition. She kept asking me where my mom was. I couldn't for the life of me remember. I mean, really, you tell me something like that and then expect me to pull details out of thin air? Not going to happen. For some reason, probably because Paul worked at St. John's, I told them her practicum was at St. John's instead of Barnes. Fortunately I remembered where she was going to school, and so I was able to give them that information that eventually allowed them to reach Mom. She had also just gotten a cell phone, but I didn't have the number with me. I knew Chandra had tried to memorize it, and so I told the secretary to call Chandra, who was a freshman at the time, to the office.

I started crying as soon as she walked in the door, which probably scared the pants off her. I told her Heather had been in an accident, they couldn't find Mom, and I couldn't remember her cell phone number. Chandra gave me a number (although it turned out to be off by a number, so they still couldn't reach Mom). Not unexpectedly, I was trying very hard not to freak out, and not doing a very good job. Kathy told me that if we could wait until school was over, she would drive us to the hospital. I said that was fine, and went down to get my books. Since crying makes me all red and splotchy, everyone knew something was wrong when I walked back into the classroom. I picked up my stuff and told my teacher, Mr. Brown, that I had to go. I ignored my friends' questions and just left. I didn't think I could deal with it then, and since I didn't really know anything, there wasn't a point in talking to them.

As soon as school was out, Kathy took us to her van, turned on the hazard lights, and went around all the traffic from the school. I don't remember how long it took to get to the hospital. I remember getting to the waiting room in the ER. Adam was there. I tried to get the nurse to talk to me, but again, since I was a minor, she refused. Now, I love Paul, but imagine my irritation when he walked up to her and asked her, and she spilled everything to him, as did the police officer. He wasn't even a member of the family! Conveniently, he did have the same last name, though, so no doubt she assumed he was. At any rate, Mom finally arrived, and we had a lot of waiting to do. They took us back to another waiting room that was more private after a while. I don't remember a whole lot after that, except that the Haefners came up and sat with us.

Finally they allowed us to go back into the ICU where Heather was. She was in traction to try to fix her dislocated spine, and there were more machines in that room than I've ever seen in my hospital. I was determined to be strong for my family. I'm not sure why I always feel that way, but for some reason I do. I was fine until Mom reached out and took Heather's hand, and then it just hit me. I walked out of the room into the hallway, fell to my knees, and just sobbed for a couple of minutes. I'm really glad none of the nurses asked me if Iwas okay, I would've been super embarrassed. At any rate, after a couple minutes, I stood back up, wiped my face off, and walked back into Heather's room. I honestly think that's the only time I cried throughout the whole 2-month hospital experience.

I have to admit, I had a really bad attitude about the whole thing. Don't get me wrong, I was happy and relieved and excited that Heather survived the accident. It wasn't so bad while she was here in the hospital, or even while she and Mom were in Atlanta. I tried to keep my life as normal as I could under the circumstances, something I've always done when bad things have happened. The hardest part for me was when Heather came home.

As a teenager, Mom and I already weren't the best of friends, and it just got worse. I had quite the attitude problem, and I felt that I was being hugely inconvenienced just by having to help out with Heather and other things around the house. I felt like I was having to miss out on fun stuff because of Heather. It was terrible of me, and I still regret feeling that way. Things got bad enough that I actually ran away for a few days. I was a complete brat.

Fortunately for all parties involved, I grew up, and I matured (thankfully). My entire attitude toward the whole situation changed shortly after Brett and I were married, when Heather was admitted to the hospital with one of her kidney stones. She's mentioned that experience in her own blog. I don't remember exactly how long she was in the hospital, but it was for a couple weeks or so. I remember feeling like now that I was an adult, I really needed to be there for my family. Brett and I tried to make it to the hospital every day, or at least every other. We took food to Mom and Chandra, and picked Chandra up once or twice. It wasn't a whole lot, but it really brought home the principle of service bringing love. I grew to love my family, and to really like them, and to love serving them. I also see that as the turning point in my relationship with Mom, because we really started getting closer after that, to the point now where she's one of my best friends. I never would have thought that possible during my teenage years.

More than all of that, Heather has become an inspiration to me. I've faced some tough times in my life, but I can't imagine going through everything she's been through. Her ability to retain a positive attitude in the face of nearly overwhelming adversity reminds me that I can be positive, too. She is such an amazing person, and I admire her so much. I try to learn from her example to be a better person. There's so much more I want to say about her, but I just can't seem to get my thoughts in that respect onto the page, and I think I've gone on for long enough. (No doubt I'll be appalled at my epistle once I see it on the page!) But I wanted to share my thoughts on this, especially in light of today. I love you, Heather.


  1. I really enjoyed hearing your thoughts about that day. We definitely weren't close growing up, so I'm really glad that we have a better relationship now. You are lots of fun to hang out with!

  2. Laura,
    I've never read your blog until today, since we keep in personal touch these days. It was revealing to see things from your perspective, and I cried through it.