When I Google “anniversary” beaucoups of definitions pop up; like, “the annually recurring date of a past event, especially one of historical, national, or personal importance.” Anniversaries roll around causing recollection of the day’s events. It’s one of the things that make wedding anniversaries so special. Today marks the 25th anniversary of a past event of personal importance. This day never rolls around without some recollection of events, but this year is a milestone, this year, my mind is being flooded with memories both tragic and uplifting.
I’m remembering that beautiful spring day, April 27th 1988. I remember the sun shining. Records indicate that the high was 75 degrees with winds at only 5 miles per hour. My brother Jon and I got off the bus that afternoon and I’m sure did our little chore list that my Mom had on the fridge. Although it doesn’t stand out in my mind, I’m sure we did them, as was routine for our after school activities. What I do remember is putting on my play clothes; my shorts and t-shirt and those ever so popular 1980s jelly shoes. I loved mine, and had them in a few different colors.
I remember Jon and me standing in front of the shed behind my Grandma’s house. The driveway beside our house wrapped around the back of my Grandma’s and there was a shed and storm cellar right behind her house. Jon filled up our blue two-wheeler motorcycle and then we proceeded with our plan to visit our friend’s house. We anticipated no harm on our nearly 3 mile ride away. We felt so big to see our friends on our own will and at our own convenience. After some time, Jon said it was time to go and we swung our legs over that bike, revved it up, and headed back home.
On that country dirt road there was a factor present which was not present before. The travel back coincided with travelers returning home from work for the day. Jon pulled out onto the road behind a small red truck. The dust stirred up from the truck made it so difficult to see. My arms were wrapped tightly around Jon’s waist and I turned my head to my right, attempting to avoid the dust that stung my eyes.
It was such a challenge to see. No goggles. No helmets. We were just two children, innocent to the danger that surrounded us. Jon swerved to the left and all life changed forever. We hit an oncoming truck. Jon was killed. The bike went under the truck. A fire ignited.
I remember lying in the ditch as flames engulfed me. I don’t remember pain from my body being on fire. What I remember is the blur in the flames. It distracts me to this day when I become mesmerized by the bright colorful light fires produce. I remember my face feeling unbearably hot. And I remember someone grabbing me under my armpits from behind and dragging me out of the fire. That man was my first hero. That man was the first person who took action to save my life. It just so happened to be the man we hit.
For the memories being so choppy, I still have a bank of them. I don’t remember the helicopter ride to the hospital, but I do remember telling my Mom that I wanted to go home. I remember feeling that if I could just get home that it would all be okay. She told me that we were going to see the doctor and then we would.
I remember being in a tiny room in the Alexander Burn Center at Hillcrest with a multitude of stuffed animals and posters around me. Someone put a turquoise My Little Pony on the far left shelf for me. Those little tokens were a small part of the many gifts I received from my injury. Yes. I said gifts. And the greatest of those were the intangible kind.
Something about tragedy brings out the purest, most kind parts of people. For instance, my Dad’s brother stood on the left side of my bed and promised to take me on a camping trip when I got better. He made good on that promise. I remember that big red heat lamp being positioned over my bed in ICU and one of my doctors, on a few different occasions, holding my hand through those excruciating bandage changes. I remember my brother, Barry and his friend, Chris coming to watch Wheel of Fortune with me. I remember Barry bringing the entire collection of Alf dolls that Burger King featured. I remember my friend Brad coming to visit me in ICU. Brad was our neighbor, and like a brother to me, even more so after I returned home from the hospital. He had his head shaved to match mine on that visit to the burn center. He was the only kid allowed to come see me while in ICU and it was perhaps the greatest gift the staff could have given me. His small amount of time with me reconnected me to who I was—a kid.
So many times I am asked if I remember that day. Oh how I remember that day and many others. But I wouldn’t change that. I wouldn’t want to forget. If I forgot how bad it was, then I’d lose sight of how great God is.
Memories can be painful, but comforting as well. We can’t appreciate where we are if we don’t remember where we were.
O Lord, I will honor and praise Your name, for You are my God. You do such wonderful things! You planned them long ago, and now you have accomplished them. Isaiah 25:1 (NLT)
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