Part 2: Accidents & Answered Prayers (6 Degrees of Separation)

There is a phenomenon referred to as 6 degrees of separation.  It is a theory that says everyone and everything is six or fewer steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person in the world.  That each and every person in the whole world is connected by “a friend of a friend” in 6 steps or less.  With every year of age, I believe this to be true.  While it may be explained away by research and statistics, I believe more in divine intervention.
If you haven’t read part 1 of this post, you can find it HERE.  It may fill in some blanks for you and catch you up to speed.
After Kennedy’s accident, our life moved on quickly, as it tends to do.  We have moved cities 5 times since then, keeping our roots in Nebraska.  We landed in Hastings 4 years ago.
Last December I was out to dinner with two of my more recent girlfriends that I met through our Hastings MOPS program.  We were exchanging stories of a local friend we all knew well and her story of loss.  The conversation continued with story after story of people we knew, and some we didn’t, that suffered a tragedy.
My friend “D” started speaking of a family her friend knew.
“There was a fire, a freak accident while vising family out of the country.  They lost their baby girl in the car fire.” she said.
My ears perked up.
I listened as she told the horrific story – one that was so familiar to me.  As “D” stated details, I kept checking things off in my head that I remembered hearing myself so many years prior.
Could this really be the same family I met nearly 14 years ago in a hospital waiting room???
I could not believe what I was hearing.  My new friend, had a best friend, that knew the family that we met in the burn unit years ago.
Couldn’t be the same family, right?!  But how could it not??
“When did this happen?”, I asked.
After my friend calculated the math (based on the ages of her children and what stage of her life she was in when this happened – because that’s what we women do, right! šŸ™‚ ) she settled on 13 or 14 years ago.  I started asking questions based on what I remember the couple telling us about the accident that took their daughter’s life.  D answered each question, and seemed puzzled at how I knew what to even ask.  She had more “meat” to the story, which shattered my heart for this family, even more than it already was.  That day in the waiting room, they told us the bare minimum.  What this family endured that day, and weeks following, was absolutely heartbreaking.
“You guys are not going to believe this.  I met this family.  I was there with them at the burn unit when my daughter was having surgery!” I said in shock.
I explained that I had met a family with a similar story, that they’ve been on  my mind and my heart all of these years.  I was sad, learning more details about their tragedy.  Oh…my momma heart.   I was hopeful of finding out how this family is all of these years later.
The three of us talked about the strange coincidence and God’s hand in it.  We resolved to find out more about this family.  I needed to know they were “okay”…that their marriage survived the storm…that they had been given a chance at a happy life despite such a tragic event.
I rushed home, spilled my heart out to my husband.  He was just as surprised as I was.  He couldn’t believe that we had a connection to this family all these years, and miles away later.
“We were just talking about that family the other day”, he said.
The following week or two it all weighed heavily on my mind.  I just had to know more.  I had to pursue this.  I called my friend “D”.  I told her I needed her to call her friend and ask her how I can find this family she knew of all those years ago.  It took a few days, but “D” came through.  She had the woman’s first name, which was very uncommon, and the city they lived in at the time of the accident.
I found the local newspaper’s website for the town they lived in at the time of the accident.  I searched the woman’s first name in the online archives.
I found one article, the dates matched up with what I knew.  It stated that there was a benefit in place for a family.  It listed both names.
My heart quickened.
I searched their names on Facebook.  There they were…they were still married…they had adorable photos with adorable children.  It was as if some floating pieces of my heart found their way back to their home.  My eyes welled with tears.  I was happy.  I was happy they were “okay”.  I was sad, so sad thinking of how they had to carry that loss with them every day.  There were photos of the piggy-tailed Princess they lost in the fire.  There were photos memorializing her short, but clearly large, life.
I typed a private message:
“You probably have no idea who I am, but I know of you and your family.  13 years ago last August my husband and I were in a waiting room at St. Elizabeth’s waiting for our daughter while she was in surgery at the burn center. We met you (I believe) and your husband ( I specifically remembered him because of his visible burns). Your husband briefly spoke of a car accident and the loss of a baby daughter. My heart just cried for you that day. Your family has been on my heart all of these years, and my husband and I were just talking about you all 2 weeks ago, wondering how you were, feeling grateful that we have never been in your shoes. Many prayers have gone up for you and your family over the years….” I wrote.
I continued on- telling her that I believe God put us in that room to experience that major life event together, because I needed perspective. I needed to remember how fortunate I was.  I told her I was grateful for knowing them.
SEND.
She replied two hours later.  I was elated to hear from her.
We caught each other up on how I found them, and our current life scenarios.  She said they were so touched to know they were still thought about and how they affected someone else in such a way.  She told me to never, ever, take a day with my children for granted.  It could disappear in a second.  It did disappear for her in a second.  She told me of God’s miraculous healing of her husband, as his prognosis wasn’t great.  His healing surprised his doctors.  He was supposed to lose his hands.  He didn’t.  ā¤
This couple walked through the worst storm imaginable- hand in hand.  They survived.  They thrived.  They went on to have two more children.  They were fellow restauranteurs as well…naming their restaurant after the sweet 1 year old baby that passed away in the accident that day.
I am so grateful God let this story unfold and come full circle.  I still pray for this family!  But now I get the pleasure of seeing them do life- through social media.  We’ve kept in contact since December.  My family plans to visit sweet baby girl’s resting place with some pretty, pink flowers soon.  We pass the cemetery when we visit our family back home.
I hope to re-meet the family someday and eat at the restaurant that has her namesake.
You just never know what kind of positive impact you could have on a person’s life, even if it’s during the hardest season of yours.
To the family involved:  I thank you for letting me tell “our”/your story.  I thank you for changing the way I looked at my life from that day forward.  What a blessing it was that God brought our hearts and lives together in this way.  God Bless You All. ā¤

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand
Isaiah 41:10

Part 1: Accidents & Answered Prayers

I wish I could say that August 2nd, 2003 was a blur.
I wish I could say that I don’t remember the pain my baby felt that day.
I wish I could say that it wasn’t my fault.
I wish I could take back the split second that it took for the accident to happen.
I wish I couldĀ forget the sound ofĀ the fear in my husband’s voice through the other end of the phone when IĀ called him to meetĀ us at the hospital.

I wish I could say that August 2nd, 2003 was a blur.
I wish I could say that I don’t remember the pain my baby felt that day.
I wish I could say that it wasn’t my fault.
I wish I could take back the split second that it took for the accident to happen.
I wish I could forget the sound of the fear in my husband’s voice through the other end of the phone when I called him to meet us at the hospital.

abc

(Kennedy – 12 months old)

It was our first big outing as a family of four.  We were going to our friends’ wedding a few hours away.  I dressed Kennedy, 18 months old at the time, in a beautiful, lavender dress – made of Satin- with a matching cardigan and patent leather shoes.  I fixed her hair with piggy tales and little Velcro bows.  She twirled around the house watching her dress fly up while I fixed my hair and make-up, and squeezed my newly postpartum body into a dress for the first time in ages.  Our 11 week old baby boy was sleeping in his baby swing, the giggles and noises of his big sister jolting him awake periodically.

abcd

(A big sister is born:  Kennedy meeting Konnor for the first time)

I was so excited.  I was so ready to get out of the house and see the friends we moved away from a year prior.  I was so happy to show off our growing family.  I was busy checking things off of my mile-long to do list.  My husband had to work up until the minute we left town.  So, in an effort to ease the stress for him, I agreed to get everything ready for the weekend away, iron his clothes for the wedding, load up the kids and pick him up from work on our way out of town.
It only took 3 seconds.
Baby Konnor was in his travel swing that sat low to the ground.  He started fussing, and in an attempt to delay his feeding until the last minute, I stepped away – 3 steps – from the ironing board, leaned down to give him his pacifier.  “20 minutes, baby…Momma just needs 20 more minutes…”.
I turned around to see the hot clothes iron fall…the cord in her hand.  You see – I ironed Jeremy’s work shirts every day…every. single. day.  Kennedy toddled around the room while I ironed every day.  She had never come near the ironing board.  She repeated “hot” and “no no”  as I reminded her continuously not to come near me while I was ironing Daddy’s shirts.  She pulled the iron off the ironing board and it landed on the top of her right hand.
I was so amazed that her petite little self had the strength to pull the hot iron off of her hand, hold it up, without dropping it on herself.  It was like watching it all happen in slow motion.  I jumped toward her, scooping her up and getting the iron out of her hand.  The skin was burned so badly.  The entire top of her dominant hand was burned.  I rushed to the kitchen and ran cold water on her hand, dialing Jeremy’s work.
“Kennedy got burned.  She needs to go to the hospital now.  I need your help.  Please get here fast!”.
My mind plays this scene on repeat whenever I think of this incident:  my beautiful baby girl, dressed in a lavender gown, pushing the pop machine buttons with her burned hand while I filled out paperwork.  It was unbelievable.  She floated around the ER waiting room, charming everyone she saw…while the top of her hand was completely covered in a 3rd degree burn.
“It was a clothes iron.”, I said, to the nurse taking her vitals.    “I stepped away for a second to give the baby his pacifier.”   What was I thinking?  How could I let this happen?
The next couple of days was a rush of medicine, bandages and a trip to St. Elizabeth’s in Lincoln, NE to the burn unit for our first visit.  I felt myself slipping.  I felt myself losing grip.  I saw the dark cloud forming over my head.  How could I ever forgive myself for this?
I was surprised by the energy and enthusiasm of the staff at St. E’s.  They were so good at their jobs.  They gave Kennedy an oral medication – assuring me that this medicine would give her a kind of temporary amnesia – to avoid her remembering what they were about to do to her, to reduce her anxiety and fear at every follow-up appointment.
She was awake.  They held her down while they took a scrub brush and debrided her wound.  The skin just fell off.  The tears fell, from her face and ours.  Blood dripped from her fingertips.  I was shocked at the color of her newly exposed flesh- the brightest white.  My heart was ripped wide open.  I couldn’t even bare to look Jeremy in the face.  He was so disappointed; I was a disappointment.   We left with pre-op instructions and heavy hearts.
“Would you like us to take the skin from her thigh or the back of her head?” the surgeon asked.  We took into consideration that Kennedy as a young lady would probably prefer not to have a big scar on her thigh, as it would grow with her.  Reluctantly, we decided to have them graft skin from the back of her head to her hand.  “Her hair will grow back immediately”,  the doctor assured us.  They shaved the back of her head and grafted skin from her scalp to her hand.
I watched as they wheeled her down the hallway with her “Dolly” tucked under her arm, into surgery.  I was so angry.  So nervous.  I had never felt such gut-wrenching physical pain from emotional stress before.  It was almost paralyzing.
We sat in a small room lined with chairs, Kleenex boxes, magazines and the buzz of the TV in the corner.
We waited.  We prayed.  I asked God for perspective.  I begged God to ease the pain of the hardest week of my life.  I was desperate for his help, his light.  It was so dark.  It was so heavy.
God delivered.
Minutes later a young couple came in and sat across from us.  The gentleman was bandaged, so many bandages.  I couldn’t tear my eyes away from his wounds, some covered, others not.  We made small talk.   Then we exchanged the details about what led us all to the waiting room of a burn unit on that hot August day.
Their pain was palpable.  They spoke of the car accident.  They spoke of their devastating loss.  They couldn’t save both of their children from the burning vehicle, despite his efforts – the burns, bandages and scars covering his body to prove it.  They lost their baby girl.  She was Kennedy’s age.  My heart, my spirit hurt so much for them.  They had to bury their baby girl…and here I sat – feeling sorry for myself.  They lost their baby girl, and I got to leave the hospital that day with mine.
Thank you, Lord.

a

(Kennedy – 18 months old)

Kennedy’s recovery went about as well as expected.  We made frequent trips to St. E’s weekly for dressing changes, physical therapy, and follow-up appointments.
My heart’s recovery (not that it really ever completely recovered) came only by God offering me the pain and perspective of a family much worse off than me that day.  I have carried this family in my heart over the years.    They came up in conversation between my husband and myself many times over the last 14 years.  We wondered how they were doing, if their marriage survived such a loss.  We wished we would have had enough foresight to get identifying details to keep up with them in the future.  I’ve prayed countless prayers for them: anytime I noticed Kennedy’s scar, listened to her explain what happened, or heard a story of the loss of a child.  These people…we sat there broken, hearts open…sharing one of the hardest moments of our lives…together.  My heart was changed that day.  These people changed my heart, my perspective, my life.  And they had no idea.
Part 2 of this story on the blog soon. ā¤

ab

(Kennedy – 3 years  with her coveted Dolly)