Tuesday, November 9, 2010 arrived with a clear early morning that promised to become a chilly, sunny, and typically autumn day. I zipped my coat, buckled my helmet strap, unlocked my bike, and headed off to work. A few minutes later, a garbage truck crossed a bike lane to make a right turn. I was in that bike lane. The tires of the truck crushed my left leg and caused other internal injuries. An amazing team of trauma surgeons saved my life, but they had to amputate my leg to do so.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Confucius.

In July 2011, I set off to walk a thousand miles as an above-knee amputee in my new prosthesis. The journey has held more twists, turns, and detours than I ever imagined.

I reached Mile 1000 on March 30, 2013.

But of course, that wasn't the end.

I'll keep walking!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Candles

Mile Marker 82:

I want candles this year.   Lots of them.

I've sealed last September 17th tightly into a cardboard box and labeled it BEFORE.  All those wishes I made last year, torn and tossed into the air like shredded newspaper.

It’s the beginning of Year 42:  a brave and stable number, strong like a high school football player with shoulder pads and two muscular legs.

I am a mixture of thankful and wistful today.  Divided, hesitant, and slightly off-kilter, like my gait. 

So I'm sending wishes in all directions -- forward and backward -- To infinity and beyond!   This year I wish for my wishes to count.

My first candle stands for GOOD HEALTH.   This, I wish every time I toss pennies into a fountain and spy the first star.  “Good health for me and for those I love,” I whisper again and again.  Without good health, I’ve realized, life is so, so difficult.  But with it, anything is possible.

My next candles are for PEOPLE.  Those who’ve appeared miraculously in times of trouble and those whose constant presence keeps me holding on tight.  People who’ve powered me with medicine and technology, humor and encouragement.   From the nameless paramedic who told me, “Get ready, honey.  It’s gonna hurt like a %!@$&!”  To my prosthetist Tim who, after 5 socket fittings, still calls me a Rock Star.

PEOPLE like my parents and grandparents, sister and brothers, cousins, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephew.  Friends.  A tall, bright candle for each of my trauma surgeons.  There'll be so many flickering flames that my neighbor will call the fire department.  All you candles… You know who you are.

And along with those, I need two candles for GIVE and TAKE.  Because just when I fear I’ve drained my caregivers dry, they return, renewed with sunflowers, cards, and plastic containers to wash my hair.   To bottle up their energy would be to light the city.  My wish now is to trace that web backwards.  I wish for my turn to give.

I’ll light the next candles for STRENGTH.  One for each person I’ve met at rehab -- for Val, Dean, Dan, Frank, Sylvia, Michelle, Joanna, Michael, Ilana, and Zach -- and for those whose names I don't know.  I wish for their paths to be smoother and more clearly marked.  I wish them the force to push aside boulders, and tissues to wipe their sweat and tears.  I wish them Superheroes, like I've had.


I'll light another candle for TODAY and all the promise it holds.  Wishes for rest.  Wishes for play.  Wishes for crunchy leaves and pumpkins and the fresh smell of fall.  I'll make wish after wish to celebrate this new year.  Number 42.   The year that comes AFTER.  

And when the wax drips into the icing, you will know I’ve moved on to TOMORROW.

Tomorrow's candle holds wishes for new directions.  Ideas and interests I’ve only just discovered.  Wishes to spread my wings and branches.  To volunteer.  To join the teams that have embraced me with their momentum.  Tomorrow holds wishes for HOPE.

And when the dust settles, I’ll light a candle for YESTERDAY.  I wish to slit that “before” box open and let it know I haven’t forgotten.  To look into that whirling confetti mess and sort through those old wishes.  I wish to reassemble the pieces before they blow away.

And, finally, one candle for GOOD LUCK.  Of course.

I’ve heard if you reveal your wishes they won’t come true.  But I wonder, How can they come true if you DON’T reveal them?

I’ll need a very big cake this year. 

So get your sunglasses ready.  The light will be visible for miles and miles.  You’ll see it wherever you are.

12 comments:

  1. Rebecca Lyn... For Before and After, for Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, for Good Health, Good People and Strength (and Perseverence, Determination, Beauty, Wisdom and Optimism), for Give and Take, and for all the Good Luck your caring, loving and generous heart can hold... we wish you new beginnings, new opportunities and an exceptionally well-deserved wonderful future in the glowing light of your brilliant candles, as WE GRATEFULLY AND JOYOUSLY CELEBRATE THE DAY YOU WERE BORN! Happy Birthday:) Love, Mom and Dad

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  2. Oh... and did we forget to wish you hope and happiness, companionship and contentment, sunshine and sunflowers, and love and joy in infinite measure? We wish you all these and more in the days and weeks and months ahead:)
    M and D... xoxoxo

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  3. I have my sunglasses on - your inner beauty shines so bright sunglasses might be needed even on the cloudiest of days! I knew you would have a post today...I've been checking. Happy Birthday! I love how you shared your wishes and I hope they all come true. Here's to Good Heatlh, Strength, Today, Tomorrow and Yesterday. Love you. Marla

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  4. Just the other night, my nephew Casey ran up to me when I walked through the door, holding up three fingers and exclaiming "Aunt Shelley, I'm going to have THREE candles on my birthday cake!" (his birthday is Sept 19th). He is SO excited, and it got me thinking how important those candles are, though they hold different meaning at differnt times of our lives. For the 3-year-old it's mostly cool to see the number of candles grow. But later we realize the power of light, the power of the energy in that light. As Marla said so perfectly, your light shines through all the time, candles or not. Looking at the picture of you in a hosptial gown with Andy, I'm almost blinded by the light of your bright smile. Your light fuels so many people, both in the before and after eras. You are certainly not a drain on anyone--quite the contrary, you are a source of energy and inspiration. (Was feeling kind of down and drained today when I came to your blog, knowing that my energy would be renewed, and I thank you!) I have no doubt that he "before" confetti is going to come back together in this "after" era....I have this image of a colorful patchwork of colors of confetti pasted together like a stained glass window--and how beautiful that will be will your light behind it. There's nothing you can't do.
    Have an incredible birthday!
    P.S. Special shout-out to Mom and Dad Lev on your anniversary of parenthood! Thank you from me for bringing such an amazing friend into this world. :o)

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  6. P.S. And I forgot to mention how much I love the last line of this entry: "You'll see it wherever you are." SO TRUE on so many levels! We all have that light right with us all the time. It's right inside. Thank you for reminding me of that.
    (And apologies for the typos I'm now noticing in my comments. Guess my Medill training is on vacation today!)

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  7. Happy Birthday to the most wonderful sister out there! Wish I could be with you to celebrate! Know that I am thinking of you today (although I REALLY am everyday) and hope that all your wishes come true. I love you! XOXO Love Sam

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  8. Happy Birthday with love, hugs and wonder....and, Rebecca, when you think of volunteering and giving in the future, please remember that you have, both in your life BEFORE and AFTER, already contributed more than the average dozen people I know....you were the most independent kid at age nine that I had ever met.... and this blog seems to be quite a contribution, too. Life as it should be, and life as it is, I'm still thinking about that....

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  9. I have an new hero and her name is Rebecca. I just don' know anyone as awesome as you. You have an open invitation to take part of your thousand mile journey in Portland, OR. I would be proud to walk beside you.

    Debbie

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  10. May all your wishes come true and the light of your candles will guide you along your journey. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!

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  11. Man, that cake with all the candles was yummy! :)

    I hope all your wishes come true.

    Tracy Hope (get it!)

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  12. Rebecca,
    Your energy, perserverance and strength will keep many candles lit for a very lonnnnnnnnnng time! Here's to a great year of "special days off from work"...and great lunches on Tuesdays and Thursdays:)Hope all your dreams come true!!

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