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, October 1, 2011

To Remember

Mile Marker 100:

In the Jewish faith, a year after a loved one dies, there’s a ceremony called an unveiling.  The family gathers again at the cemetery, prayers are said, and for the first time the gravestone is revealed. 

It’s not like a funeral.  At the funeral, the cemetery ground is a gaping hole; the wounds are still raw.   And after the funeral, it’s always hard to leave our loved one behind.

But at the unveiling, things look different.  The earth is sealed, and grass is growing again.  We walk away in comfort, knowing there’s a place we can return to, to feel close to the one we’ve lost.

Mile Marker 100 was an unveiling of sorts. 

On Thursday morning, I walked with my mom, dad, and brother Mark to the corner of 5th Street and Washington Avenue – the sight of my accident.

Together, we marked the place where I lost my left leg.

It may seem silly, but I planned a little memorial service.  (It even seemed silly to me.  So silly that I didn’t mention it till we arrived at the curb.)

 We stood there together staring into the intersection.  “Well,” I began, “People have funerals for their goldfish, so there’s something I want to do.”

I unfolded a tiny piece of paper.

And read:

My Leg Remembers

My leg remembers
A smooth new shave,
The tickle of dry grass inside my sandals,
A fly buzzing around,
A cool breeze across my ankle,
The whirlpool of a pedicure,
Sand between my toes,
The wet concrete pool deck,
Climbing into clean sheets on a summer night.

And it remembers this place, too.

I pray that over time the good memories outweigh the painful ones.
And I thank God for my life and my family.


I took a handful of seashells out of my backpack.

At a cemetery, the tradition is to place stones on a loved one’s grave marker.   It shows that you’ve been there to visit and honor that person.  But stones weren’t quite right for this occasion. 

I wanted to show I’d been there, but I also wanted to change this place.   To make sure it was marked forever.  I wanted somehow to immortalize myself, and my leg, and what happened here last November.  

I love sinking my toes into the sand and gathering shells at the water’s edge.  And it’s an experience that will never feel quite the same.

So early that morning, I dug into my basket of shells and chose the most colorful, varied group I could find.  Shells I'd collected from beaches on the Atlantic, Pacific, Caribbean, and Mediterranean.  Shells from everywhere. 

I held them in my hands at 5th and Washington.

Mark stood in the street and watched for traffic as I stepped off the curb.  I arranged the shells gently on the asphalt, resting them at the place closest to where I fell. 

Then from the sidewalk, the four of us watched the cars go by.  We watched as they crushed the pinks and blues and purples of the shells into tiny shards against the blacktop.



Thursday was also Rosh Hashanah – the New Year.   It was time for a fresh start.

You see, before Thursday, I hadn’t returned to this intersection.  It’s just around the corner from my house, yet I’d been driving half a mile out of my way to avoid it. 

I had been nervous about facing it again.  I wasn’t sure what I’d see there.  But there was no sign of my accident at all.  There was new construction on the corner.  The street was clean.  It even seemed smaller than I remembered. 

The site had healed.

Tears flowed freely as I finally turned my back and walked away. 

And as I took those first few steps, it occurred to me that I wasn’t scared of this place anymore.  And unexpectedly, I knew I’d come back here again.   That everytime I passed this place, it might bring me comfort and help me feel closer to what I've lost.


When we drove by the intersection less than 10 minutes later, my dad slowed the car down.  We all peered out the window at the spot inside the crosswalk, where I’d left the shells.  They were already imperceptible, blended into the street. 

I like to think that the mark I left behind will make that spot just a little bit prettier, just a little bit brighter. That it will always be there even when the pieces are too small to see.   

Kind of like the memory of a loved one.  Like the memory of my leg.

8 comments:

  1. How touching. Happy new year, and congratulations on your first 100 miles.

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  2. Happy New Year to you and your family. Congratulations to you for reclaiming this corner and your life. You have an awesome family to share these moments with. It has been so wonderful to read about your first 100 miles. I am truly looking forward to reading about the next 100. I would love to be part of them. I LOVE your blog. Keep on going!

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  3. Happy New Year. I love this post! Thanks for sharing with us.

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  4. Once again, I'm not sure I can find words to fully express the range of emotions your post stirs up in me....As you said before, any day is a good day to start a new year, but I'm so glad you marked Rosh Hashanah in this way. Your strength in visiting that corner is so inspiring. And marking it with those shells and your poem...wow...Your blog is like a "how to" guide for dealing with loss--inspiring for anyone dealing with any kind of loss. I am honored you are sharing these posts with us.

    And I also must add that in addition to making that corner a little more beautiful with those shimmering shells, you yourself are making the world incredibly beautiful every day through this blog and through your shimmering smile.

    Big hug coming at you!

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  5. Like all great writers, you paint a picture with your words. Just letting you know that I'm still reading and feeling the positive vibe.

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  6. Happy New Year and congrats on the mileage! Your strength and perseverance are inspirational to us all.

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  7. Some how shells or anything from the shore can make an area a little brighter. A New Year and a new beginning.

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