How do we move forward?

My road came to an unexpected halt on November 9, 2010.

That morning, I was bicycling to work when a garbage truck turned across a city bike lane. I was in that bike lane.

I was critically injured in the accident. A team of trauma surgeons saved my life, but they had to amputate my left leg. I had a long road ahead of me, physically and emotionally, yet I was grateful to be alive.

An ending can be a beginning too. I started over.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.

Gradually I learned to walk again. So I began counting steps. Then miles.

Over time, that journey turned a corner. It became less about my own recovery and more about resilience -- the connection we all share.

Ten years later, I still take one step at a time. Yes, there are bumps in the road, but each step means rising to new challenges, adapting to change, and moving forward with hope.

Are you on your own journey?


Saturday, October 29, 2011


Mile Marker 143:

In bed this morning, I listened to the icy rain tap against the windows. 

My eyes were closed.  And in my head, I imagined I was walking down a long hallway.  Pacing myself as always.   Plodding along slowly, step by step.  Leaving the daylight behind.

I’ve been taught to stay away from dark places where I might lose my footing.   But I couldn't stop moving forward, even as the hallway dimmed and the wind picked up.  The floor and ceiling and walls seemed to come together.  And I could make out a small door up ahead. 

I felt like Alice in Wonderland, but not exactly.  She had a choice.

The door at the end of my hall would open by itself.  

Behind it, I knew, lurked NOVEMBER.

Anyone seen a cement guy?
This week I hurried from place to place, racking up miles without even noticing.  I focused on exercising at PT, helping out at school, carrying groceries from the car, unpacking from Chicago, and doing laundry in the basement.  Oh, and also tracking down that guy who’s supposed to be repairing my sidewalk!

Can I offer you some Eyeball Punch?
I clocked Mile Marker 143 last night volunteering at the rehab hospital Halloween party.  We showed horror movies, ate pizza, and gave out candy.  It was my first shift as a volunteer and a good way to celebrate the holiday this year.  It reminded me of how far I’ve come from that limbo world last winter.  Of all that time I spent getting ready to rejoin the land of the living.

It’s been a long year.

I’d like to forget that time is still passing.  That every minute tumbles us through the end of October.  Toward the first anniversary of my accident.

Last year's B.Y.O.P.
Fun times!
It’s an unusual feeling.  I'm used to looking FORWARD, especially at this time of year.  Halloween has always been MY holiday – carving pumpkins with friends, serving up pumpkin pasta, lighting the fire pit, and breathing in the fresh chill of fall.  But this week it reminds me of the decorations from last year’s party.  The ones that were left unkempt on November 9.  The cardboard pumpkins and orange candles that collected dust around my house until Mom and I finally tucked them into the basement last May.

I’m just not ready to open that box again.

This time of year marks the end of BEFORE.  And the beginning of all that came AFTER.

I guess I'm a little afraid of what's still to come.

I'm scared of the mystery that winter holds for me and my new body.  Shoveling, salting, stepping through snow.  And other obstacles I've yet to imagine.

And I fear that each day this season will remind me of another day LAST YEAR.

In the hospital on the wall across from my bed, there was a white board.  The nurses erased it each morning and neatly changed the date.  I can tell you the date of each of my surgeries.  I can tell you about Thanksgiving night -- when I nibbled on my strange-tasting turkey dinner before Mom, Dad, and Mark reluctantly headed to the Midtown Diner.  I can tell you about December first when the hospital staff hung jingle bells on everyone’s door.   And about how frightened I was on December 17, when my grandmother was so sick I thought I said my last goodbye to her on the phone from my hospital bed.  And later that same day, when Mark took my hand and held on tight in the ambulance to the rehab hospital.

But here we are now.  All of us.  (Yes, even my grandmother!)  So I need to make some NEW memories.  To cover up those old ones - respectfully and gently -- and move on.

I’m determined to FIND JOY this season, even in the midst of cold winds and gray skies and snowy sidewalks.  It’s hard though.  Sometimes even the most colorful ideas fade in the early evening light. 

Matt salts my messy sidewalk!
For now I'll smile at those little joys I've come across over the past few miles --  The airport wheelchair escort last weekend, who admitted to me that he’d never flown on a plane.   The five-year-old "Captain America" who was the life of the rehab Halloween party.   And, of course, my friends who held up traffic today to help me cross the slippery street!

Mile 143 paves the way to darker times.   But it has to.  That’s when trick-or-treaters come out.

Maybe I've been watching too many horror movies.  

Still, I'll be surprised if the sun rises when we open that door to November.  But if -- or when -- it does, it’ll make things a little bit easier.

The calendar pages will keep on turning.  And before I know it, it’ll be spring.

Perhaps this season is just A BUMP IN THE ROAD.

Sound familiar?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The More Things Change

Mile Marker 132:

Do you think we’ll feel old?  e-mailed my college friend Linda.   

No, I said to myself.  The only thing I’ll feel is that I have ONE LEG.

They won't get it, I thought.

We were gearing up for our 20-year reunion at Northwestern, and I was going to see some of my BEST FRIENDS in the world.  But I was afraid I'd changed too much.  That nothing would feel the same.

On Friday afternoon, I headed to the airport -- luggage, leg, and all.  My parents wheeled me through security and waited outside my glass cubicle while the TSA folks scrambled to find a female agent to pat me down. 

I felt many things – anxious, excited, wary, frustrated -- but OLD was not one of them.  In fact, sorting out the seating arrangement on the plane with Mom and Dad, I felt very, very YOUNG.

But we made it.
Welcome to Chicago!

Mile 132 began with a Saturday morning jaunt around Northwestern’s campus with friends -- Wendy, Shelley, Linda, and Debbie -- and family – Andy, Nina, Mom, and Dad.

So much was unchanged.  Lake Michigan still pelted the eastern shore.   Fisk Hall was crawling with red and gold ivy.  The Norris Center Bookstore still sold sweatshirts.  Our old dorm still had the same couches (ewww!) 

Students jogged past us on the Lakefill.  I remembered playing flag football and soccer there, walking on the rocky cliffs, tiptoeing across the lake’s frozen waves in the winter, and tanning on the beach as soon as the thermometer hit 45 degrees. 

Wendy pointed out that we should have enjoyed it more while it lasted; we'd probably never afford such property again in our lives!

But these memories didn’t make me yearn for a younger time.  They made me yearn for FREEDOM.

For me, the campus paths wound longer and steeper and curvier than they were before.  The rocks along the lake were tilted and tricky;  to stay upright, I grabbed for my friends’ hands.  And the idea of climbing up 4 flights of stairs to see my old dorm room --  I decided to put that off till our next reunion!

At the football game Saturday night, Wendy and Linda dropped me off at the gate before they parked the car.  Shelley helped me side-step my way across the crowded bleachers.   And Northwestern didn’t disappoint us.   Sure, we were defeated by Penn State.  But really, would it have felt like old times if we’d WON?!

After the game we dined with even more friends – Vimla, Sean, and Sheila -- at Dave’s Italian Kitchen.  Our favorite dive had moved from its ramshackle hideaway under the EL to a bigger, shinier space in central Evanston.  But you still couldn’t beat the food…or the company!

And the next morning, we celebrated the end of our whirlwind visit with five of the newest additions since graduation –

Neela, Alisha, Tara, Emma, and Nathan.

But even with the kids around, I didn’t feel old.  (SHORT maybe, but not old!)  

And there were even a few brief moments when I stopped thinking about my leg.

As friends, we’ve seen each other through dorm drama, boyfriend breakups, loss of loved ones, and serious sickness.  We’ve driven cross-country, visited each other's hometowns, stayed up all night, and biked Lake Shore Drive together.  We know each other's dreams as well as we know our own.

Of course, they couldn't get exactly what it’s been like for me this past year. 

But that's all right because they GET ME

And this weekend, like always, I got their ok.

Andy and Nina shopped for essentials I couldn't carry on the plane.  Linda helped me set up the hotel bathroom so I could reach everything on my crutches.  Wendy offered a hand so I could climb out on the rocks.  Vimla rescued us at the stadium when our car was parked miles away.  And Shelley drove me back to the hotel when I was too exhausted to take another step.

When I popped off my leg as soon as I arrived at the hotel, they didn't blink an eye.  And when it took me three tries to put it on in the morning, they were ok with that too.

Of course, we were amazed at ALL THE YEARS that'd had gone by.  We laughed that our parents were our age when we first moved into the dorm.    That this year’s freshmen class wasn't even born when we were freshmen!   And that our kids (I consider them mine, too!) – are now closer to college age than we are.

But we didn’t dwell on these things.  Our friendship is stronger than both AGE and ACCIDENTS.

On the flight back, O’Hare’s full body scanner made the Philly security system look like a circus.  Mom, Dad, and I zipped to the gate, stopped for some Garrett's Popcorn, and then packed onto our over-booked flight like seasoned sardines.  

Before I knew it, I was back in my house.   And I’d been wearing my leg for 16 hours straight!  

I never claimed to feel old.   Just different.  

But it's good to know that some things will always be the same, no matter how many years -- or miles -- apart.

Love you guys!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Taking Off

Mile Marker 126

“I wanna get ME one of those.”

I turn around.  In the midst of the lunch crowd at the corner of 15th and JFK, there's a hulk-like guy behind me marveling at my Genium, eyes wide and eyebrows raised. 

“Nah, you don’t,” Tyl quips back.

We step off the curb, heading over to her car before it gets a parking ticket.  

"But mine's gonna be an arm!” he calls after us excitedly.  “It's gonna start right here!”   He points to the middle of his bicep and makes a slicing motion with his finger.

“No," Tyl says seriously.  "You really DON'T want one.” 

We’re near the LOVE Statue, but this guy’s showing a little too much love.

We climb into the car, and Tyl starts the engine.

Only then do the words come to me.  “Start saving up,” I say.  “They're expensive.”

Mile 126 found me hiking around the city with Tyl from Prosthetic Innovations.  We filmed a video about me and my new leg -- the Genium.  How it gets me through the day from PT, to the supermarket, to my favorite spots in Center City:  Penn Center, my school, and -- of course -- Starbucks. 

My Genium and I were stars!   By the end of the day, TIRED stars!  (That goes for at least one of us, anyway....)

But you know in Hollywood, how there’s always a narrow hallway of dressing rooms, each one with a star on its door?

Well, it's like a few of those doors have opened for me lately.

No, I haven't signed a big movie deal or anything.   But tomorrow, I'm helping out as Prosthetic Innovations hosts a clinic for physical therapy students.  It'll be cool to ANSWER some questions, instead always asking them!

And next week, I'll try out volunteering at my rehab hospital.  The place where I first tasted FREEDOM last December -- in a wheelchair.  My Genium doesn't remember those days;  it was before our time together. But now we have a chance to go back in a different capacity!

To add to that excitement, my amazing nurses from the 7 Center Unit -- the ones who cared for me for over 2 months -- are planning a special WALK with me!  After all this time, they're still cheering me on!

And to top it all, I’m flying to CHICAGO this weekend!

We’re taking off in all directions, my Genium and me.   Finding our stride, new socket and all. 

But we're still “training those muscles,” as my prosthetist Tim says.    And yes Tim, trying to remember to stretch too!   It’s hard with so many new things (a.k.a. LIFE) happening around us!

Still, ahead lies a runway of new skills to master.  There's a “swipe” maneuver to go up stairs and step over obstacles on the ground.   There's weight-shifting and standing on one leg – the Genium's side of course!   And if I really want to shake things up, there's balancing on a BENT knee for inline skating mode!

Step by step, my Genium and I must learn to work as a team. 

But last night, I dreamed of flying.

Not on a plane.  I just slid open my bedroom window and floated out above the street as if Peter Pan were leading me.

In the dream, I wasn’t wearing my Genium.

I had my real leg back.

Among prostheses, my Genium IS a star.  It’s the first of its kind in Pennsylvania.   The newest prosthetic technology in the world!

Still, it is NOT MY REAL LEG

Tyl tried to explain that to the guy on the corner.

I’m determined to reach a time when I stop thinking about my leg as a separate being.  When running simple errands doesn't feel like stepping off a cliff.

Tim tells me that day will come.

This weekend will be a start.   I’ll test my wings at the airport with co-pilots Mom and Dad by my side.

My Genium is charged.  And my suitcase is open -- at least to any possibility that'll fit in a Ziploc bag.

So no more procrastinating....It's time to get packin’!

To quote Mark's last blog comment:   THE SKY'S THE LIMIT!

I want to believe him.

My Genium and I thank Tyl for her awesome pics!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Graduation Day

Mile Marker 116:

My first grade teacher and I shared a love for the Flyers.  Once we even went to a game together!

We watched from my dad’s top level seats, leaning back against the bone-smooth wall of the Spectrum.  What could be better?  I was 6 years old, and the two people I idolized most -- MY TEACHER and Bobby Clarke -- were with me under one concrete roof! 

My heroes have changed through the years, but teachers have always held a special power.

Billing expert Steve gives me
 my "walking papers!"
Last Monday -- Mile Marker 116 -- was “Graduation Day.”   I was discharged by my Trauma Surgery Team.

To be honest, I’d been pushing off the appointment.  Not that I didn’t want to see my doctors.   Nor that I didn't want to be healthy.   I just didn’t want to LEAVE them!

For almost a year, they’d brought comfort to me and my family.  Their simple presence could calm my nerves and soothe my pain.  They'd come to symbolize HOPE.

And in that way, they were much more than doctors and nurses. 

They were also TEACHERS.

So, in honor of my graduation, I thought I’d share a few things I learned during our time together.

Consider it a graduation speech…

First, SMILE.   I mean smile every chance you get!  Lock eyes with someone like you’re sharing a private joke.  My doctors and nurses had smiles for every occasion:  pre-op, recovery, middle-of-the-night calls, and slow afternoons with New York Housewives on TV.  Smiling is one hospital procedure that doesn’t hurt at all.   And it can make someone’s day.  (It often made mine!)

Next lesson:   WASH - RINSE - REPEAT.   Or whatever it takes.  My Trauma Team never walked away from a challenge.   Seven “wash-out” procedures in 11 days?   Well, my leg was infected, so my team fought back!  Again and again and again and again and again and again and again.  Surgery to the 7th power!

Then there's TALK IT OUT.  My doctors gathered together every morning at some crazy-early hour.   They shared information and made decisions as a team.   And when I had lots of questions -- (Are you surprised??) -- my nurses and doctors took the time to talk with me, too.  Because they knew that words are to the mind what blood is to the body.

And this next one I'm still working on:  DON’T LOSE SIGHT OF THE FOREST.   I can’t imagine how many sutures my team stitched in a day, how many IV bags they hung on poles, or how many pills they administered in little cups.  But along with their keen eyes for detail, they never failed to remind me of the progress I made.  Even back in Critical Care -- when my body was puffy with fluids and I didn’t seem much like ME at all -- they asked my family to tell them about me BEFORE this accident.   They said to hang up pictures.   You’ll get back there, they reminded us all along.  Don’t think about now.  Think about a year from now.  

And here we are, almost.

Which leads me to this one:  GO TO RESTAURANT WEEK.  Sounds funny, I know.  This message from Dr. J – in the midst of abdominal pain last January – seemed like a contradiction in terms.  But I’ve thought about it since then, and here’s what I think he was getting at:  CELEBRATE LIFE.  Don’t dwell on what you can’t do.  Get out there.  LIVE.  Let the chips -- or scar tissue in my case -- fall where they may.    ...Or perhaps he was just trying to get me to eat.  Well, Dr. J, I did go out for Restaurant Week just last month!

And finally,
PASS IT ON.  It’s a teaching hospital, after all.  My favorite fellows and residents like Dr. Nate and Dr. Josh  demonstrated incredible patience and support by my bedside.  They also had an uncanny ability to make me giggle, even during painful bandage changes.   It might have been the heavy-duty meds flowing through my IV, but I thought they were hysterically funny!   And quite skillful, too. 

With just over 11 months gone by, these lessons echo in my life outside the hospital -- reverberating off the walls of my house, my school, my rehab -- everywhere I go.

And my team goes on to treat – and teach – other patients.  My doctors and nurses continue their hard work.  Their talent shines through from the inside out.  And they overcome more obstacles in one morning than most of us do in 5 YEARS.

At my discharge appointment last Monday, Dr. J. asked me a most important question:   “What’s next?”

Bye Dr. J!
Because graduation isn’t really the end.

It's just the beginning.

But it's good to know that whatever time I wake up in the morning, my Trauma Team will ALWAYS be up earlier.
Just in case I need them.

For now, I'll practice what they've taught me.   And PASS IT ON.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Fabulous Firsts

Mile Marker 111:

I remember waking up in the ICU and uttering my first words.  I remember venturing out into the hospital hallway using a walker for the very first time.   And I remember spending the very first night back in my own home.

A trauma resets your life. 

In what felt like one morning (but was actually a week), I found myself at the starting line again, with a world of “firsts” waiting to be discovered.

Let's do it again!
Check out Mom's face during

Last Friday was my FIRST THREE-MILE DAY.

A “first” implies that there’s more ahead.  Good thing.  Because it's hope that drives me forward.

A “first” also implies that, although it’s a milestone in this journey, it is still very far from the finish line.

Take last November 9th, for example.    If the day had gone according to plan, I would have biked to and from school, a total of 9 miles.   I would have hiked almost 2 miles up and down the school hallways.  And later that evening, I would have rushed to meet friends for a quick 15-mile skate before bed.  It would have been a 26 mile day

Really, you say?   Ok, not quite.  Let's be truthful here….  A day like that would definitely require an afternoon Starbucks run ~ .2 mile.

There.  26.2 miles.  A marathon.  A typical Tuesday.

Instead, as you know, November 9th turned out to be only a half-mile day.  Maybe a full mile if you count the ambulance ride.

So now, a three-mile day is progress!  From home to the mailbox.  On the treadmill at PT.  On the walking path at Prosthetic Innovations.  In the aisles of Shop-Rite.   

My steps on Friday measured three physical miles. 

But something even more important happened on my INSIDE.

See, most days aren't that smooth.   The night before that three-mile day, I’d put myself on the injured reserve list.  I was exhausted and uncomfortable.  Even before dinner, I retired upstairs with my crutches, "ankle-blades," and other painful friends.

That night, I fell apart on the phone with my good friend Bosco.  But she encouraged me.  ASK FOR HELP!  she said.  People need to know.

So, my three-mile day started with just that.  I told my PT Kate how my new socket was harder to walk in.  How I didn’t think my muscles were strong enough to operate it.  How I got tired after only walking to the mailbox.  She worked with me on strengthening and stretching.  With pacing on the treadmill.

(proudly earned while
skating, of course!)
And in the afternoon, I moved those same concerns to my prosthetist Tim.  He did some all-important leg-tweaking (and attitude-tweaking!).  Then under his watchful gaze, I headed outside to walk again.  And even to skate.  

And that night, when I arrived home PUMPED UP but very hungry, I called my fellow foodie friend Jen.  And she drove to Shop-Rite with me – just to keep me company!  (She spotted the "111" label in the meat department too!)


It was like a pep rally with the best trainers and coaches and cheerleaders money could buy. They propelled me forward with their ideas and support.  With the goal of getting my body back to center.  With visions of weight-shifting on my skates.  And with a very delicious dinner.

I traded in my fatigue for motivation and momentum – the energy that would push me to go just a little bit farther.  To jump another few hurdles.

If “firsts” could be bottled up, our nation’s fuel crisis would be over!

In case you’re wondering, the first words I remember saying in the ICU were, “We’re being monitored today” (referring to the school’s special education audit we’d been working toward for months).  

And on the day I first hopped forward with that walker, I found myself awed by the bustling hospital hallways outside of Room 7206.  

And, on that first night back in my own home…. Well -- even with a sewer pipe leak -- there’s nothing quite like INDEPENDENCE!

Each "first" has welcomed me back to my life.  Like a doorway into that busy, fast-paced, world that used to be mine.  The one where I could focus my energy outward as much as inward. 

The one that enabled me to watch where I was going, rather than where to place my feet. 

That world where -- without even trying -- I’d do a marathon on a typical Tuesday.

3 x 9 = 27,  I tell myself.  So, just 9 three-mile days will surpass a marathon.

(and first attempt at using the
 camera's timer with my skates on!)
That'll be ONE Tuesday down.  And many more “firsts” to go!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Thrills, Spills, and Fire Drills

Mile Marker 105:

Yesterday morning while I attempted to slide across the school lobby in my new fall shoes, our security guard slipped me a secret. 

“Fire drill today.  Around 11:00.”

“Thanks!” I said.  “I’ll come down early.”

But I did not come down early.   The siren found me upstairs, knee-deep in conversation about a student.  To my credit, I barely jumped.  My heart did not pulse out of my chest.  I was expecting this alarm, but I’d lost track of time.  So, my teammate Chase and I stood on the landing of the stairwell and watched as 400 pairs of school shoes trampled down three flights of steps to the front door.   When the crowd cleared, I started down in MY new shoes, one step at a time.  Instead of the first one down, I was the last.

After the fire drill, I watched our special ed teacher Liz orchestrate a reading class.  Each student had a checklist of assignments.   They followed the rules of each activity center -- the internet websites, the questions on keyrings, the fluency assessments.  

Liz worked the room like a true conductor.  “So what are you supposed to do next?” she reminded them again and again.  

And with that cue, the students pushed fearlessly ahead into the world of lost pencils, tough questions, and hard-to-pronounce words.

When I complimented Liz on her organization, she laughed and replied, “They’re so used to the routines that even in chaos they know what to do!”

Routines empower us to deal with with the unexpected.  They offer us security when our world is shaken.

My world has been shaken like a snow globe.

So, these days, I am a creature of routine.

I wake up at the same time each day.   I eat the same breakfast.    I have systems for showering, for exercising, for climbing the stairs. 

But oddly enough, FUN still exists.   And I've discovered it hovering just outside my comfort zone.  

The last five miles have reminded me what life is about.

It's about braving the steep brick hills of Bucks County to drink pumpkin latt├ęs, browse the shops, and wander through the scarecrows.

It's about traipsing through a treacherous condo courtyard to have lunch with my grandparents.  (Since when are flattened wet cardboard boxes slip-proof??)

It's about skating on a Sunday, just like the old days.  Even if it's only the first of many lessons.

And of course, it's about welcoming October at school -- complete with new shoes and fire drills!  

This is LIVING. 

I don’t want to shy away from these challenges.  But I have to let my routines guide me.  

At the top of an intimidating hill, it's my routine that cues me, So what are you supposed to do next?

I listen because the rewards at the bottom are worth it.

I loved my little Sunday Skate.  

Granted, I spent a lot of time on the ground.  But as my friend and instructor Susan pointed out, “You already know how to get back up.” 

She's right.  I'm not entirely a beginner.  That's one routine I’ve learned pretty well.

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.