Tears filled my eyes as my arm wound its way through the arm of the man who has been #1 in my life for my 24 years. Those arms are the same ones who held onto and steadied my chubby toddler legs on my first birthday as I waddled around the roller skating rink in my skates adorned with hot pink wheels. Those are the very same arms that would hold on to the back of my bike until I was ready for him to “let go” and try to stay upright.
And those arms held me when the doctors were giving my parents the prognosis that I wasn’t going to live.
On April 2nd, 2006, I was in a near-fatal car accident. I was driving in the country and didn’t see the stop sign. A Ford F-350 hit me in my driver’s side door going 70 mph. I was airlifted to Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and I actually died twice in the LifeFlight helicopter. While I was in the air, my parents were getting the phone call that all parents dread. A county police officer from the scene told them, “You need to get to hospital fast. Your daughter has been in an accident, and it doesn’t look like she’s going to make it.”
I sustained major injuries from the car accident and to this day the doctors are still astounded that I survived. My pelvis was crushed, and I have nine plates and pins holding me together. My neck was fractured, both of my lungs collapsed, and I had a traumatic brain injury that caused me to have short term memory loss for two years. I spent 32 days in hospital and for the entirety of my stay, my dad was my rock. Sure, my heavenly Father (and the countless prayers sent up on my behalf) kept me alive and here for a purpose, but my loving earthly Daddy never let me lose the sparkle in my eyes.
I have always been taught to be resilient, so I had the innate willpower to survive, but I’m convinced that without my dad’s unceasing support and motivation, I wouldn’t have had the desire to recover. My dad gave so selflessly of himself while I was in the hospital. One of my favorite stories from this journey was one of the many things my father did for me that may have seemed like nothing at the time, but is dear to my heart now.
There he stood brushing his bruised and bandaged daughter’s hair with no other thought in his mind other than making that moment last.
Once I was moved out of the ICU and into a step down unit, I was too weak to even raise my arms so my dad stepped up to the plate and washed my hair and ever-so-tenderly brushed out all the tangles, making sure not to touch the gaping wound on the side of my head where I was actually scalped during the crash. Seeing a man with grateful tears in his eyes from the pure delight that his daughter was awake and speaking after coming out of a coma was a sight to behold, I’m sure…but there he stood brushing his bruised and bandaged daughter’s hair with no other thought in his mind other than making that moment last.
There I sat. At Vanderbilt Hospital at 18 years young wearing diapers and learning how to eat, drink, and walk all over again–just like a child. Doctors were telling my parents that it was a miracle I survived but there was no way I would be able to walk again, that I would never go back to college because of my traumatic brain injury, and that I would probably end up in an assisted living home because of the severity of my injuries.
To show how far a father’s love and faith can take a child…simply look at where I am now. My dad refused to believe that I was going to be “stuck” in the mind of a 12-year-old for the rest of my life so he encouraged me to stay enrolled in college. It wasn’t easy; in fact, attending school when I could hardly remember what I ate for breakfast that morning was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. My father’s determination and confidence in his daughter paid off, however, because May 2011 I walked across Cumberland University’s stage graduating with my Master’s degree in Business Administration. In Spring 2009 I was not only walking, but I was strutting on stage in 4-inch pageant heels winning the crown and title of Miss Southern Tennessee. It has all come full circle, which brings me back to where we started.
There I stood with my arm intertwined around a true Princess Keeper’s arm as the first chords of the bridal march began playing. With tears in my eyes I looked up at my dad and took a second to store that moment to memory. The only reason I didn’t completely lose my composure was because he was walking me down the aisle towards the only other man in the world who would ever be able to fill his shoes–a fellow “Princess Keeper” and the love of my life.
Though I am now going on to a new beginning with my incredible husband, I will always hold a special place in my life and heart for the man who gave me life and who believed there was still a whole lot of life left in the mangled and unrecognizable body that lay in the hospital bed merely five years ago.
Fathers, never forget to encourage your daughters—it changes (and saves) their lives.