When I asked today’s guest blogger to submit a piece for Wednesday’s Woman she not only said, “Yes,” but also, “It’s such an honor.”
After reading her submission, it was I who felt honored—overwhelmed with honor. I was humbled.
It is a story of her willingness to share her experience with another woman—a woman who has been launched into a similar journey, and ironically, a woman the same age as she was when she was propelled into her own life of "after".
The keen insight present in her account of moving towards offering support elicited a stirring reaction, an emotional response, unparalleled to anything I have read.
It became clear.
Finding Ordinary in Extraordinary
by Heidi Cave
On our way to school, in the car, Annie asks me about Ottawa. “Is Ott-o-wa in Ontario?” Yes, it’s the capital of Canada. I tell Annie and Benjamin how we have nothing to do after school – a day of rest! They cheer! We arrive at school in 2 minutes and they lean into me to peck my lips before they tumble out of the car in a blur of backpacks, jackets and eagerness. Annie is the last one to leave. “Bye, Mommy!” There is a moment where I see her. How our eyes are the same shape. Her face is changing, she’s growing older, determination set in her small shoulders. I see someone whose life has just begun.
I come home to a phone call from a family member asking can I talk to this girl who just lost her leg. After I find out what happened, I ask, “How old is she?” 23. The same age as me when my life changed. When I suffered burns and limb loss. When my life was divided into before and after.
I said, “Of course I’ll talk to her. When she’s ready. She has to want to see me or what I say won’t matter to her. It won’t stay with her.” Sometimes you don’t want to see the tragic turn your life has taken in someone else. You can’t bear that your future has just stepped into the room.
When I lay in a hospital bed, my body and soul undone by a car crash, I wondered if I’d have a normal life. My feet gone, my body ravaged by fire, covered in wounds and grafts and bandages ‘ordinary’ seemed impossible. I would never be the same. I was worried how I’d be perceived by others now that I had a new life. I didn’t want to be a shell, to be less than myself. Scarred and sad Heidi. Disabled and reduced Heidi. I just wanted to be Heidi.
To survive, to get better; I fought, I protected, and I created a new version of whole. It didn’t matter what others thought of me. I needed to be comfortable in my damaged skin. My feet were replaced with prosthetics and I adopted them as my own. I could not reverse time. I could not return to the 23 year old girl who hadn’t been introduced to this kind of horror. I had to heal and train my eyes to see myself as whole, even though I was torn apart. Change is always with us and I would always discover, always adjust, and always accept.
My body, my scars are a map of where I’ve been, of what I’ve fought for and overcome. Life begins over and over again.
I speak into the phone, “She can have a normal life. I’ll tell her. I’ll show her it’s possible.”
Burn Survivor Heidi Cave's tragic, yet inspiring story.
photo credit: AshtonPal via photo pin cc