I was overwhelmed when I came to class the day of the speech. I had expected only my class to be there, but Mrs. Rouseau had invited other classes as well, the room was packed with students in there freshmen, sophomore, junior and senior years. I had expected about thirty students, and about ninety were crowded in the room.
I had never been good with giving speeches in front of large crowds, but I would get use to it. If the Lord wanted me to talk about what had happened to me I would get use to talking with many people. If I could touch lived then it would be worth it.
“Nervous?” Chandra asked, as we entered the room and saw students sitting on the floor, in chairs, wherever they could find word.
“Yeah, but I will be okay. This is something that I have to do.”
“You’re doing a good thing Shana.”
“I just hope somebody listens and makes a better choice than I did. I wouldn’t wish this on anybody.”
“I know you wouldn’t, and I think they will listen. You have something to tell them, something real.”
I grew quiet again, silently praying that I would be able to reach someone in the class, someone in the school. I wanted others to see that it was foolish to get in a car with someone who had been drinking. I wanted them to see that there was no one who could guarantee they were safe to be driving and drinking. I wanted them to see that I had made one follies decision and my life was turned upside down.
Lord help me get through this, and help me reach these kids. If I can save a life then I am making a difference, Lord it’s important to me that I am able to reach someone, but I know I can not do that without your help. I thank you Lord for all you have given me and I praise you.
Mrs. Rouseau introduced me to those who did not know me. Many of the students I did not know had heard about me and the accident. The school had sent counselors to different classrooms while I was in the hospital, so many knew part of my story although I did not know everyone in the room. I was thankful that I was able to do this, that I was strong enough to get up in front of the class and tell them what happened to me.
“I learned the hard way how quickly a life can change.” I began. “And how one foolish decision could change your life forever. I made a mistake, I got in a car with
someone who had been drinking, and now I am paying a high price.”
I looked around the room, glancing at the different students, surprise to see that Chad was in the room.
Why hadn’t I noticed him from the moment I began talking?
It really didn’t matter though, I would have to get on with my speech. Maybe he would listen to what I would have to say.
“Drinking and driving changed my life, although I was not the one drinking.” I continued. “I was the one who voluntarily got in the car though. Nobody forced me to do that. I was suppose to be at home with my Mom, I’d been grounded but I refused to listen to my Mom. I thought it was cool to disobey orders. I think even then I knew how foolish I was being, but I was stubborn anyway. My Mom was only looking out for me.”
I looked over to see my Mom sitting in the front row on a desk chair, watching as I spoke. I could see the tears in her eyes as I continued speaking about what had happened. I was thankful my Mom was there, thankful she was encouraging me to move on. I knew this was not easier on her either. She had to do so much for me, and I hated that, she was always so exhausted by the end of the day.
I mostly watched my Mother and Chandra as I continued, but sometimes I found myself glancing over at Chad, who was making it no secret that he was bored. Oh well, he would continue to listen to this, he was part of the reason I was here talking about what had happened in the first place. His total lack of respect was beginning to unnerve me and made me wonder how I could have ever been foolish enough to think he was the “cool”. What Chad was, was disrespectful.
“I am dependent on others for nearly everything, and my Mother goes out of her way for me. Whenever I need her she is there, and the same goes for my best friend Chandra, having this happened to me opened up my eyes to how important it was to know who my real friends were, and I have discovered that”
Several classmates raised their hands with questions:
“What was it like in the hospital?” Was a common question.
“It was kind of boring, but at the same time it was hard work, because every little thing was a struggle for me and still is. It was also emotionally draining being stuck in a hospital for weeks while my friends were out doing normal teenage things. I spent almost half of my sixteenth year in the hospital, and now I am spending the rest dealing with life in a wheelchair.’
“Was it hard for you going back to school?” Another classmate asked.
“Yes, it was, I worried that I would no longer fit in, and I had nightmares of the way things might be. I’m glad to be back in school though. One of my goals is to graduate with the rest of my class, and so far I am on track and will be able to do that.”
I continued on with my story, with how I felt about things, and how I dealt with not being able to do the things I use to take for granted. Some kids asked personal questions, but I was prepared for that, because when I was in the hospital I asked some of the same questions myself and I wanted to answer the questions although they were personal. I wanted them to understand how much my life had changed, but at the same time I wanted to show them that despite everything I was going to make it. I was pushing myself to do what I could, and I was learning to live with knowing that some things I would never be able to do again, at least not on this side of heaven. If I could show them that despite all that had happened I was living my life, maybe they would not be afraid to overcome there trials and tribulations, maybe it would give them the courage to fight when they needed to fight.
Thank you Lord for giving me the words I needed to say, and let me touch lives. Help me to be able to forgive Chad and to be able to forgive myself.
“What on earth do you think your doing?” Chad asks after class.
“I was giving a speech.”
“You shouldn’t have done that!”
“Because everyone’s going to know it’s me, and they are going to treat me like a freak, and you are going to have to pay for that. You’re the freak not me.”
“Chad what on earth are you talking about?”
“You tell me freak.”
“Leave her alone.” Chandra yells.
Chad pushes Chandra to the ground, and I realize that he is nothing more than a little child. I could not believe I ever thought he was anything less than a jerk. I could not hold a grudge against him though, because if I did I would be letting him get to me, but I could not let him get away with pushing my best friend, face first on the sidewalk. She was hurting and I could not help her I hated that.
“What did you do that for? Chandra didn’t do a thing to you.”
“She’s your friend that’s enough of a reason.”
“You really are a creep.”
He tries to push me out of my chair onto the sidewalk, but Mrs. Rouseau walks out of the room and catches him. I silently breathe a thanks to the Lord for sending her out. She escorts him to the principal’s office, and while he walks away he glares at me. Now I understand what they mean when people say if looks could kill.
“Are you okay Chandra?” I ask.
“I’m okay, but I don’t understand how somebody could be such a jerk.”
“And I don’t believe I ever thought I loved him. I think you should go to the nurses office though. I’ll come with you.”
“Okay.” Chandra agrees. I can see she’s going to have a bruise around the eyes.
“We need to pray for him.” Chandra tells me.
“I pray for him all the time, and I will continue despite all of this.”
“I think it’s people like him that need our prayers the most.”
“I think you are right about that.”
I remembered a time like this before, with a similar bruise, but it hadn’t been anyone’s fault. Chandra was ten at the time and kept getting unexplainable bruises, and
her Mom took her to the hospital to find out she’d had childhood Leukemia. I was so afraid that my best friend was going to die. The fight had been hard but Chandra was strong, and I did my best to cheer her up. I had not done nearly as much as she had done for me though.
“Shana you okay?” Chandra asks.
“Yeah, I’m okay.”
“You seem in a world of your own.”
“I was just thinking about when we were ten.”
“And I was diagnosed with Leukemia. I was so scared Shana, I didn’t want to die and I was afraid I was going too.”
“Thank God you didn’t.”
“Yeah thank God. I wasn’t ready to die just as you weren’t ready to die when the accident occurred.”
“Yes I am glad I made it despite everything I am glad I am alive.”
“You did a good thing.” Chandra told me when we had gotten back to my house after school.
“I’m sorry that Chad hurt you.”
“It’s not your fault he was just showing what a jerk he could be.”
“I can’t believe I ever thought he was the man of my dreams.”
“I guess we learn and we grow.”
“You’re sounding older than sixteen again.”
“Sometimes I feel older than sixteen, having cancer when I was a kid kind of made me grow up fast.”
“I hated seeing you so sick. Feeling like I was going to loose you.”
“I had the same worries when I first heard about your accident. We didn’t know if you were going to make it or not.”
“The Lord had a reason for both of us to still be here.”
“I’m glad we are here.”
I hated seeing the bruises on Chandra’s face, and the scrapes where Chad had pushed her face first into the sidewalk. I had never imagined he would ever do something like that, but he had. He was just showing how immature and childish he could be. I hated the fact that my friend had been a victim of his foolishness.
“I wish I could have done something to help you when Chad pushed you, but all I could do was sit in this chair helpless.”
“Shana quit beating yourself up over it okay. It happened and it wasn’t your fault, I know if you could have you would have helped me and just being here for me is help
enough for me.”
I tired not to beat myself up over all the things I could not do, but sometimes it was hard. Sometimes I felt that I had lost so much that I just did not know how to move on. It was so hard sometimes just getting myself through the day, but I couldn’t let myself be drug down because I wasn’t sure how far down I would go. I was also afraid that once I was drug down I would not be able to rise up from it.
Chandra asked me to quit beating myself up over all I could not do for her, but it was not easy. I wanted to be able to do things for my friends that I could no longer do. Even something as simple as giving Chandra a hug was a struggle. I was overcoming some of it, but I would never overcome all of it.
I was struggling with a lot of the things I had to face. Getting out of bed everyday was a struggle, because someone had to be there to get me out of bed, to help me dress, to help me use the bathroom. I could never pretend any of this was easy, but with faith I knew despite my low moments I would make it through, I had to make it through, and I was going to make a life for myself one way or another. knew the Lord would not want me sitting around feeling sorry for myself all the time and I was not about to allow that of myself either. Yes I got depressed, but I could not let that ruin my life either. I had to face each new day no matter what the struggle was, and I had to face people like Chad who wanted to treat me as if I didn’t matter, as if I was some kind of freak.
Lord help me to stop feeling so broken. Help me to stop feeling so incomplete Lord. I know the fact that my legs don’t work or my arms don’t work doesn’t make me less of a person but sometimes I feel that way, and I find it hard to shake that feeling. I
love you Lord and I thank you for all you have done for me. I ask that you forgive me for my past mistakes.
“Shana don’t let Chad get to you. I’ll be okay so quit worrying. Chad wins if you let his behavior get to you.”
“I’m trying not to Chandra, but sometimes it’s hard. This is all hard.”
“I can’t say I know what you are going through, but I know what it’s like to fight and I want to help you through this fight.”
“I think you know what I am going through better than most.”
“Shana I am going to be here for you, and I don’t want you even trying to push me away because it won’t work. Don’t try to hide things from me either, because we know each other to well to hide things like what we are feeling from one another.”
“I don’t want to burden you.”
“Shana I asked you to talk to me when you needed to talk, so you will not be burdening me, you will upset me more if you try and hide things from me!”
“Now what’s bothering you besides Chad I know something is upsetting you.”
“The feeling of helplessness, knowing that I will never know the independence I knew before the accident. The fact that I have to ask my family and my friends to help me with everything including the restroom. It’s all so embarrassing at times Chandra, and I feel so ashamed because there is so much I can’t do.”
“Shana you have nothing to be ashamed about. You’re the same person on the inside you were before the crash. You can still love and be loved, and you can still pray
“I just miss being able to do the things I use to do so much. Little things like being able to wash my hair, or help Mom with the garden, things like hanging out at the mall and shopping for clothes, and not worrying about having to have someone help me try them on. Sometimes it’s so overwhelming.”
Chandra didn’t pretend she knew what I was going through, because she didn’t,
just as I hadn’t understood what it was like for her when she was ten and battlingLeukemia, but we both knew we could be there for each other and that was important.
“I’m glad I have you for a friend Chandra, I really don’t know what I would do without your friendship.”
“I’m glad we are friends too, you are the best friend I ever had.”
“Sisters at heart.”
“Sisters at heart.” I agreed.
“I’m sorry about the way things went after your speech.” Mrs. Rouseau told me. Chad Bennington has been suspended.”
“It’s not your fault Mrs. Rouseau.”
“I just wanted your classmates to hear what had happened to you, and what you are going through, and I wanted to better understand how to help you.”
“You are already doing a lot to help me and I appreciate that Mrs. Rouseau.”
Mrs. Rouseau had only been teaching at Lincoln for a couple of years. She was young, probably about twenty four or twenty five, not much older than some of the students she taught.
Most of my teachers understood what happened to me, but it was Mrs. Rouseau that I looked to the most. Before the accident I had thought maybe I would be a teacher and I would like to be a teacher like Mrs. Rouseau. I was glad when I had found out I had her for Junior English because everyone I knew had said what a great teacher she was and now I saw that they were right.
“You did a great job with the speech.” Mrs. Rouseau assured me. “I’m not sure if I could have done it if I were you, but I knew that it was important you talk about it. If I
put you on the spot I’m sorry.”
“Don’t worry about it Mrs. Rouseau you’re right it’s important to talk about it, because then maybe somebody will listen.”
“I believe most of the students did.”
“I hope so.”
“Have you thought about what you are going to do after high school?” Mrs. Rouseau asked.
“I plan to go to College, after that I am not sure. Before this happened I was thinking about being a teacher.”
“What changed your mind?”
“The crash, hearing what happened to me, everything. How can I make a good teacher when I can barely use my arms, and my legs are useless.”
“It’s not your legs and arms that make you a good teacher Shana it’s your brain and I know you’re intelligent.”
“I don’t know if I could do it though. Physically or emotionally, but I will think about it, I won’t completely rule out being a teacher.”
“I think you could, and I know you are not going to let what happened to you change your drive and determination. You are the girl who pushed to come back to school only a week after you were released from the hospital after being released from the hospital after being paralyzed in that crash.”
I had talked to Mrs. Rouseau about how I had wanted to come back to school and how my doctors were concerned before. I was more concerned about what would happen if I had to much time to dwell on what had happened. At least going back to school I was able to spend some time focusing on my classes, and my mind wasn’t always completely focused on all the crash had taken from me. I was always aware of what had happened, how could I not be? But it was better for me to focus on other things instead of just
thinking about the accident, and what I had lost. I had to keep reminding myself that I was the same person on the inside, because my body was paralyzed didn’t mean my mind was.
“I’m still not certain what I want to do after college Mrs. Rouseau but being a teacher is a real possibility. If I did become a teacher I would like to teach English or Creative Writing.
“You are good at both, and I know whatever path you decide to take you will do
“Thank you Mrs. Rouseau, and thank you for encouraging me to fight.”
“Don’t mention it.”
I was thankful for that I had Mrs. Rouseau she was a caring teacher, a teacher who gave a hundred and ten percent to her students. She was not the type of teacher who acted like she had all the answers, and she wasn’t afraid to tell you when she did not know the answers.
Mrs. Rouseau’s class was my last class of the day, so after I was done with English Mom came to pick me up. I had just started coming back to school full time and was exhausted by the end of the day, so I was more than thankful when Mom showed up and helped me into the van she had recently bought. I knew she had traded in her sports car for the down payment and I hated seeing her make the sacrifices, but she told me she did not want to have a car that would be difficult for me to get in. Mom loved that car though and I hated that she felt she had to give it up for me.
“How was school today?” Mom asked me after I was secured into the front passenger seat.
“Good, Mrs. Rouseau and I talked after class.”
“She seems to be a really nice person.”
“She’s great Mom. I think she’s one of the best teachers at Lincoln High maybe in the whole city.”
“I was proud of you for giving that speech Shana. I am proud of you anyway, but that took courage. I don’t think I would have had that kind of courage.”
“I couldn’t have did it without your guys support, and I couldn’t have done it without the Lord.”
Mom looked at me with love in her eyes, and I returned the love back. I regretted the way I had treated her before the crash. I was sorry for all that I had done to hurt my Mom. I owed Mom so much, and I wanted to make it up to her. I wanted her to know how much I loved her, and I wanted to do more than just say it.
“Mom I’m sorry, sorry for the way I treated you before. I should have never treated you like that.”
“Honey what’s in the past is in the past let’s not dwell on it okay?”
“Alright, but I really do owe you so much, you are doing so much for me have always done so much for me, but now I feel like I am exhausting you, you have to do so
much for me.”
“Honey it’s not you that exhaust me, it’s all that has happened. It’s taken an emotional strain on all of us, and I know it has on you. You have had your whole life turned upside down, but somehow you manage to push on.”
“I manage because I have to Mom, I can’t let myself more handicap than I already am, and I certainly can’t let this stop me from doing the things I am able to do.”
“I’m proud of you Shana.”