Amanda isn't the same since the car accident, and her sister can't accept it!
A PURPOSE FOR AMANDA
Slanting beams of sunlight darting through the trees beamed a benediction on Dave’s green Jeep Cherokee as it sped down the highway. Cathy Curtis watched Dave drive silently, steadily through April’s mellow glow. She rubbed her dry lips together, moistening them for the umpteenth time. Though Cathy was only 19, she felt like 82. If only we were going somewhere else, she thought, glancing at the faint red scar winding its way down her bare arm. But she knew that, since the accident on that rain-soaked night, this was the only path to Amanda, or what was left of her.
Then Dave coughed, making Cathy jump.
“What’s the matter, honey?” he said, knowing full well why Cathy was panicking.
“Come on. Try to lighten up. We’re only going for a short visit.”
Cathy managed a small smile.
“I can’t help it, Dave. Every time we come here, I have to face reality and I can’t go on pretending it isn’t true ; it hasn’t happened.”
“But reality has changed,” said Dave, covering her hand with his own. “And it’s time for you to accept it.”
Pebbles popped beneath the tires. They had left the highway. Cathy leaned from the window. The warm breeze lifted her heavy tawny hair, slapping it like piles of shifting straw against her pale face. There it was, its majestic white colonial façade with pillars hiding the sad purpose of the stately mansion’s existence, a home for the partially living. The beauty of the estate always filled Cathy with sadness. Though the casts on her arm and leg were gone, Cathy couldn’t feel healed as long as Amanda lived here.
Oh, God, she thought, why did this happen to Amanda?
They parked the car and walked to the door, their feet beating a hollow cadence on the smooth concrete steps. Just inside the front door, a blonde receptionist tapped her long red fingernails on the shiny surface of a desk.
“Can I help you?”
Cathy swallowed hard.
“We’re here to see Amanda Curtis.”
“She’s in the garden, just out the back door,” said the girl, pointing towards the rear of the house.
Cathy hooked her arm through Dave’s.
“I only wish you had known Amanda before the accident. She was so beautiful, so intelligent. Then you would know how hard it is for me to face this.”
“But I feel like I know her,” Dave said patiently, as if speaking to a child. “You’ve showed me pictures and told me so much about her.”
The garden was a maze of dark green hedges, sheltering the bright blooms of purple crocuses and cheery yellow daffodils.
Coming around a hedge, Cathy saw Amanda sitting in her wheelchair, talking with Mary, her favorite nurse. The accident had left her vivacious 21-year-old sister crippled and with the mind of a 5-year-old.
When Amanda saw Cathy, her slack face lit up.
“Caddie,” she said, the words slow and moist, her neck limp.
Cathy sucked in her breath to control the pain she felt and forced her voice to sound cheery.
“Hi, Amanda. Hi, Mary. Look who I brought to see you today. Do you remember my friend Dave?”
“Uh-huh,” Amanda nodded shyly, though Cathy doubted she did remember.
“Hi Amanda … and Mary,” Dave boomed. “What’s that you have in your hand? A picture for me?”
Amanda giggled, drawing a piece of crumpled paper from her lap. Cathy could see two stick people holding hands.
“That me and Caddie.”
“That’s great, Amanda,” said Dave, pretending to examine the picture carefully. “I can see you’re a good drawer.”
No wonder she had fallen in love with Dave. She was sure God had sent him to her, a handsome orderly with gentle ways, to comfort her after the accident.
But, God, she thought, what about Amanda? What did you leave her with?
Cathy sighed. It should have been a happy picture that April morning: Dave smiling, Mary calm, Amanda happy in her unthinking way. But it only made Cathy’s bottled-up misery more difficult to bear. A giant lump formed in her throat. And suddenly Cathy was running, seeking refuge behind a hedge, where she sobbed silently, her head in her hands.
A moment later Dave was beside her, pulling her hands from her face. His eyes, full of compassion, probed hers.
“Cathy, what’s the matter?”
“Oh, Dave,” she sobbed. “Amanda can’t be like this. I’ve loved her, looked up to her my whole life. She would have finished college next year. We had gone to pick up a dress for a wedding she was going to be in. It survived. It’s hanging in my closet. Why didn’t she?
“Cathy,” said Dave, holding her arms gently but firmly, “Amanda survived. She’s your sister and she’s God’s child, exactly like before the accident.”
“But she can’t walk. She can’t think. It’s horrible.”
“Do you still love her?” Dave questioned softly.
“Of course I do,” said Cathy in a whisper.
“And she loves you. So the most important part of your relationship has survived; right?”
“But Amanda … her life … what’s left for her? She may as well be dead.”
“No, that’s not true ,” said Dave with conviction. “God has a purpose for her just as He does for you and me.”
“I don’t know, Dave,” said Cathy. “I don’t see how you can be right.” She dabbed at her eyes. “But … let’s go back. She’ll worry we’ve left.”
As they stepped from behind the hedge, they noticed Amanda’s wheelchair had been pushed next to the wheelchair of a distinguished-looking older man.
Mary came up behind them and tugged at Cathy’s sleeve.
“Your sister is a charmer,” she chuckled. “Look at Mr. Harvey. He was miserable when he first came here. None of us could reach him. He had been successful in business, but his friends deserted him after he was paralyzed in a car accident. Amanda was the first to get him to smile. Now he protects her.”
Cathy could see how proud Mary was of Amanda and, in her darkened mind, a small light flickered. Could this be God’s purpose for Amanda?
After Mary left, Cathy smiled uncertainly at Dave.
“You know, Dave, I guess I forgot, in my longing for the past, what St. Paul said in Romans 8:28 that “…all things work together for good to them that love God …” Maybe Amanda’s life does have purpose and meaning; it’s just not the life I imagined for her.
“There you go.” Dave grinned, taking her hand.
Cathy dabbed at her eyes with a tissue.
“And I imagine God’s purpose for my life may be to try to stop feeling blue and create some of that happiness Amanda so willingly shares.”
“Could very well be,” said Dave. “Just make sure to share a bit of that happiness with me.”
“I will,” Cathy said, giving his hand a squeeze.
After Cathy and Dave had chatted with Amanda and her friend for awhile, they left. And as they drove away, Cathy gazed back at the sunlight gently fading across the white pillars, and she couldn’t help feeling that the house had never looked as beautiful as it did right now.