Rebecca Frech is the author of Teaching in Your Tiara: A Homeschooling Book for the Rest of Us, co-host of the popular radio show/podcast The Visitation Project, Catholic speaker, and writes the award-winning blog Shoved to Them. She and her husband live just outside Dallas with their seven children and an ever-multiplying family of dust-bunnies. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter at @shovedtothem.
Two years ago, I spent many nights curled up in bed sobbing quietly so that no one would overhear my grief. Our daughter was sick and slowly losing the use of her legs. As the paralysis crept along muscle by muscle, there was nothing for her father and I to do but watch helplessly as doctors offered no solutions, and her ability to walk disappeared.
We prayed for healing that never came. We searched in vain for experts who could halt the progression of this mysterious affliction. We held our daughter whose legs no longer held her up and reassured her that her life was going to be okay, that she would be okay. I would lay in bed, staring at the ceiling, and try to imagine what her life, and ours, would look like with the wheelchair which seemed inevitable.
And I would cry.
In my ignorance, all I could picture was her future dependence. I looked at the strong, athletic girl we loved, and couldn’t understand why God would want to take that from her. How it could be a part of His plan for her to become completely helpless?
She turned to us to help her make sense of it all. We pasted on fake smiles and repeated platitudes that we didn’t feel. Her future felt bleak to us. We never said it out loud, even to each other, but we were devastated at the destruction of her life.
We turned to God in our darkest moments, and God laughed. What He had in mind was so much larger than anything we could have ever known to imagine.
She no longer runs or even walks, but she flies.
In His wisdom, God took the legs from our shy and timid little girl, and gave her courage and a voice in return.
She spent last weekend at the WCMX (wheelchair skating) World Championships charging down ramps and up into the air. People from around the world watched all that she was doing. They didn’t see a helpless paraplegic. They saw a fearless wonder.
What they didn’t see was that she had also become an advocate and an example for her newfound community. Away from the cameras, she spent most of her morning with a small girl and her mother. The girl, barely four, was a wheelchair user due to a fairly recent injury, and her mother had that same look of fear that I’d felt in my heart two years ago. She was looking a lifetime of not-able-to square in the face.
The mom fought back tears as she watched her beloved girl, too afraid to try even the smallest ramps. She smiled at me and said softly, “It’s hard, isn’t it?”
“It can be,” I told her, “but the truth is…whatever’s in your head that you’re afraid of? It doesn’t look like that. She’s going to be fine. The hardest part for us moms is to get out of God’s, and their, way.”
As we watched my daughter coach hers into doing the basic wheelie that will vastly improve her mobility (up and down stairs, on and off curbs, across rough terrain – it all starts with the wheelie), I thought back on all that I had feared our lives would look like today, and in all of those imaginings… it never looked like this.