The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit.
When I read Emma’s memoir, recently written to her English professor as a bit of a “getting to know you” assignment, I knew right away I wanted to share it here on the blog. I couldn’t help but to relate to her story. After all, I lived it with her. But my connection went beyond the actual events in 2017 and lended encouragment to everyone in any season.
It’s been year of extraordinary stress, pain, strife, turmoil and loss for so many. Today I learned my dear friend and sister, Patti Fry, went on to meet Jesus in the early morning hours. My heart is broken for her family, and for those of us who loved Patti and will feel her absence greatly.
Without the rain, there would be no flowers.
I don’t know about you, but my plans usually pale in comparison to God’s plans. In both nature and in my heart, He takes what was lifeless and withering and transforms it into something new and spectacular. God works through pain, through loss, and through the storms I go through to remake me, to redeem me, and to make me who He’s called me to be. These storms and droughts are merely a season. They are temporary, but it’s hard to see that when I’m in the midst of it.
No rain, no flowers.
I am a firm believer in this statement. My life has, after all, modeled it: a string of mishaps, trailed by a life that flourishes because of them.
A series of rainclouds, a meadow of flowers.
In 2005, the world was gifted with its greatest blessing in a bundle of joy named Emma Marie Bane.
That’s not really where this story starts. It begins in my bedroom, January 2017. I’m getting ready for church.
I couldn’t decide which dress to wear that day, because the grey one needed a pair of leggings underneath, but the blue one didn’t quite fit after the holiday meals took their effect. My laundry basket sat on top of my bed, the dresses draped over it’s edge in a sad, desperate cry of “pick me! choose me!”, yet amidst their wails, another noise began shrieking for my attention.
A thud, a crack, a scream.
I didn’t know what happened, but I knew it was bad. That’s the general consensus most 12-year-olds take when their moms scream like mine on that Sunday morning.
My next movements seemed to happen in third person, as if I were operating my body from a control panel 15 feet away. Down the stairs, straight, turn into Mom and Dad’s room, and I saw him.
Sprawled on the floor, my mother overtop of him holding his hand, dialing 911 in the other. I remember the image of his leg grotesquely twisted and bent behind him, I remember thinking bones shouldn’t move that way.
Mothers shouldn’t scream that way. Daughters shouldn’t see their fathers incapacitated on the ground, yet there I stood.
No one explained what had happened until much later. Clearly, what I saw was not something that was currently open to discussion, so I was asked to quietly move through my day without asking many questions. Pain seared through my chest, hot tears fought to stay off of my cheeks, my legs bounced up and down as I sat in a vain attempt to work the anxiety out.
Confusion and fear became my companions. My brother’s red truck roared into the driveway shortly after the horror scene I witnessed, and a brief conversation of “Dad is going to Johns Hopkins for a while” was the only consolation my disoriented mind was allowed.
Dad had fallen before, but never like this. We knew it was different from the way mom screamed. Like I said, he had fallen before—as a muscular dystrophy patient, he was used to the occasional tumble, or “duff” as he liked to say. He was a risk taker. Although cautioned to stay in his wheelchair, he would often walk up and down our hallway in his attempts to exercise and keep his circulation up and running. Even as a child, I knew he was scared of what would happen if he really confined himself to the chair. “If you don’t use it, you lose it”, or something like that. Muscles plagued by atrophy diminish naturally, but refraining from all movement doesn’t help the case much. On the days he would fall, mom would simply pick him up, help him back to his feet, and reluctantly guide him back to the chair which he so desperately hated. In his mind he had determined that falling was better than sitting, that risk was better than comfort.
I was small when we lived in that old house, the one with his treadmill of a hallway. Height wise, I was large, but limb wise I could pass for a straggly tree. Dad began to walk his laps on a day when I was home alone with him, all 4 lanky branches of me. He knew I couldn’t help him up if I tried, yet tiptoeing danger’s boundaries was too enticing to keep him off his feet. Unlike 2017’s fall, this fall’s thud was softer, gentler. No screaming, no bone cracking, just a thud. Peeking out of my door frame I saw him on the ground, looking up with the most simultaneously mischievous and sheepish grin I had seen in the 8 years Earth knew me. We laughed at his mishap, turned the TV on, and had a tea party on the floor until Mom could come home and help him back up.
In January 2017, his grin had writhed into a grimace, a contorted mess of white across his typically cheerful face. Pain had replaced the mischief. Blood ran a 5k from his face through his body, leaving the image of him in my mind akin to Casper the Ghost.
The big red truck was now approaching my grandfather’s house. I didn’t know him well, but he lived close, and from what I was told he seemed to love me. 8 dogs yapped around inside of a fenced-in yard as the truck’s roar died down. Maybe now, from this familiar stranger, I could get information on what happened to dad.
My grandfather didn’t offer much, as my mother had been too distraught to offer details, but I knew Johns Hopkins was mentioned again, as well as “femur”, “splintered”, and “lucky to be alive”. 8 yapping dogs joined confusion and fear as my companions that day. I began living with my grandfather in order to make it to school while my parents took an involuntary residence in Mr. Hopkins’ ICU ward. Later I learned the depth of the situation, how he had simply tripped while walking to the bathroom to shower. How he fell in such an awkward position that his leg actually snapped in half, splintering into a million little pieces, making it impossible to walk until major reconstructive surgery was performed. He was learning how to cope with his injuries, and I was learning to live without my father.
While I wasn’t particularly close with my dad until after his accident, my soul felt his absence. At 12 I hadn’t yet experienced heartache, hadn’t yet felt the pain of loss. Rain clouds began hovering over my seeded ground. Flowers longed to grow in my heart, longed to spring up and cover pain in a display of beauty, but until January, they had no nutrition.
The reality of almost losing my father, caring for my grandfather (he himself had just lost his wife and suffered a stroke) being away from my mother, all while dealing with middle school, almost felt like too much. No longer was having a disabled father normal to me, no longer was a life different from those around me appealing. Desperately I craved normalcy, craved the life of a movie-scripted American tween.
Rains fell, but they were unwelcome. Unlike my father, I preferred comfort over risk. I enjoyed my bubble. Yet God worked through my young type-A heart, and began showing me just how important that rain is. He began watering the seeds. They began blooming.
Some weeks passed and dad made it home. A new bone, he said, was attached in his leg–one made of metal and impossible to break. I liked the security his rod gave our family. It was in his leg, yet it supported all of us; it was a way for us to say, “No, gravity, you may not hurt our father again.”
Now, almost 5 years later, my father is a bionic man who still proudly walks with a metal rod in his left femur. We are closer because of his accident. So are my grandfather and I, so are his 8 dogs and I, and so are my brother’s red truck and I.
From the most heartbreaking, confusing times of my young life came the most vibrant and colorful flowers in my garden. Rain often comes when our gardens need a little pick-me up to survive the summer.
Storms will come. Just remember.
No rain, no flowers.
Emma Bane is currently an English and writing major at Messiah University. She loves music, adventure, and spending time with her family. Emma is dedicated to educating and inspiring others to cultivate a love of literature and writing. Her greatest goal is encouraging others to write well and become better storytellers.