Janet Oberholtzer is an extremely amazing person whose story is full of strength, pain and perseverance. A huge thanks to her for guest-posting here today. You can follow her blog or read about her memoir in the works HERE.
Seven years ago, my husband and I want a change, so we sell everything – house, property, business – and go on a once-in-a-lifetime-year-long trip around the states with our three boys.
Six months into the trip, in the middle of a perfect California day, our sweet adventure comes to an abrupt halt when our motor-home accidentally meets five semi-trucks. Thankfully my husband and boys aren’t hurt.
Unfortunately I am hurt … bad. The kind of bad that not many people survive. The kind of bad you read about in the Reader’s Digest drama stories. I am unconscious. There’s blood, too much blood, flowing from multiple wounds and fractured bones.
I wake up twelve days later to find out I flirted with death for a few days (there are no words to describe hearing that) and that my leg was almost amputated. I find out I had dozens of surgeries and rods, screws and hundreds of staples hold the lower half of my body together. After a week or two, I ask for a journal and a pen … two things I had often used to help process life. I’m sad to discover that between my condition and the pain meds, I can’t write. I can’t even spell words, much less complete a sentence. I spend two months in the hospital, followed by more surgeries and endless hours of physical therapy.
Friends and family offer priceless support … love, help and gifts. Of the gifts, the journals are my favorite (there are many). I run my hand over each cover and look at the bare pages, planning to fill them. Sporadically I pick up a pen … but writing seems to take more energy than I have.
My body recovers better than predicted. My mind and spirit do not recover well. I struggle with the pain, the limitations and the deformed leg I now have. I shove the journals under my bed … they are a painful reminder of the me I lost. I do not like the new me.
Depression sucks and one dark night I decide I’m done. I’m finished. Life hurts too much. I reach for a … pen. I write my obituary.
Something deep inside of me is stirred when I see my obituary. I don’t like it and I don’t like how short it is. I realize I do not want to die, I want to live. But I don’t know how to live with the new me … I need help.
Good counselors help me find my way. Along with other things, they encourage me to return to writing. To be honest and real. They remind me God is big enough to handle anything I write … even my disappointment with life and my anger at him.
Word by word … I ask. I tell. I wonder. I curse. I cry. I grieve. I pray. I breathe.
My body needs exercise and my spirit needs beauty, so I walk at a local lake with a journal in hand. I sit on my favorite bench. Trees, water, birds, moss … it’s all beautiful. I am still and absorb it. I write … some days a few words, other days I fill pages. I find hope. And I find myself again … albeit a new me with a new normal.
People suggest I write a memoir. Knowing what writing does for me, I take on the challenge. Writing a book is harder than I ever imagined it would be. I study writing, go to conferences and critique groups. I quit a hundred times. Finally I have a rough draft … and then the real work begins. I’ve learned good writing happens through rewrites and edits. Oh good Lord, help me!
And that’s where I am today … rewriting, editing and learning more about myself. Some days I’m sick of me, myself and I. Can I write about you now? Yet I must and I will finish my story … word by word. Because words have saved my life too many times not to continue.