(Facebook Post 8/15/15)
The start of college is an exciting time for Gracen, and a bittersweet time for me. A time for her to spread her wings and fly. I am profoundly thankful she has this opportunity at all as we were not quite sure it would be possible, at least in the way we hoped it would happen.
Earlier this year I read through the doctors notes from the ER December 26, 2013. When every effort had been made on her behalf, a final prognosis note was entered into record. It read something like this: Should the patient survive, she will likely reside in a long term care facility. When David and I were finally allowed to see her in the ICU, I asked the nurse outright if Gracen was expected to survive and received the standard non-response: All I can tell you is that the next forty-eight hours are critical.
It never crossed my mind to take pictures of Gracen in the hospital, in fact the only ones taken were taken by a friend of Gracen’s. But looking back, I wish I had, if only to remind myself of how far she’s come, how far she exceeded the expectations of the doctors who saved her life. There are days I need the encouragement – a visual reminder – that my warrior princess has conquered overwhelming odds in the past and can still push beyond the prognosis of her disease.
I’ve done everything I can possibly think to do to ensure a smooth transition for Gracen into college. We’ve toured the campus multiple times trying to address every accessibility issue she might encounter in the dorm, the classrooms, and on campus itself, from the cafeteria, library and laundry facilities to ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) desks and priority seating arrangements. I’ve spoken with the Support Services Director and the Facilities Director, who, by the way, have treated this neurotic mother with great kindness and the utmost respect, and have addressed every concern promptly.
I have scoured the ads and stores to determine if there are products available for purchase that will make dorm life easier, more “normal” for her, and purchased what I can. Her dorm room has been measured and mapped out on graph paper so that we can determine how her room can be laid out for maneuverability and access to outlets to charge the battery for either her scooter or the power wheelchair we hope will be delivered before freshman orientation begins. We’ve assessed bathrooms and showers and storage space for her manual wheelchair, a walker, and shower chair. We located and spoken with the campus nurse and are working with Gracen’s therapy clinic to arrange a new, abbreviated schedule of therapy sessions.
Arkansas Rehabilitation Services helped us to identify and acquire assistive technology to help Gracen in the classroom and we have been practicing to use Dragon Dictate and a Smart Pen.
Most important of all, for this neurotic mother anyway, is the iwatch Gracen received as a graduation present. It’s a luxury item to most, a high-priced toy to others (and definitely a toy from Gracen’s perspective) but it’s sole purpose is to grant Gracen access to emergency assistance should she fall in the shower or anywhere else on campus when she is alone. As long as her cell phone is nearby, she will be able to call 911, campus security, the school nurse or a friend for help.
On Thursday, August 20th, we will move Gracen’s things into her dorm room and on Friday evening we will return and Walker Residence Hall on the campus of John Brown University will become Gracen’s new home. David and I will probably take a boatload of pictures, which she will allow with annoyed indulgence, hug her, and do our best not to shed any tears in her presence before turning our backs and driving away. We will be happy and sad and far more worried than the average parent as we exit campus. And while David may trust the Lord to protect Gracen by keeping her physically safe, I will trust Him to protect her heart, mind and soul until her numbered days expire, and I will hope and pray that her number of days will be far greater than Bethany’s and Katie’s proved to be because as Proverbs 19:21 says, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”
My heart will hope that Gracen will fly and I will share the wisdom of others who have gone before and tell her to stay strong –
I will tell her life shrinks in proportion to one’s courage –
And to keep on climbing, keep on reaching. I’ll remind her that she’s come so far, that she need not be scared, because I am confident that she will fly! I’ll tell her to exercise discretion, use good judgment and then, and only then, take risks.
And I will try to remind myself of those same things in the days and weeks to come as Gracen flies and I start looking for an identity beyond that of wife and mother and attempt to answer this question for myself, Who am I now?