Face up. Face down.
Though the memory of the car accident was locked away somewhere in Kari’s psyche, the after-effects were all too obvious. Metal pins anchored bone to bone while tubes and wires regulated and monitored nearly all her bodily functions.
Completely immobilized, she could move only her eyes and her tongue. With no feeling below her neck, she felt like a discombobulated head attached to a body made of wood. The human body just isn’t made to be perfectly still, so Kari was strapped into a special bed frame which enabled nurses to turn her body every two hours without disrupting the traction, stimulating blood flow and preventing the formation of blood clots or bed sores.
Face down. Face up.
Kari spent her waking hours staring blankly at the white ceiling or the brown institutional tile floor. Her mom had been constantly at her side for the first few weeks. She had since returned to work, but visited faithfully every morning and evening. She’d all but given up trying to engage Kari in conversation and usually just sat quietly.
It wasn’t that Kari couldn’t talk. If her dad had still been alive, Kari knew what he’d say. “Hey, Spitfire, couldn’t hurt your gab muscle. That’s the part of your body that gets the most work.”
But even the thought of her beloved father couldn’t bring a smile to her face now. What did she have to smile about?
That’s how the van had landed. Her mother told her so. One minute, Kari had been returning from a spring break skiing trip to Colorado. The next, she was flying through the air, tossed around like a battered rag doll. She couldn’t remember what happened after that.
No one else survived. She’d heard the nurses discussing the accident in the hall.
Flip, flip, a toss of the cosmic coin and she’d gone from active college senior to complete invalid. A mathematics major, she’d been headed to a coveted internship position in the aerospace industry. Now, she feared she’d be headed for a nursing home.
Tonight, her mother had seemed on edge, tense. When her tentative attempt at conversation was rejected, she snapped, “Really, Kari, it’s not the end of the world!”
Oh, but wasn’t it?
What meaning could her existence possibly contribute to the world now?
Kari’s mother grabbed her purse and marched out of the room. The space seemed suddenly darker and more melancholy.
For the first time in weeks, Kari felt a stirring of an emotion other than despair. She regretted her actions, or more accurately, her inactions toward her mother. She’d give anything to be able to pick up the bedside phone and call to apologize.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered.
“This isn’t easy on her, you know.” The gentle voice came from her right.
Kari rolled her eyes to the side and could just make out the edge of her visitor’s garment in her peripheral vision.
“It’s about time you showed up.” Her voice was raspy from disuse.
He stood and moved into her line of sight. She drank in the vision of his swarthy complexion and eyes that radiated kindness.
“I’ve been here all along,” he said. “You’ve just been too wrapped up in your misery to notice me.”
She huffed. “Of course I’m miserable. Look at me. I’m useless. Just like a tortoise, flat on its back, legs incompetently waving.”
He chuckled. “Well, you’re alive aren’t you?”
Kari stopped talking when a nurse entered her room.
“Time to rotate you, my dear,” she said cheerily.
Kari's eyes pleaded with her visitor to stay. He smiled back at her with loving reassurance.
When the nurse had gone, sandaled feet with hairy toes edged into Kari’s field of vision. She saw her visitor’s robe as he got down on hands and knees. His face peeked under the bed frame, all beard and toothy smile.
“Maybe flat on your back like an overturned tortoise is how I want you,” he said. “My strength is made perfect in your weakness and I still have work for you to do.”
She wrinkled her brow in puzzlement.
He beamed at her. “You may be flat on your back,” he said, “but stick with me, and you’ll be able to move mountains.”
"For nothing is impossible with God." Luke 1:37 NLT
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