Tuesday, June 3, 2014

I Should Be Dead

It has been almost a year since the day I should have died. It was Friday, June 21, 2013. I was on a camping trip with some of the counselors from Camp Shawnee, the camp in Eastern Kentucky that I volunteered with for the past two summers. We had driven out to the Whale's Watch overlook at Red River Gorge in Kentucky. I had been there the year before and found a great quiet place about 20 feet directly under the main overlook. I had decided to go back to that place. As I was coming out to return to the group, I heard seven of our group of eleven counselors calling to us to come back up. They were ready to leave. I had come around the rock to find three other counselors a little lower than the main overlook. The only thing separating me from them was a 30 foot rock face. I talked to one of the counselors who knew my abilities and experiences the best and asked him if he thought I could/should come across the face that way. He said it would be a lot of small fingerholds, but he thought I could do it. About 20 minutes later, I find myself about two-thirds of the way across this rock face and in the following position.

My dear friend Owen took this picture moments before my ~30 foot fall
As you can see, I am not using any equipment. I have no harness, no cables, no ropes, no nothing. It was a very dangerous situation. I was definitely foolish not to turn back to find a safer way to get back to my friends. I let my ego and desire to please others get in the way of my safety. I didn't want to keep them waiting, so I wanted to take the quickest route to reunite with the group. Clearly that did not end well for me this time.

Eventually, I exhausted my physical and mental strength holding on to that rock for dear life (literally). I had held on waiting for my friend to come closer to spot me and advise me on the next moves. Unfortunately, it took too much for me just to stand in that one "safe" spot. I did not have the energy or trust in my own abilities to make it over the protruding rock to my left.

When I fell, I hit my legs on a rock that was wedged between this rock face and the neighboring one. People who watched the fall (I'm still sorry that you had to see that Greg, Owen, and Eleasha.) say that rock acted as a spring board for my body. I fell again to a second rock below, where I hit my chin, arm, and the right side of my rib cage. From that point, my friend who was chasing me as I fell says he could not see how I landed. I remember tumbling a bit until my feet got stuck in a slanted position enough to stop my body. Once they stopped, my body completely slumped into itself. I was knocked unconscious for about 30 seconds as my friend tried to scramble safely to get to me.

As I regained consciousness, I started moaning. My lifeguarding/first aid skills went into action. I didn't move anything for fear of a head/neck/back injury. I cautiously moved my fingers and toes so I knew I was not paralyzed without disturbing my spinal cord. Eventually I was able to examine myself and stand up on my own. Nothing was broken or severely sprained or strained. I was covered in blood and dirt. My clothes had holes torn in them from the jagged rock I landed on. My red string from Tsfat was torn from my wrist during the fall.

After a 45 minute walk/hike to try to find a way to get back up the now ~50 feet to the top of the overlook and the rest of the group, we made it to the van where my wonderful friends bandaged my scrapes, tried to stop the bleeding (which was only from surface scrapes), and made a sling for my arm, which prevented me from hurting my bruised ribs.
Walking in as-is to the Emergency Room in Lexington, KY

I was immediately thankful to be alive. I coped with the pain and shock by talking and joking. Whenever I stopped that, I would feel the pain. A very long night later, I was back at camp with no concussion, broken bones, nothing worse than a bruised tailbone and ribs, and some surface scrapes.

Humor was the best coping mechanism for this situation

It was a miracle.

I did not believe in guardian angels. Now, I have to. There is absolutely no way that I made it out of that accident with relatively no injuries without some divine intervention.

That fall has definitely impacted my life since that day. In camp circles, it's a good fun fact and perhaps the best story I have so far. In school/the real world, it doesn't really come up. I thought I had dealt with the emotions of that day and given my thanks to God for saving my life enough last summer.

Until I got to staff training at Bethelwoods. I went to write in my journal the second night of staff training. The last entry was from the middle of July 2013, when I tried to journal about the experience. For whatever reason, I had not finished the story. I decided to finish writing and processing it that night.

I still thought I was good. Completely processed. Nothing left to see here.

Boy, I was wrong.

Today, we did the high ropes course for training. I've done this course plenty of times before. I'm not afraid of heights. I trust myself, my lobster claws, the ropes, my facilitators, and the trees. I felt rushed today. I was the last to go up in the trees. I did not put on the butt strap of my harness, which caused my leg loop to slip a little bit throughout the course. I was careless. I tried to start climbing up the tube net before my partner got there. I was impatient.

After lunch we processed the high ropes course. I've also done that plenty of times. However, this time it hit me like a ton of bricks. All of the real world and faith applications also fit with my experience last summer. I climbed out on that rock face alone. With no support. Yes, I had friends who cared about me around, but I had complete trust in myself to get across that rock face. I had left God, my support (harness, ropes, etc.) behind. I truly realized how much I had messed up on that risk management.

I was thinking about what would have happened had Jacquie been on site. First, she would have killed me. Just like Julie and so many of the other staff from the past three summers would have done had they seen what I was doing.

I had messed up so much. So why is it that I was spared? Why was I allowed to live? Why did God save me from impending doom? Earlier, I believed it was because he has a greater plan for my life. It was not my time to die.

This year, I have experienced way too many (and one is too many) deaths of young people, both near and far to me. Gus Deeds. Kelsey Durkin. Lara Gass. Eric Alter. Hendon Poe.

Each of these deaths has affected me on varying levels. Each of these deaths (as well as the lives these people lived) is different. It wasn't until tonight that I truly understood a greater reason why I was so deeply affected by the loss of these wonderful young people.

I should be with them. I should not still be on this earth today. But I am. I am still alive because this omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent God I love has some sort of plan. Not that Gus, Kelsey, Lara, Eric, and Hendon did not have bright futures. I just know that as a human, I cannot fathom or even try to understand God's full plan for the universe and each of us. For whatever reason, I am still here, though. The same God who created the entirety of the universe did not let me die on that mountain.


I don't know. I can't know. All I can do is be thankful. All I can do is hope that I live a life that is even partially in accordance with God's will. All I can do is count the many blessings I have experienced and will continue to experience because of God. It is because of God's amazing and wondrous grace and love that I am here today. Everything that has happened in the past year may not have happened had I not been saved that Friday last June.

Tonight for staff worship, we wrote a prayer on a piece of paper and burned them together. I was already becoming a mess before we even started writing. I was simply so overwhelmed with emotion and feeling God's love for me.

As we waited for everyone to finish, I realized that had God not saved me that day, I would not have returned to my home. I would not have met all of these fantastic staff members. I was so appreciative for the hugs, back rubs, gentle squeezes, and all signs of comfort I felt from everyone around me. We have been together for a week. Already, I feel God's love surrounding each and every one of us. I feel Christ's light shining through each of us to others. I know that whenever I am down or emotional, I have people to go to, as well as people who will know to leave me to cry alone whenever I need it. This is what makes camp beautiful.

I'm so excited to continue to discern God's will in my life for the present, the immediate future, and the distant future. Praise be to God who loves and cares for all of God's children.


  1. Very well written. I think back on some of the predicaments I put myself in during my youth or young adult years, and I am amazed that I am still here. Hopefully I am listening to God about my purpose and I have had some sort of impact on somebody!
    Keep your heart, eyes and ears open.

  2. This is SO beautiful and so are you! Love you!