Sometimes in life we are faced with moments that change everything. It can be difficult to stay upright when life does not go as planned, careening drastically off course. The heaviness of our suffering and the deepness of our despair threaten to crumple us like paper, further flattened by the sheer weight and unstoppable momentum of a life event. In an instant, everything can turn into an upside down mess, and we may ask ourselves, “How can I handle this?” or “Will order ever be restored?”
So in our anguish we must remember to turn our gaze to God and hold fast to Him for strength. Faith has the power to sustain us through the great storms of life, for the storms will come.
Before and After
In an instant, my life was divided into a “before” and “after” when the air was split by the booming, “Crack!” of a massive tree limb that fell on a pretty spring day. My little girl. Our poodle puppy. Messy chaos. A lifeless heap. Screaming. Blood. Heart pounding, gut-wrenching terror and primal, parental-fear unfurled. My reality transformed from “all is well” to an all-time life low.
In the moments that followed Evelyn’s accident in her friend’s backyard my heart was filled with utter despair. I was at once the Blessed Mother’s heartbroken daughter and my child’s helpless mama. From deep within my being came a heartfelt prayer as I wrapped myself around Evelyn in the grass, “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.” Over and over, I urgently repeated those words. I was uncertain my child would survive her head trauma and the scales were tipped precariously toward losing her, so I was left with no course of action but prayer, words of encouragement and a mother’s warm, loving touch.
Our Lady, Our Mother
I fled to the protection of Our Lady. I implored her help. I sought Mary’s intercession and I was not left unaided! My spiritual mother and her Son heard my pleas. The essence of the Memorare was what I lived in desperation that afternoon. In God’s perfect timing, with the Blessed Mother on my side, He answered my fervent prayers with mercy.
I raced to the hospital with Evelyn on an unforgettable, blood-boiling, outrageous ambulance ride. God wink—my physician friend alerted the children’s hospital of Evelyn’s head injury, so a trauma team was ready for our arrival. Her head CT scan indicated multiple skull fractures, including a significant compressed fracture, which necessitated urgent neurosurgery.
A Community of Intercession
Seven sixth grade girls and their moms gathered at the scene of the accident, entered the yard littered with shattered tree debris and a web swing, and attempted to make sense of the accounts of the incident as each girl offered her version of what transpired.
Although several girls were near Evelyn in the backyard, only one person witnessed the blow to her head – Evelyn’s closest friend. Her mother is my dear friend and a fellow Catholic Scripture Study member. With hope alive that Evelyn would live, Katie led a Rosary for those gathered during Evelyn’s operation. In a beautiful letter to Evelyn, Katie offered, “…we knew you were in God’s hands, so why not put our trust in Him for help.”
There are many Marian moments in my family’s story, but one of the most touching examples of faith and heartfelt, devoted friendship is exemplified by what followed.
Katie shared, “It was Friday, and the Church recommends praying the Sorrowful Mysteries on Fridays. But with hope in our hearts that we would have something to celebrate, we decided to pray the Joyful Mysteries instead.”
My friend described the emotionally challenging experience of that Rosary, worrying a call would interrupt it bearing bad news. However, repeating the Hail Marys and listening to all of the girls’ little voices saying their prayers was incredibly encouraging and therapeutic for everyone.
Roses Amidst Thorns
The reality that followed in the next critical hours, days, weeks, and months was wrought with pain, vast unknowns and significant physical and emotional challenges, but my family held fast to the confidence to trust God’s holy will to bring good from everything—even our suffering.
Contrary to our deepest desires, we are not in control in life and tragedy will sometimes strike. We were blessed time and again with God winks—tiny, divinely orchestrated moments of grace and we found the joy along the way.
We experienced the profound love of neighbor, serving us as the hands and feet of Christ during a time of crisis, and witnessed the power of a faith community united in prayer. Ours is a story of experiencing light in a time of dark uncertainty and coming to know the great goodness, might, and love of God more fully. We chose to, “Hope on!”
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In deep gratitude for the blessings of my daughter’s survival and complete healing, my faith and that of my family members has been strengthened. The fire of faith burns in our hearts. In retrospect, I feel overwhelmed by the gift of Our Lady’s loving involvement, her holy intercession, in divinely orchestrating with Jesus my child’s immediate safety and ultimate full recovery.
For me, the accident created a new closeness to Mary and praying the Rosary through a Daily Rosary Meditation podcast from the Holy Family School of Faith became my routine to start each morning.
It seemed symbolically fitting to gather family, friends, and members of our church, schools, and community on the one-year mark of Evelyn’s accident to pray the Rosary in thanksgiving for God’s abundant blessings. The myriad prayers offered on my daughter’s behalf all began with a Hail Mary. April 20, 2019 was Holy Saturday, and that date was a finish line of sorts to ease Evelyn’s Traumatic Brain Injury restrictions. Easter Sunday marked the start of my daughter’s new phase moving forward to life restored as she previously knew it. The tapestry of God’s intricate plan is exquisitely beautiful.
Two and a half years after the accident, Evelyn is a thriving, bright, healthy, beautiful young woman. Although we felt incredibly weak, vulnerable, and paralyzed by fear many times, God was with us each step of the way. He wants to take our greatest burdens off our shoulders if we will simply relinquish them.
A wise friend urged me to, “lay the tough matters at Jesus’ feet.” Our experience was so remarkable that I wrote a book, Hope Upon Impact, to share news of our blessings and to bring glory to God. I urge you to contemplate the following words and take my mantra to heart because no matter the difficulty one faces, we may only control our response to it. Let’s choose complete and total trust.
Have faith. Hope on! God is good.
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Julie Overlease is a Kansas City mother of four and author of the spiritual memoir Hope Upon Impact. She delights in the beauty of homegrown flowers, is a lover of words, and values sharing her heart’s highs and lows on long walks with those she holds dear. Julie cherishes her happy, 20-year marriage to Robbie. Find out more about her here.