how to not die: the missing piece

Ten years ago today (January 25, 2003), I fell 80 feet (24 meters) while rock climbing at T-Wall, a popular climbing site in Tennessee. The doctors said I might not live; when I did, they said I’d never be the same again. Today, not only am I “normal,” most people don’t even know this incident ever happened. This is part four of my story. (To read parts one, two, or three, click here, here, or here.)

mp 2


For an audio recording, click here:

There’s a piece of my story that’s missing
the piece that is all about you.
It’s the piece that I’ve struggled the most with
the piece so many assume true.
I recovered from my accident eventually.
My rehab is on the next page.
But what of my soul, of “God‘s purpose”?
What is it that I owe to you? 

Something that has been hard to explain is the disconnect I feel from what happened to me during those weeks in the hospital. When I woke up in the ICU three and a half weeks after I fell, I was a little girl. A sick little girl. And that was all.

There was no glamor.
There was no fame.
There was no epiphany —
No, “A-ha! This is my to-do . . .”

There was no opening of the sky: “This is my daughter . . .”
No booming voice, “Jessica, I love you.”

There was only me, as lost as ever. And even more so because of the sudden expectation that I would be, must be, had to be something more.

After all, if I weren’t “special,” why wasn’t I dead? . . . At the very least I must feel closer to God because of what I had been through.

Nothing, however, could have been further from the truth.

You see . . .


It wasn’t me who saw me dying,
wasn’t me who watched the fight.
It wasn’t me who prayed for mercy,
or who watched me in my fright.

It wasn’t me who sat there crying.
wasn’t me who saw the grave.
It wasn’t me who watched with wonder,
as I turned around, was saved . . .

Yes, my life changed. But if I hadn’t lived, how would I have known? I would simply have gone on sleeping.

Facts you might be surprised by:

  • My life has been changed far more by my experiences in Taiwan and Hong Kong than it was by my terrible accident.
  • After the accident, I felt guilty that I had lived. (Why me? Why not someone else?)
  • I still question: What if people hadn’t been praying for me? . . . And how is that fair?
  • Today, I feel guilty for even having such an accident such as this. (E.g. How many people even get the chance to rock climb? How many people have been wounded far worse in combat, domestic disputes, by words? I am so fortunate.)
  • I’m still trying to figure out God. Who is He? How can I find Him? And, most importantly, how does He relate to people ALL AROUND THE WORLD? I am no longer convinced there is one book full of one truth for all people for all of time. I think God is bigger than that. (Scandalous! I know.)

My story is not over. Part five is yet to come. In the meantime, though, I want to share with you a different perspective—an important one from which I, too, may learn. This is the perspective of my friends and family, people who were with me during this time.

Because, you see, the missing piece is you.

I hope you’ll stay tuned.

End of Part Four


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36 thoughts

  1. You hope we’ll stay tuned?
    More like eagerly waiting and dropping everything when I see a new post of you!

    It’s remarkable you gave those facts the headline: Facts you might be surprised by.

    Do they surprise you?

    • No. They don’t surprise me. But, judging by what many people say to me when they ask me about my accident, I thought that they might be surprising to some.

  2. Jessica, I am in awe…of the power, the poetry, the poignancy of your words. And in awe not just of the words, but of the clarity of thought that your words create in me the reader, while posing questions that have no clear answers.

    • Thanks, Dad. This was started last night around 1 a.m. Hence my status update: “I should learn to go to bed earlier. I am useless late at night,” and the reason I waited to finish it until this morning. I’m glad it turned out well!

    • Hmm. I’m having a hard time knowing how to respond to this. I don’t begrudge you your view, but, for myself, it seems that man has been talking about God (or something like Him) for all of history. So either we’ll all crazy, or…? Thankfully we’re all entitled to our own views.

      • its not that we are all crazy but the lie has been perpetuated. Its just a man made ‘thing’. God can be anything you like it to be there isnt even a strict definition.

      • Isn’t the perpetuation of a lie in itself crazy? Especially over thousands of years by billions of people? Something in us tells us there is something more. It’s true there is no strict definition. But that’s the beauty of being human—our ability to seek truth. We don’t always agree on truth because truth is relative to who we are and where we came from… That’s why I believe God is bigger than my Christian upbringing taught me to believe.

  3. no its not crazy itself. People are ignorant and stubborn. Faith in ‘god’ gives them hope so it has carried on over thousands of years. you are not seeking truth. Your christian upbringing has brainwashed you into a slave. Wheres the beauty in that? How can you be seeking any truth. What does science tell us about what the bible says? If there is a discrepancy how do you explain that?

  4. All attempts by man to classify and define God are limited by the limitations on man. We are imperfect and fallible, we can’t fully comprehend God. But I believe we do have a direct, personal relationship with him, each of us; whether we realize it or not, He does. And even if we don’t see the divinity in all things, we can see it in people.
    Everyone says my daughter looks like my wife. Well, kids look like their parents. If God is the father of all people, then we have some resemblance to him, most likely spiritual. All of your friends and family, Jessica, were expressing those inherited traits from God, and though I haven’t read enough to know what you are doing in your traveling, it sounds like you are expressing those traits as well when you teach. I really appreciate your quest for meaning in your experiences.

    • And I really appreciate your feedback.

      Currently I’m in the US, but, in the near future, I hope to head overseas again. I taught in Taiwan and Hong Kong for three years. It was because of these and other travel experiences (to Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, the Philippines, etc.) that I came to see that you are right–all attempts to classify and define God are limited by the limitations of man. God is so much bigger than we imagine. And I find that comforting. Somehow, he can see through the haze of the religious dogma people create here on earth. He is not defined by religion.

      Thanks again. I am so glad you stopped by and commented. I’m glad to know I’m not alone in my thoughts.

  5. I believe in an infinite God. How can anyone accurately decribe the Infinite?

    So you are right God IS bigger than just one Book for all mankind.

    We however are as nothing comparatively, one Book of Truth is enough for any one of us.

    We get to choose which book, not IF a book.

    Nice handling of Posina btw – did that conversation ever continue? :-)

  6. It is funny how the blogging world works. I randomly found your blog and saw some stories that seemed interesting and then read about your experience with your accident. I can relate. I almost did not survive a near fatal case of meningitis. Like you, there was no tunnel of warm light that I went into and no one told me it was not my time. I just woke up in a hospital bed with tubes in me and strangers with Haz-Mat suits on. Thus began my journey…

    Rehab, kindness of a few friends who drove me places, rehab, questioning, worrying if I would ever be the same. It took a long time but like you; I am seemingly back to normal (I lost some of my hearing) but no one would ever be able to tell that at one time I had a “frozen” arm and could barely walk on my own.

    It is odd…For awhile my brain could not function. I could not remember names or numbers and then somehow my body fixed itself. I even feel that I surf better now than I did before. I also went through a painful time trying to surf again…the first time I almost drowned.

    For some reason, here I am! Why me? Who knows! But I am thankful for the experience and more thankful to be healthy.

    Thanks for writing your story!

    • Hi! Thank you SO much for your comment. It *is* crazy how the blogging world works. Most of the time it seems so random… and yet.

      I’m really glad you took the time to check out my story. And thank you so much for sharing yours! Wow, meningitis. What a thing to have gone through… The funniest thing to me was the way everyone expected my outlook on the other side to be so different. “How thankful I must be!” Well, no, actually… I felt pretty much the same afterward as I did going in, just a lot sicker. What I’m grateful for about my accident, though, is the ability it has given me to relate to others who have been through similar things (like you), as well as to empathize with patients who are currently in the hospital. It really is NO fun, and you can’t know just how bad it is until you’ve been there.

      That’s great that you feel you are a better surfer now than before your meningitis. (Glad you didn’t drown!) I don’t know if I’m better at anything now than I was before… Some of the things I love most (cycling, for example) I actually picked up after my accident. My right shoulder is weaker today than my left and a case of arthritis in the making, but at least I have it. I can’t complain!

      Thanks again for your comment! Glad to have made your acquaintance! Jessica

      • The stay at the hospital was the worst and perhaps the most telling in some ways. My core group of friends were always there and some others just showed up once. It is a pretty lonely experience and two weeks was more than long enough to be there.

        It is cool that you are doing new sports and who knows maybe cycling and the other activities might keep you from having issues later. For example, I remember for awhile I was not exercising at all and I had to pay a visit to the doctor for an exam. After the exam the doctor asked what I did. I could not get what he meant. Finally he said, “Are you a tri-athlete or a runner?” I said I am a former pro surfer. He told me that my stress test aligned me with a tri-athlete. So as long as you take care of yourself it seems your body will take care of you in the long run.

      • Yes, the stay at the hospital was really rough. I’m really lucky I remember as little of it as I do. Though I was in the hospital for about five weeks, I only really remember the last 11 days or so. That was *more* than enough.

        I hope you’re right that my body will take care of itself! Age in the joints is inevitable, but hopefully by being active (but not overworking) my shoulder will stay loose in years to come.

        Thanks again for reading and commenting!

      • Just doing my job! Without interaction, I guess you would have a fancy diary and not a blog.

        It’s good getting comments, huh? I remember the days when I first started writing. You write…nothing. Write again…nothing. This is waaa
        ay better. Ha ha ha!

      • Haha. That’s true. When I started my first blog in Taiwan, my dad was the only one who read my work. I didn’t know much about networking back then. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know people through the WordPress community. It’s fun!

  7. so much thinking and wondering, I used to do that too in my younger years. I think in the end I came to the conclusion that God is too big a concept for anyone to have a definitive answer to. Not much help really!! :)
    The saying that ‘to err is human and to forgive divine’ has always been a help to me, if you feel guilty for having your accident, maybe forgive yourself, I am sure that if there is a divine being, that’s what it’d do. X

    • Aww, thanks fraggle. (I feel terrible because I can’t remember your real name… If I ever knew it…) I no longer feel guilty for living, really, but I certainly did right after the accident. I mostly struggle with the purpose of life. My Christian upbringing taught me that we are all here for a purpose. But why then are some lives cut so short? Why not mine? I am no more valuable than the next person… It is there that I think you’re right. There are no definitive answers about this kind of thing. I just have to accept that this world is clearly not the way it should be and not everything is going to make sense.

  8. I think your Dad said it best: “I am in awe…of the power, the poetry, the poignancy of your words. And in awe not just of the words, but of the clarity of thought that your words create in me the reader, while posing questions that have no clear answers.”

    For me the beauty of life is living it and asking all the unanswerable questions…and not expecting a reply back. Understanding this makes things slow down a bit, at least enough to enjoy life and it looks like you have really found this.

    • “For me the beauty of life is living it and asking all the unanswerable questions…and not expecting a reply back.”

      Yes. The more we know, the more we realize how little we know. If we don’t ask the hard questions, we aren’t really thinking. And I really do agree with Socrates: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” That’s why I try to ask hard questions every day.

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