the last piece (or, i lied)


There are things you learn to live with. Things that never cross your mind—until “that time.”

That time when you’re ordering at Starbucks and the barista says: “What was that?” “I’m sorry, can you repeat that?” “Are you sick?”

That time when you’re chatting with a friend, and your voice cuts out and cracks, then dies.

That time when you’re calling across a street, and no one hears.

That time when you’re in a noisy restaurant, and you might as well just look into each other’s eyes.

That time when you’re cheering for your favorite team—er, something like that.

That time when you’re being mugged, and all you scream is air.

That time when the pastor tells you to open your hymnal.

That time when rowdy students don’t even notice your cries, let alone care . . .

My life after my accident returned almost to normal. I suffered almost no changes. My shoulder is almost okay.

But, my voice?

I used to sing in choir. I was a soprano. When I had my accident, I was intubated for two weeks. This was so I wouldn’t have to be trached. In the end, I had to be trached, anyway, and, when I finally got my voice back, it was different. It was soft. It was weak. It was scarred.

My voice has grown stronger over the last ten years, but it will never be the same. I can’t sing at all anymore; I rarely even try. People tell me I’m soft-spoken. I smile; I nod; I don’t cry.

My friend Jared submitted his perspective on my story a little late. It is he who reminded me of “these times.” So, my friends, forgive me: I lied. This is the final piece of my rock-climbing story. This is the last piece of “how to not die.”


Jared Wright and his wife, Jodi, currently live in Azure Hills, California. He is a pastor working in media and collegiate ministry; Jodi is a nurse. They spend their free time running, cycling, traithloning, and just generally being awesome!


I was visiting Jodi at her upstairs apartment when I first heard that there’d been an accident. We knew that you and Randy had been climbing and immediately wondered if it had been you.

When we found it was you, and that you’d fallen eighty feet or more, my immediate thought was, “How in the world could anyone survive?”

The next thing I remember is going to Erlanger Hospital. We were there with the usual group of friends, and we were all pretty nervous. We joked a lot to try not to appear nervous. I hoped you’d be able to laugh a bit. But then I realized that laughing could be very painful, so I hoped you wouldn’t laugh.

When we saw you, you couldn’t talk because you had a tracheal tube and other tubes for suction and things. You were responsive, and your responses to silly things people said were both heart-wrenching and a relief. You were very lucid, but you seemed tired. I remember leaving feeling very sad but also cheered by the thought of how much you had already overcome.

I remember various snippets after that: Your speaking, once you regained that ability—with your new, sexy voice—and wondering whether you’d ever sing again. I also knew you were going to have to do a lot of intensive therapy to regain your physical abilities.

Mostly, I remember being astonished that you survived and regained so much function in the wake of the accident. I certainly would never have imagined you’d recover as thoroughly as you have.

And that continues to astonish me.

(Thank you, Jared!!!)

The REAL End!

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28 thoughts

  1. The challenges of getting your “old” body back are many and you highlight this particular one quite well. Too bad you can’t get a transplant from a sea lion or howler monkey or some other really loud animal. Or can you… ;)

  2. From a writer to another, I cannot offer my words nor my images enough. I am sending one great big hug your way, acknowledging the profound mystery of your unfolding life and how you are surviving to share your blessings with everyone. Thank you for dropping by my blog and getting a little bit of positive bubbles from me, while leaving yours in the process.

  3. Be safe and take things slowly one at a time for now. Life is good to those who inspire others without expecting anything in return. Judging from your friends’ comments, you are so loved. :-)

  4. I cried, cried and cried reading each episode of your Rock climbing accident. I never knew that you’d been through all this. I don’t mind saying this to you again. You are such a lovely person Jess. And you have a heart of gold.

    • You are very sweet. And it is very sweet of you to read this! I am actually only two days shy of my 11th anniversary of the accident, and right now I’m in Tennessee where it happened. I will probably end up reposting this story for my new followers who’ve joined me since last year. I hope my older wordpress friends (like you) don’t mind!

      • Thanks to my bucket list. :) 96th on the list was – Read all posts of any 10 blogs I follow from the beginning. Yours was first I wanted to start with. I am glad I did.

        And no, we won’t mind if you ended up reposting this story. :)

  5. Reblogged this on shift and commented:

    Part seven is the last piece of my rock-climbing story. Here, I talk about how my accident still affects me today. Yes, I recovered. But eleven years later, there are still things that remind me of my injury every day.

  6. This is a beautiful and fitting end to the story, but not an end. A beginning of where you go from here. I consider myself privileged to be along for the journey through your blog posts. I look forward to experiencing your adventures with you here Jess. Rock on my friend.

  7. I wonder what happened to your friend Randy, as I can’t see a mention of him, he must have also gone through a huge trauma, guilt perhaps (not sure if misplaced or not?) and that dash to get help must’ve been full of anguish. Perhaps you have written ‘his’ part somewhere but I can’t find it. Are you still friends?

  8. Jared writes well, as it is tough not feeling a tightening in the pit of your stomach reading “when I first heard that there’d been an accident. We knew that you and Randy had been climbing and immediately wondered if it had been you…”

    I think most of us have had this sense of dread and sorrow of a feeling, of a moment that will forever change a life…to me there is not a worse feeling in the world.

    While unsure, I would think every reminder that comes your way now & then has to become a little tiresome and bothersome, but also something you mention in all your posts ~ something to vault you toward a bigger and better goal/life.

    An amazing story Jessica, and like all your blogging friends, we definitely wish you the best as you continue to impress. :-)

    • Thank you so much. I edited Jared’s story ;) but he *did* do a great job! Reminders of my accident are not bothersome. It’s just hard for others to understand how living in Taiwan for two years and Hong Kong for a year could be so much more life-changing than nearly losing my life… Anyhoo, thanks again. Hope you’re having a great week!

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