I have to take a deep breath before I write this.
Because if I don’t, I will just cry and cry and none of this will ever get written.
We have been blessed with an incredible gift.
That is a van.
That is going to be OUR van. Very soon.
It doesn’t even feel real.
This van has a ramp, so that Michael can get into the vehicle himself.
It has a place for him to sit in his wheelchair, and ride UP FRONT, beside me.
After our Summer vacation – when we drove half way across the country and back – we decided to finally start looking for a wheelchair van. My back aches from all of the lifting.
Michael has had a couple of wheelchair vans in the past. He had a giant red wheelchair van when we were dating that I HATED. It was so huge, it felt like a sailboat in the wind on the highway. And he had to ride in the back, and I would be driving in the front. This made me feel like a taxi driver and it was so AWFUL.
I will never forget the FREEDOM and JOY I felt the day I realized I could pick Michael up and put him in the front seat of my SUV. It meant we could go places, just us, NOT in the giant red taxi bus. We got rid of that thing so fast. Not that it wasn’t great. It was, when Michael was single. All men learn that the world becomes a different place when you get married, right? Pretty much everything from your former life is replaced.
For the last three years, every time we have gone somewhere together (not counting a couple of times friends or his brother lifted him), I literally did a deep squat, picked my husband up, put him in the front seat of our SUV, then put his wheelchair (which weighs more than 60 lbs.) in the back. It was fine, at first. Over the last year, we have HARDLY ever gone to church because of this situation. My back began to hurt. Transfers are harder when we have to park at a curb, or on a hill. I am proud to report that I have only fallen once, and no, I did not drop him!! The big lifting makes me sweaty and gross, and well after doing it for two and a half years, I was ready to get over my pride and I finally realized that a van with a wheelchair ramp was not going to create any more of a scene than a 5’2″ woman lifting a grown man into an SUV.
Several weeks ago, I was in my hotel room in Salt Lake City. I was traveling for work. Derek McConnell called me. He told me that he and his fiancee, Krystina, were going to be getting a new wheelchair van, and they wanted to give us the van they have been using. They received this van as a gift from someone in their community, and they wanted to pass it along as a gift to US!
We were the first people that came to mind, they said. Mind blowing.
Derek was wounded by an IED blast in Afghanistan almost exactly one year ago. He lost both of his legs, and nearly lost his right arm. He is a friend of my brother’s. I will never forget the day my brother told me about what happened. I will never forget the day my brother was home on leave, and my family went with him to the hospital to visit Derek.
It changed me.
Over the last year, we have had the pleasure of getting to know Derek, Krystina, and Derek’s mom, Siobhan. Together, they make “Team Derek.”
They will be our friends, for life. I know it. Just knowing them has been a gift.
Now, they’re blessing us with this amazing, life-changing gift.
I can’t believe this is really happening. I’ve already cried about it once. So has my sister. So has my mom. And I think my brother even teared up when I called to tell him about it.
I never in a million years would have thought I’d be SO EXCITED to get behind the wheel of a minivan!
But I am!
Oh, I so am.
Derek and Krystina, THANK YOU A MILLION TIMES OVER. Thank you to your parents, for raising incredibly giving young adults. Thank you to the person who originally donated this van to Derek. We are so grateful. We will use this for good things, I promise!