I did not really know what to expect for my future. I had dreams, of course, just like everyone else, but I had cerebral palsy so I wondered if I would ever ride a trike and then a bike. I wondered if I would roller skate and jump rope, if I would play volleyball, and because I was tall, basketball. I assumed I wouldn’t date, and therefore I assumed I wouldn’t marry.
I was acutely aware of the way people stared at me. I knew I was cross-eyed, and I knew I could not walk normally. I sometimes overheard my mother talking to her friends about me when she thought I was sleeping. “So we better make provision for her as she gets older.”
Hidden away behind my bedroom door, my face grew hot, and I cried tears of shame. I didn’t want my parents to have to make special arrangements for me. I didn’t want to be talked about like that. Getting older seemed as far off as the gate of heaven back then so I didn’t worry. I’d show them, I thought. I’d show myself. All the things of which my doctors and my parents thought I wasn’t capable of, I would do. Most of all I just wanted to live life and experience everything and I became determined to do exactly that from a very early age.
As I got a little older I realized that I couldn’t accomplish this without a miracle, so I turned to God. I reasoned that God, being God, was capable of anything so I decided to ask for “the moon”, and asked Him to heal me from cerebral palsy. I knew it was impossible, but that’s precisely why you turn to God. I expected a biblical style healing, that I would simply stand up and walk, then begin to dance and spin and run. I kept asking, hoping, and praying for that.
I was always delayed when it came to motor skills, but even though I was a bit behind, I sat up on my own, learned to walk, ride a trike, and ride a bike. I learned to jump rope although I could only do so backwards, and I learned to swim. I tried to roller skate, but I never mastered that skill. I climbed to the top of Squaw Peak, which is now called Piestewa Peak. From the top of that mountain I got to gaze out at the beauty of the city lights. I hiked to Silver Falls and back. Doctors had told my parents that I might not ever do these things.
The healing I had always imagined and begged God for never happened, at least not in the way I had expected, but a miracle did. I learned to play the piano, and experienced the joy of memorizing and performing works by many well-known composers. My favorite was Muzio Clementi. I learned to drive and got my license. I was a bride, and married one of the kindest and most handsome men this world has to offer. I was blessed to give birth and have two beautiful daughters. They are perfect, and they don’t have cerebral palsy. I have had the great honor of singing in choir and performing many timeless and beautiful choral works. The ones that come to mind first are Bach’s Magnificat,and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, but there have been many others as well. I was able to dance to a piece of music I had composed and my daughter had choreographed. I was able to listen to all of the congregation at St. Anthony’s sing Mass music that I had written. All these events and experiences I consider to be miracles. The little girl who was never going to sit up on her own, or ever walk on her own was able to do all of these things.
Now as I age and my ability to walk wanes, I have all these things to look back on and remember. I know what it is like to sit on top of Piestewa Peak and watch the sunset, I know what it’s like to sit behind a piano and create beautiful music, I know the feel of my baby daughter’s hand in mine as we walk down the street. Life has been so good when it could have been so awful. This is what God does. He makes good out of what was intended for evil.
I experienced horrible things too. I’ve lived through two surgeries on my eyes, and four on my legs and feet. Some of these procedures were very painful. After each leg surgery I was able to teach myself to walk again. I lived through the death of my father, to whom I was very close. I had multiple miscarriages, and I fought through significant postpartum depression after the birth of my daughters. I experienced taunts, cruel teasing, bullying, and even a little job discrimination because of CP. In the middle of all the darkness though, I have almost always been able to find light, even if that light was just a pinpoint. Although sometimes it felt as if the pain and darkness would swallow me, it did not prevail.
My mom told me when I was a teenager that doctors weren’t at all sure what my future held, probably early-onset arthritis, premature aging, perhaps an early death. They said I likely wouldn’t be walking by the time I was forty, but forty seemed so far away then that I really didn’t pay much mind. The dire medical predictions made in my case hadn’t come true from the beginning, so why should hopeless predictions about my future be believed? When I would pray I would ask the Lord to prove them all wrong and let me walk when I was forty. As I got older, I kept pushing that number upwards to 50, 60, and now 80. Honestly I never expected to live long enough that it would really matter. Proudly I can say that I was still walking well at 30, 40, and at 50, I was walking with the help of my service dogs.
Today I turn 60. I am thrilled to arrive at this milestone, and even more thrilled to say I am still walking. Over the last few years I have had to start using a walker again, but I’m still up and moving, and that’s what I prayed and worked for.
So first of all I want to thank God for hearing my prayer and answering it. Secondly, I want to thank my Mom and Dad. It could not have been easy for them, not knowing what the future held for me, not knowing exactly what to do to make sure I was cared for. They were one of God’s greatest gifts to me. I want to thank my brothers and sister. Each of you know what you did for me and without you I wouldn’t be here today. I want to thank Dr. Alway and Dr. Rosier, and Dr. Aidem, and all the nurses and physical therapists at Arizona Children’s Hospital. Ruth and Leeola, my favorite nurses, thank you for always finding a way to make me laugh in the most painful, difficult and lonely of situations. Thank you to Mrs. Bea Searles. I used to think that she taught me piano, but no, she taught me to love music, and how to study it and perform it to the highest standard. I want to thank my husband Bryan. When I saw the decline approaching and offered him a way out, he steadfastly refused to leave me. He has given me all he had. I want to thank Rebekah and Rachel. There was so much I wanted to give you two that I couldn’t, so much I was afraid you’d miss because of me, but you are both spectacular people, and I’m so glad you are my daughters. And lastly I want to thank my service dogs, Ross and Dolly. Growing old with cerebral palsy has been unexpectedly difficult and discouraging, and both of you met me in that place and have helped me through in a way that no human could have done. You serve without keeping accounts, you never question, you never judge, and you never require difficult conversations. I truly believe that you, Ross and Dolly, were and are angels sent to me from heaven for exactly this time. You made my life richer, sweeter, easier, and way more bearable. Thank you for carrying the loads that you carry every day.
It was my hope to have a big party to celebrate my 60 years, to have an open house and welcome friends to share in the celebration. I had wanted to take my family and my closest friends on a long hike in a beautiful place and follow that hike with a nice meal and chocolate cake, but that won’t happen this year. Pandemic or not, I am filled to the brim with happiness and gratitude. I can hardly believe I’ve made it here to sixty.