This is the beginning of Chapter 22 of my book, the second-to-last chapter.
“Heidi, I have a favor to ask you. A pretty big favor. You can say no.”
It was my friend, Karen. “I’m thinking of putting on a concert for Vancouver. I want it to be a community thing and I was thinking that I’d like to give the proceeds to the burn fund. I was wondering if you could speak at the concert. Tell your story. It would be on the behalf of the burn fund.”
“Oh, um, okay. Well, let me think about it.”
“Of course! Think about it. Take all the time you need and get back to me.”
Karen was easy like that. No big deal, take your time, and you can change your mind.
I got off the phone and looked at Scott, who was sitting on the couch next to me. “Do you know Karen’s putting on a concert? She wants me to speak at it. It’ll be for the burn fund.”
“Do you want to do it?”
“Not really. But I might do it for Karen. And it’s for the burn fund.”
I had been cautious to tell my story. Karen wasn’t the first person to ask me. Various people had asked me to tell the story. It was often suggested I should speak to high school students, my story serving as a warning. I did a short interview on film about two years after the crash made for high school students on the dangers of driving too fast. A few teachers have stopped me at a mall, a grocery store saying they recognize me from that video. I hadn’t reached the first anniversary of the crash when someone asked if they could write my story, turn it into a book. I was at rehab then and this person was a stranger. I couldn’t comprehend how they could write a story that had just begun and I said no. She said, “If you change your mind, call me.” I didn’t think I’d change my mind.
I was so intent on getting on with my life I felt that if I rehashed the past it might harm me and drag me under. I also felt that it was too intimate to take people into my pain, exposing myself on a stage or behind a microphone. I knew the point wasn’t the pain, but the triumph, the overcoming. The surviving. The BC Professional Firefighters Burn Fund promoted survivors. They didn’t use the word victim and they had a significant impact on how I viewed my life.
I had never wanted to be the poster girl for burn survivors. I had fought to be an ordinary girl. I knew many people became advocates after cancer, collision, disease found them. I didn’t know if that’s what I wanted. That I had to do something just because I was in a car crash. I wanted to amount to something, be something not because I was burnt or my legs were cut off but because I was being myself.
It had been seven years since the crash and I still felt as though I was on a detour and one day I would get myself back on track. Isn’t that what people said? Except, what track? I wasn’t on a track. I hadn’t picked a track. I couldn’t return to anything. At twenty three I was at the age of figuring things out, of destiny-making. At thirty I still didn’t know what lay ahead. I had spent such a long time in recovery, got married, had a baby two years later and I was expecting another baby. And nowhere in between had I discovered what I was passionate about, if there was anything to be passionate about.
It looked like my fate was finding me. Maybe to tell the story was a part of my destiny. I could say no and be fine or I could risk and tell. I could be a reluctant storyteller telling her story. What would it lead to? I couldn’t be sure. I was afraid of that and excited by it all at the same time. And maybe it would be good to give back in some way.
Five minutes after Karen’s phone call I called her and said, “I’ll do it.”