Donna has been a part of my family for 17 years. (No, she’s not blood. She’s really Polish. I’m Lithuanian. But, she’s FAMILY.) My kids call her Aunt Donna. She was in the delivery room for my daughter’s birth. My wife enjoyed best friend status with her during college. Even before Donna Makarowski became Donna Makarowski Laib, we had known each other deeply. (We were so close, my wife accused me of cheating on her with Donna the very night I was asking my wife’s parents for their daughter’s hand in marriage…and, thus, used “hanging-out with Donna” as an excuse!)
Donna’s intelligent and thoughtful. There’s no subject matter on which she would ever fail to have something wise and thought-through to say. My experience with Donna is that I’m better off for knowing her. (Even if she is a Cubs fan.)
Ten years ago on February 3, 2001, disaster struck. While winter-hiking in Starved Rock State Park with her then-beau (now husband, Bob), Donna tumbled down an icy cliff; falling well over 60 feet. The results of the fall were—as you can quickly imagine—devastating. You don’t fall six stories down an icy, rocky, jagged cliff and survive. You just don’t.
Nor, do you get quick assistance in the middle of the forest in February. It would be a long climb down before Bob could get to her, check on her, flag someone down, and have emergency personnel help her. They took her to Peoria where emergency and I.C.U. folks were highly skeptical of her survival. Some said she wouldn’t last the night. My wife and I rushed from our home here in the area to get there as quickly as we could. Donna’s head was twice its normal size. She was broken and bruised and nearly beyond recognition. Our souls despaired. You can imagine how torn apart her parents were. All we could do that day was pray.
Well, prayer works. A miracle happened.
There’s no way that you survive that kind of fall. You just don’t. But, never forget: God’s listening and acting.
Months later, she was able to arrive back at home and I remember my, then, one-year-old son jumping on her recovery bed in her room nearly playfully crushing her with an atomic elbow to put her back in I.C.U. all over again. Aunt Donna just laughed. That’s Donna.
Only, there was one quality that I didn’t mention to you about Donna or about her miracle. For all of her sweetness and intelligence. For all of her profound belief in God—such that miracles are possible—she has another quality. She is stubborn. Oh, is she stubborn! (This is how she’s a Cubs fan, no doubt.)
You don’t tell Donna what she can’t do. She’ll dedicate all of her energies and attentions to doing that very thing:
You won’t live out the night. She did.
You may not walk. She played softball the next season.
You may not this…you may not that. She does over and over.
You’ll never be the same. On this, they were right. Donna would never be the same. (Nor would we. She’s changed so many lives!) Donna is a walking, talking, singing, living miracle right here among us. Today, Donna leads our church in joyful worship from her piano. She has a great husband and two beautiful children. She’s still a Cubs fan. (Nobody’s perfect.) But, this story serves to highlight one very important truth:
Falls are perfect moments to rise.
No matter how far you may have fallen, it doesn’t have to be your closing chapter or the final word on you. Just ask Aunt Donna.
We love you, Dangerous D. Stay off of cliffs.