I was to stay with family friends, Mom told me.
Mom was going to stay at the hospital with her.
It was a long week.
I wrote letters to them.
I was told she was ok.
I waited and waited for the day I could go and visit.
I missed them.
I couldn’t wait to tell her about everything she had missed.
The room was full of beds.
Maybe ten beds on either side of the room.
Most of the beds were empty.
My eyes searched the room, looking for her face.
I didn’t see her.
I scanned the room again.
This time I saw someone waving.
Please don’t let that be her!
I was being gestured to enter the room.
“NO! I don’t want to go in there! That is NOT her!”
I screamed silently.
My feet defied me and moved forward.
I couldn’t take my eyes off of her and yet I needed to look away.
There she sat in her hospital bed.
Her head as round as a basketball.
Her face so swollen her features were completely unrecognizable.
She was bruised solid.
Her mouth was wired shut.
She was scary.
I was terrified.
She patted the bed and indicated I was to sit beside her.
Mom gave me a squeeze of encouragement with her hand, and pleaded with me with her eyes to be brave.
Somehow I did just that.
I dug deep for the courage and swallowed hard to stop the nausea.
I wanted to run away but I knew she needed me to stay.
She was sixteen years old.
A surgeon broke her bottom jaw, moved it back and then wired her jaw shut.
She couldn’t eat anything.
She was in a lot of pain.
Beside her on the pillow lay a pair of wire cutters.
To this day, I wish I had not asked why they were there.
She begged and begged Mom to let her go back to school!
She missed her friends at school.
Her half hour walk to school suddenly took an hour because she needed to stop and rest.
It is hard to breathe when your jaw is locked.
She went back to high school with her jaws locked and her head held high.
She sat in the cafeteria sucking baby food off her finger.
Sucking baby food off her finger.
For six weeks she lived this way.
The pain medication in the fridge was never used.
She never complained.
I thought she was the bravest person on the planet.
I never told her that.