Katherine Clark was visiting her son’s school, playing tag with some children on the playground. One boy climbed up on the jungle gym and jumped off onto Kate’s head. They both fell to the ground. The boy’s arm was fractured, but Kate’s neck was broken, and she was instantly paralyzed from the neck down.
Kate tells her story in Where I End: A Story of Tragedy, Truth, and Rebellious Hope. She writes, “Strictly speaking, this is not an autobiography, nor is it a piece of journalism about a particular event. Rather, it is a series of reflections—broadly but not strictly chronological—in the wake of an event that has shaped my story as well as the stories of those who love me” (p. 10).
I appreciate that she says her story does not have a fairly-tale ending and she’s not a fairy-tale heroine. “It’s a tale penned in grief and sorrow. But is also a story abounding in hope, beauty, and the miraculous. It is at times humiliating” (p. 13).
Kate intersperses the details of what happened to her on that fateful day and the aftermath of surgery and physical therapy with reflections of the effects of her injury on her children, the inevitable “why” question, coming to terms with the label “quadriplegic,” wrestling with God’s will and His mysteries, and so on.
Her doctors had said she would never walk again. But as her healing surpassed what was expected, she felt almost guilty that she was progressing while so many others she had met in the hospital were not. When someone urges her to tell her story in a small group, often the next person will say something like, “Well, I don’t have anything to follow that,” as if testimonies were a contest. Kate writes, “I hate when the story severs discussion. I hate when the story culminates in a comparison of cross bearing, and as a result, a chasm between us” (p. 198). Kate didn’t want to draw attention to herself, yet her injury and partial recovery were part of her story, her life now. Her history was divided between before and after the accident. As one friend told Kate’s husband, “The only faithful response to living this story is to tell it’ (p. 9).
When one suffers an injury such as Kate’s, the big question is whether the patient will walk again. If that milestone is reached, the patient is thought to be healed. But the patient can still experience life-altering symptoms. In one chapter, Kate details the symptoms she still experiences and the things she still can’t do. She had been in good shape before the accident, a runner, and could no longer count on the body she was once so sure of.
It wasn’t until this chapter that I realized some parallels between my situation and Kate’s. When I had transverse myelitis, I could walk again after a few months of physical therapy and a lot of prayer. But I still have balance issues and numbness in both lower legs and my left hand. I knew exactly what she was talking about when she mentioned her hands feel like she has gloves on all the time, making fine motor skill difficult (though in my case it’s just my left hand, which is not my dominant one, thankfully).
Kate writes also of the mix of feelings she experiences: joy for the amount of healing she has recovered, yet lament for the loss. “I live in the midst of this tension—gratitude and grief—every day” (p. 212).
Though grief remains a part of us, we should not need nor should we desire to be continually affirmed in our sadness. That doesn’t mean we won’t sometimes speak of our sorrow or that we won’t continue to grieve. Some wounds we bear until heaven. It merely means that grief takes its proper place in our stories, and its role is never that of the star, nor does it play the part of the savior.
We live in the shadow, dear reader, but the darkness cannot overcome the light (p. 127).
God shined His light through His Word and His people as they came alongside to help in various ways and to share truth.
I so appreciated Kate’s testimony of God’s grace in hard circumstances.
This book fits the Medical Memoir category of the Nonfiction Reader Challenge.