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Praying Past the Pain

She relied on faith to recover from a debilitating injury in time to dance at her daughter's wedding.

By Allison Posell, Niceville, Florida

As appeared in

"You’re making good progress,” my physical therapist said.

I frowned and shot her a look. This didn’t feel like progress, plodding along on a treadmill. Before the accident I could knock out four miles of walking no problem. Power walking, mind you. Even my daughter, Kelli, 25, had to work to keep pace with me out on the road. And then came the accident.

You think your body is so strong, almost invulnerable, especially when you work at it the way I did, then you find out that flesh and bone is no match for metal and mass and momentum.

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The car only clipped me on my morning walk that winter day 18 months earlier, and at first not even the doctors realized how seriously I was injured. I was sent home from the emergency room with a prescription for pain meds and rest. I figured I’d be back to my routine in no time.

Not quite. Soon it became painfully clear that rest alone wasn’t going to do the trick. I didn’t get better—I got worse. I became virtually crippled. And now, in August I was past my third round of spinal surgery to implant steel rods and remove three ruptured discs.

At least the pain—a debilitating, stinging, throbbing agony I could find relief from only by lying flat on the floor— had finally eased.

“Allison,” my physical therapist said, “you need a goal.”

“I have a goal. It’s to get better,” I complained, trudging away.

“No. More specific. Let’s think.”

More than most people, I should have understood that healing doesn’t happen overnight. I was a Christian mental-health counselor. How many times had I urged my own clients to be patient, to trust God and to give it time? But hadn’t I suffered enough already?

At work I had to lie on the floor while I talked to patients about their healing. It was embarrassing. Wasn’t it time for me to be healed?

“Think, Allison. What do you want to be able to do more than anything else?”

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My pace on the treadmill slowed just a bit. Kelli was getting married to her college sweetheart, Michael, in December. There were so many once-in-a-lifetime details to attend to—the caterer, the music, the flowers, the table decorations. Moments I’d always dreamed of sharing with Kelli.

The day we looked for dresses, my mother drove me to the bridal shop, where we met Kelli. She’d come from Pensacola, where she was living. I leaned against a wall in the far corner of the store, grimacing, trying to get comfortable, while Kelli modeled the beautiful gowns.

I wanted to caress the fabric, fluff out the trains, zip Kelli up. It was supposed to be my job, my special time with my daughter, but my mother had to step in. I just wasn’t physically able to do it. The pain held me back.

We looked at many dresses that day. When Kelli knew she’d found the perfect one she turned to me and asked, “What do you think, Mom? Do you love it?”

I did. And more than anything in the world I loved the strong, beautiful young woman who wore it.

I stopped the treadmill and turned to my therapist. “I want to be there for Kelli. I want to dance at her wedding. That’s my goal.”

“That’s it, then. Fix that image in your mind: you dancing at your daughter’s wedding.”

That night I told my husband, Steve, about my goal.

“That’s great,” he said, “as long as I get the first dance.” Then he hugged me ever so gently.

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Yet at my next PT session I found my confidence faltering. The people around me seemed so far ahead— skipping rope, lifting weights, jumping. There I was, back on the treadmill. It seemed like a metaphor for standing still.

As I walked I thought back to a day just before my last surgery. Kelli came to the house to pick out music for the wedding and reception. She sat at the dining room table with the computer, while I lay on the floor beside her.

“What do you think of this one?” she asked, clicking on a Motown number. Strains of “Ain’t no mountain high enough…” filled the room.