Holly wasn't famous. In fact, it's very likely you've never heard of her. I knew Holly because our parents went to the same church. We played as kids at church gatherings and went to Sunday school together. When we were older, we went to the same school.
Holly didn't live an easy life. However she didn't let this define her.
We attended 7th grade together at a small private school. It was there, on a sunny spring day that I saw her get into a van after school. I went up and asked her if she was going to ride the bus with the rest of us but she said no, a friend's brother was giving her a ride home. I didn't see her again for about 3 years.
That day, the van she was in had a serious accident. The driver, her friend's brother, lost control and the van rolled 250 feet over a cliff. Holly survived, but the crash broke her neck and left her paralyzed from the neck down. We were told by our teacher the next day that Holly had been in an accident and would not be back. This was all before social media, so we really had no way of knowing what was going on. I don't remember when I learned what happened to Holly as a result of the accident, but I know I found out at some point. For me and the rest of the 7th grade class, life went on.
For Holly, life as a quadriplegic was now very different.
I saw Holly again about 3 years later when we happened to cross paths at a local park. I was a teenager, hanging out with a group of friends and walked right past her without noticing. She said hi to me as I was going by, and I automatically said hi back without really thinking. As I was walking away, it finally dawned on me that it was Holly. I'd like to tell you that at this point I ran back to her and hugged her. But I didn't. As I walked away with my group of friends, I turned around and said "Sorry, I didn't recognize you." And kept walking. It's one of those moments I'd love to go back in time and fix.
I never forgot about her. When the internet became a thing, I searched to find out what happened to her. What I found amazed me. She became licensed to sell real estate. She graduated from Gonzaga University and then went on to earn her law degree from Gonzaga Law School.
Holly had one major goal. She wanted to be independent, both physically and financially. After passing the bar, she went to work for the US Attorney District Attorney's Office. She lobbied for legislation that would allow Americans with mobility disabilities to keep their dignity and their jobs despite rising costs of attendant care.
Holly was also an inspirational and motivational speaker. She spoke to people and organizations all over the country about her life and meeting life’s challenges. She passed away in 1999, shortly after writing "The Human Spirit is Resilient and Hungry."
Holly inspires me because she showed that it's possible to achieve things in life, no matter what cards life deals you. In addition to the accident, she lost her young brother at 4 and she lost her mother when she was 10. But she took those cards life gave her and achieved great things. In some of her last words to the world, she shares:
"Among the many pears of wisdom I have acquired since my accident, none is more precious than the knowledge that any one of us can change the course of our lives at any time. To actually be capable of drastically changing the circumstances in which we live is superior to any power that can be obtained with money or social status."
Thank you Holly, for your inspiration.
Until next time,
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