Walking into my house after school one day, I smelled smoke. "That's weird," I thought. Stepping into the kitchen, I took one good look and cried aloud, because our kitchen was on fire! Running outside and turning on the garden hose, I doused the smaller flames, but the bigger ones eluded me. I ran to the living room phone and called the fire department. I told where the fire was, then hung up. Gasping for breath as I heard a cry for help, I ran upstairs to get my little sister. She was sobbing hysterically- and no wonder! She had been burned on her back in a way that would make even a Spartan scream.
Looking around desperately for a way out, I realized that there was no way out. I grabbed my sister and shoved her in a corner with very little flame, and made my body like a fortress around her small, shaking form, waiting until we both lost consciousness.
I groaned and tried to sit up, but quickly laid down again. Flashes of excruciating pain danced across my arms. I opened my eyes, and quickly closed them again. I laid still, willing the dizziness to pass. Gradually, it did, and I was able to look around at my surroundings. The room was clean, white, and small. I figured out that I was in the hospital. I carefully lifted my right arm. It was wrapped up in a thick white bandage. I lifted my left arm. It also was wrapped in a cotton bandage. I sat up just enough so I wouldn't get dizzy, and looked at my legs. They, too, were covered in white cotton. I laid down, wondering what had happened. The last thing I remembered was thinking that my sister and I were going to die. Just as I realized that I had been severely burned and was in the hospital because of it, a nurse and doctor entered the room. The doctor introduced them, saying that she was Dr. Norah, and the nurse was Maddie. Dr. Norah said, "Now, don't try to talk. We know who you and your sister are. She told us your name, Rebekah. She also told us to call you Becky. So, Becky. You were burned on your arms and legs, and Ellie was burned on her back. Does that sound right?" I nodded. "Your throat was severely burned and I don't think you'll ever talk again. I'm sorry."
My eyes filled with tears. A huge lump rose in my throat, causing an outbreak of pain, and my tears spilled over. However, though I wept, I made no sound. Maddie put an arm around my burn-free shoulders, and gently wiped my nose and eyes with a small packet of Kleenex. I sniffed and hung my head.
"I hate to tell you this when you're already hurting, Becky, but-" Dr. Norah broke off. "Maybe that should wait." I shook my head violently, causing a wave of dizziness. Dr. Norah shook her head. "No, better to wait until you're feeling better." I stared helplessly after them as they left my room, closing the door softly behind them.
I turned my head the other way, tears running down my face again. I fell asleep.
When I woke up, Maddie was back. She smiled and handed me a spiral-bound notebook and a pencil.
"Dr. Norah said you can still use your hands, Becky. You can't physically make noise from your vocal cords, but you can still communicate. "
I opened it and wrote my name on the cover. Then, I wrote, "Thank you," to Maddie. She smiled.
After that, the days passed more quickly. I used up the first notebook in the first months of my recovery. Maddie brought me another one one day. But she wasn't smiling this time. "Becky, Dr. Norah has some bad news to tell you." I nodded. Dr. Norah stepped in.
"Becky, I'm afraid it's about your sister, Ellie. Her lungs were badly damaged by the smoke she inhaled, and we tried the breathing machine, which is all we could do. Even with the best care, she didn't make it. She died early in the morning when you first arrived. I'm so sorry, Becky."
I was stricken with grief. My only sister, gone!
I wrote, "Please tell me this is an April Fools prank?"
(It was April fools day.)
Dr. Norah shook her head sadly. "It's true, Becky."
I broke out in wheezing, gasping sobs, the closest I would ever come again to speaking. Maddie helped me wipe my nose and eyes, much as she had that first day. Finally, worn out from crying, I fell into a restless sleep.
All through the night, I relived all the horrible things.
My house on fire, I couldn't speak, my sister dying.…
I woke up many times that night, silently sobbing for my sister.
I woke up with a start one morning, drenched in tears. I must have been shedding tears all night, even though I was asleep. Maddie was sitting in the chair by my bed, dozing off. I reached out with my pencil and poked her with the eraser tip. She jerked awake.
I wrote, "I am probably delirious. I dreamed my sister died." Maddie said, "It was real, Becky. She couldn't get enough air. She couldn't breathe." I cried again, grieving because I thought it was a dream. Maddie said, "You do know that she was a Christian?"
"What's a Christian?" I wrote. I had never heard of one before.
"A Christian is someone who believes in Jesus as their Savior." Maddie told me all about His life on earth, how He died, then rose again, and how He is coming back for all who believe and taking them to heaven to live with Hom for eternity. She pulled out a Bible and showed me John 3:16-17.
I read those verses over and over again. Finally, with Maddie's help, I prayed for forgiveness of my sins and accepted Jesus.
After that, Maddie helped me learn all I could about the Bible and Jesus. She even helped me learn how to pray. After that I learned how to pray about everything.
My life was still hard and sad. But knowing that Jesus would help me through it all drove me on.
After one especially difficult day, I prayed. I poured out all my troubles and begged God to help me deal with everything.
Day after day, I looked for signs that He was helping me. Day after day, I didn't feel anything.
Then, one day in therapy, I felt a glow of joy wrap itself around me. I felt happy for the first time in months. I was still saddened over my sister, but it didn't hurt as much.
As soon as therapy was over, I asked Maddie to help me find some encouraging verses in the Bible. She found Romans 15:13, " May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope."
I read that verse over and over again many times, memorizing it in the process. During a bad day in therapy, I would repeat it to myself many times over. During a sad day, I would repeat it, then pray for joy.
Maddie continued to pray for me and help me in my spiritual journey.
One day, at least a year after the skin graft surgery I’d had to have, I was released back into the world. My limbs were in working order, and my emotions were at a fragile balance.
My friends welcomed me with open arms, but couldn't understand why I didn't want to go to the normal hangout after school that day.
"Why are you so happy?" my friend Lola asked me.
"I have real joy in my heart now," I wrote.
"What's 'real joy'?" She sounded puzzled.
And so, I snatched the opportunity to share with Lola the life-changing news that Maddie had shared with me. It ended up that Lola accepted, and soon, through the power and mercy of God, all our group accepted and believed.
Well, that pretty much wraps up the story, so I'll sign off. But, we did start a local youth group of kids our age. Soon, other people were coming, and we became a local Bible Study group. At every session, I got to share my testimony through writing on a whiteboard, and then all my other friends shared theirs, depending on the class that they were teaching at the time.
I hope you weren't too depressed over my story, and glad you read it. May God bless you and lead you to Himself!