Everything can change in an instant. After the accident, you wonder what the new normal is going to be, and how long it will take to get there.

May 28: The Accident

It was a pretty morning. I had just gotten off the bus and was walking to work. I heard my cell phone ring, which is unusual. Not that it would ring, but between the fact that it’s in my purse, and the noise from the train or from traffic, it’s unusual for me to hear the phone ring while I’m between home and office.

But I heard it, and stopped to pull it out of my purse. It was from someone at Roots Memphis, the school where my daughter Mary Elizabeth is farmer-in-chief, telling me that there had been an accident, and she was in an ambulance, on her way to the trauma center. She’d lost part of her foot, but she was going to live.

I don’t remember walking the rest of the way to the office.

Mary Elizabeth was at the trauma center for 16 days. Her husband was there with her the whole time, and she had friends checking in on her. I didn’t go down until she got out of the hospital, when I knew she’d need more help.

I stayed as long as I could.

When I left, she still wasn’t walking. Her doctor told her that she might not ever walk without assistance.

That wasn’t what she wanted to hear.

Back on Her Feet

July 12, Mary Elizabeth stood on her own two feet without assistance for the first time after the accident. Not walking, but standing. July 14, she put on a pair of sandals. That was the first time she was able to put on a pair of shoes. July 18, she took her first steps.

A month and a day later, on August 19, she got a pair of running shoes, the only pair in the store that she could get on her wonky feet, and she took her dog, Allegra, and went for a run. A slow run. With lots of walking. But she went.

If she was going to run a marathon in December, she had to start training.

December 5: The Race

The St. Jude Marathon is a huge event. Thousands of people run to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Thousands more line the streets, helping with the event, cheering for the runners.

Mary Elizabeth ran 13.1 miles. A half-marathon.

Mary Elizabeth at the St. Jude Marathon

Mary Elizabeth on December 5: bib number 3162 and a million dollar smile.

She ran it in 2 hours, 45 minutes.

She ran to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

She ran because a prognosis only tells you what might be. It doesn’t tell you what will be.

She ran because she had to. She ran because she could.

When she was done, her foot was bleeding, and her toes looked like Vienna sausages.

But she ran.


I couldn’t be more proud of her, of the work that she put into her recovery.

I couldn’t be more grateful for everyone who helped her recover. The doctors and nurses at the hospital. The friend who came to her house every day to check the wound and change the dressings. The friends who cooked and cleaned and walked the dog and did laundry and ran errands and fixed her porch swing. The folks at the shoe store who found a pair of running shoes that would work for her. The physical therapist who worked with her until she was running again.

I’m grateful that she was the stubbornnest, most hard-headed child you’d ever hope to meet. If your child is stubborn, be grateful. A child who won’t take no for an answer, who won’t quit, who keeps pushing even when they’ve been told that what they’re trying to do is impossible grows up into an adult who won’t take no for an answer, who won’t quit, who keeps pushing.

Such a child grows up into an adult who runs a half-marathon six months after being told she won’t walk unassisted.

May God grant her many, many years!

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Charlotte Riggle, author of Catherine's Pascha and The Saint Nicholas Day Snow
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