Lizzy’s Dying Thoughts/I Want to Live!

Our friend Lizzy celebrated her 56th birthday this October by getting pinned for three hours under an ATV 4 wheeler on a desolate plateau, lungs punctured, back broken, and preparing to die.

Off to Find the Calf
The Badger Creek Plateaus

Lizzy had been helping her friends Chrissy and Dave McFarren close up their dude ranch in Colorado for the winter.  She and the other ranch hand, Greogory, were the last ones left, tasked with rounding up the cattle and shuttering up the house.   When they did the final cattle count and discovered that a calf was missing,  Lizzy set out on an ATV to find it.

About two miles from the ranch, she went down a steep ravine.  As she was going up the other side, she had a bad feeling that “this isn’t going to work.”   She doesn’t remember anything else after that until she realized she was flat on the ground looking up at a bizarre blend of sky, machinery, arms, and legs. 

The Ravine

When it dawned on her that she had flipped and was pinned underneath the ATV, she started trying to figure out how she could get it off of her.  It was too heavy for her to push or try to roll.  She discovered that although one arms was stuck, the other was free and she might be able to slowly dig herself out.  But then she realized that digging would only lower the machine more decidedly on top of her. 

After she had exhausted in her mind all possibilities of getting out from under the ATV, it dawned on her that she was truly helpless and trapped.  Then she started crying and screaming for help.  But with the combination of being so far from the main house, the weight of machine, and the altitude of the Colorado Mountain, she didn’t have the lung capacity to yell loud enough for anyone to actually hear.

Then excruciating pain sank in—although she didn’t know it she had broken her back and several ribs and one of her lungs had collapsed.  So too did the realization that she might not be found.  This was followed shortly by the possibility that she might die—this might be “it”.  That was when she gave herself permission to let go.  The pain was so unbearable and she literally couldn’t breathe.

Lizzy’s Daughters Kristen and Sophia

As she considered that this might be the end of her life, she reviewed the state of her affairs and felt comforted that despite not being the most organized person, she’d left things in relatively good order.  She had a will, her two daughters were established in their lives and doing well.  She had few regrets.  She’d lived a good life.  She identified that her most important concern was whether the people that she loved knew that she loved them.  She said that when she realized that she could, without reservation, say  “yes,” she also felt that she could  “let go and die.”

Oddly enough, though, in the stillness of that calm certainty, she also had a moment of unambiguous clarity in which another part of her said “No I’m not ready to do that.”   She says that from that point forward the only thing she had to do was do was remember to take tiny breaths and hope that someone would eventually find her.   This was no small feat because it was so hard to breath, especially in the face of a seductive voice told her that if she just relaxed and let go, she would drift off into the blessed relief of death.   Because living was now just unbearable pain and dying seemed like an escape, each breath required conscious effort and commitment.    

Dusk on the Plain
Lizzy in the Hospital

Thankfully, when dusk hit and she had not returned, Gregory set out to find her and discovered her in the ravine.   From there ensued a torturous process of having to wait until he went back for a truck and then an excruciatingly long and bumpy ride to a hospital 3 hours away where the extent of her injuries was revealed.  Because she was not bleeding and no bones seemed to be broken from the outside, she didn’t realize how truly close to death she had come. 

Now, a month later, after several surgeries, weeks of rehab and physical therapy, Lizzy is astoundingly walking again and moving about in the world. 

Lizzy Out on the Plain Again
Lizzy Pale But Alive

More importantly, she is a changed person.  She said that the transformation people report going through when they face death is real.  “Suddenly you see the world from a different perspective.  You have a clear idea of what’s important and what’s noise and bullshit.”  She said that more than anything, she feels a sense of wonder.  “Everything is new and miraculous.  The way the light is coming through the window, the way a cat can jump…”

Whereas she used to be a mildly pessimistic person, leaning more toward the glass half empty, she doesn’t worry anymore about “what could go wrong.”  She explained that before “there were many days that I wouldn’t want to get up in the morning because there wasn’t a compelling reason to do so.  Now I see the little bits of dust and think they’re beautiful and how lovely the day would be if I went out into the world to see it.”

Flowers in the Window of Lizzy’s Hospital Room

At first, she and many other people who marveled at her recovery framed it as “a miracle”.  But then she thought that  it wasn’t really religious, more that it was just inexplicable and wondrous.

“As soon as I woke up everything was so beautiful.  I could appreciate simple things.  I always wondered why people took flowers to hospital to cheer up the room.  But the I could see each individual flower, the pollen, backlit from the window.  I noticed everything.  The view, the light coming from behind the flowers.  Everything was so intense and beautiful.”

Lizzy said that now she has such appreciation for the simplicity and beauty of what is around her.  Even the mundane is somehow exquisite and moving. 

At the end of it, even though things are already returning to some degree of normalcy for Lizzy, she is clear that she will never lose the subtle but transformational change in the way she sees things.

Positively Yours, Rebecca, Gioia, and Lizzy

Lizzy’s Art Directive
Lizzy is an artist and said that another realization that she had as a result of her ordeal was that she had put way too much pressure on herself to made Art with a capital A. 

She now takes “art” much less seriously and realizes that it should be fun.  So her simple recommendation to you is find some art supplies and PLAY.  Experiment, make a mess, make mistakes, try to avoid making a finished product.   See what pleases you, what your eyes and mind enjoy, and have fun!   

Start Your Holiday Shopping Now and Support Artists!

Rebecca is also offering 15% on her full line of Coloring Books, Coloring Kits, and Paintings/Drawings until the end of the year at www.RebeccaWilkinson.com.

Click here and use the code rawholiday15 when you check out.

You can also find Gioia and Rebecca’s art at the Studio K Collective.