Why 'Seatbelts Save Lives' Is An Understatement

Why 'Seatbelts Save Lives' Is An Understatement

You never think it will happen to you... until it does.

When you are 15 years old you feel invincible. Most people are worrying about getting their license and the boy in history class and the petty fights with so-called "friends" that will not matter in six months. Your mom is worrying about you when you're out on your first real date, or why you won't answer your phone when she's called you twelve times.

However, this is not a story of a typical teenage girl. It begins with the day her brother lost his faith, the day her dad lost his chance to walk her down the aisle, the last day her mom heard her voice... This is about the day Whitney kept her life.

This is Whitney's story.

I recall it like it was yesterday. My seven-year-old self was watching "The Wiggles" and enjoying my cereal, when I heard my mother gasp for breath as tears collected in her eyes and rolled down her cheeks. My heart raced frantically as my mom told me something that changed my life forever, "Aunt Whitney's been in an accident."

I remember walking into the hospital room in Indianapolis as I saw all the machines attached to my aunt's body. I looked around the room to see my grandpa who looked defeated and my nana who seemed lost.

When they told me, "She was in the car with her friends. They were going too fast when the road turned to gravel. She flew out of the windshield 75 feet and is in an induced coma," I wondered what all this meant. How long will she be sleeping? Will she wake up soon and we can play? Nana used to make me jump on her bed to wake her for cheer practice, but she wouldn't want me to jump on the bed anymore; it wouldn't do anything — she wouldn't wake up.

Whitney spent her sweet 16 in a hospital bed. The day finally came when all my family said, "She's opened her eyes," and I was relieved. "Ah yes, she's finally better now," I thought to myself. She can talk and walk and jump on the trampoline with me like we used to. However, none of that happened. Whitney was diagnosed with locked-in syndrome. Since then, Whitney still is unable to walk or talk. However, when I asked if I could write this article for her, she gave a smile and extended her pinky finger to indicate "yes."

I remember everyone told me, "Pray that she will talk and walk again." So I prayed and prayed and prayed, and one day I woke up at 19 years old and realized my prayers hadn't been answered. There have been plenty of times that I was furious with God. "Why? Why did you do this to my Aunt Whitney?" I would scream and cry into an empty void where I didn't hear an answer. However, I would not wish this on anybody. When I asked God "Why my Aunt Whitney?" perhaps I was just asking why in a general sense. In the sense that no one should have to go through life like this. Every day I see her, I just want to tell her I'm proud of her. I want to tell her I am sorry — because this shouldn't have happened, not to her, not to anyone. Everything happens for a reason. Sometimes we will never know what that reason is, but that is supposed to be OK.

It is said that God gives his toughest battles to his strongest soldiers. I believe that God writes a narrative for us all. He chose Whitney for a purpose; he knew she was a tough soldier.

God knew he placed Whitney into a strong family. Whitney's dad does not always show it, but I know he is exhausted. I want him to know that I am sorry. No one should have to see their child go through what his does every day. I am so proud of him for working hard and being strong when I can only imagine how all he wants is to break down. Whitney's mom is the strongest woman I have ever had the liberty to know and I admire her immensely for it. God knew that Whitney's mom was a nurse, and he placed her to be with the right family. I want Whitney's mom, my grandma, to know that I am sorry. She should be able to hear Whitney's laugh fill the room like it used to. She should be able to scold her for making stupid decisions and then regretting it later and questioning her parenting ability. She should be able to hear Whitney's stories about her life and guide her in the right direction. I wish Whitney could come home over holiday breaks and exclaim the thrilling news that she's pregnant or engaged. I wish that Whitney could have a life of her own. I wish and I wish and I wish every day for things to go back to how they were before. I am so sorry that these are not the circumstances.

I am not going to ask my readers to pray for Whitney or our family. Whitney has gotten an abundance of prayers over the past decade, and I would not want to intrude on your beliefs. If Whitney could give advice to anyone though I am sure it would be this: Go on country cruises. Drive with the windows down with the wind in your hair as you belt out the words to your favorite song. Live life to the fullest. Don't take anything for granted, say please and thank you while you still can, and never forget to tell your mom and dad that you love them. Please, do not drink and drive. Do not text and drive. Do not be a reckless driver.

I always hear the phrase "Seatbelts save lives," which is true; but, seatbelts are so much more than that. One time is all it takes to change your life forever. Whitney did not wear her seatbelt, but, she is still here with us today. Strapping on her seatbelt that one time would have changed her quality of life. Wearing a seatbelt means much more than the difference between life or death.

Wear your seatbelt.

Not for me, not for Whitney, but for you.

Cover Image Credit: Mackenzie Rogers

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What We Can Take Away From Lent, Christian Or Not

Even if Jesus isn't a part of your life, the message is the same.

If you weren't raised in a Christian home, Lent is the season before Easter. It lasts for 40 days and starts with Ash Wednesday, where Christians of all denominations go to their churches and get marked with ash in the shape of a cross on their forehead.

When I was at mass this past Ash Wednesday, the priest described Lent in a way I hadn't thought of before. Lent is typically viewed as a solemn time. There is no joyful hallelujah, and we don't sing at the beginning or end of liturgies. The 40 days can sometimes feel like an eternity. But, last week my perspective was dramatically changed.

The priest invited us to enter into this Lenten Season with the perspective that we're all just working on it. Everyone has some struggle they want to overcome, or some mountain they need to climb, and Lent is the perfect time to do so. While the Christian tradition comes at this with the belief that Christ is the One who helps us conquer these struggles, I think this message of progress and continual struggle can be applied to everyone, regardless of faith.

Our society is so focused on keeping up appearances and only showing the highlights of our lives, it's easy to get lost in expectations. We look through our feeds on social media and see how great our friends look or how much fun they're having at school. If you're having a bad day and all you see is the filtered version of other people's lives, it's easy to feel like you're somehow not good enough.

I know when I'm having a bad day and all that pops up on my Instagram feed is pictures of my friends going out or looking amazing I feel like crap. I forget that other people have bad days too, they just don't post it for the world to see. This is an extremely isolating system, and we need to constantly remind ourselves that no one looks that great all the time. We filter our lives so no one sees the mountains we're climbing, no one sees what we're working on.

We want everyone to think we have it all together, all the time. But this simply isn't true, no one is perfect. Lent reminds us that this is okay. No one should feel like they need to be perfect every second of every day.

In the Gospels we hear about people who were falling apart, on the inside and out. Jesus didn't pass them over because they weren't perfect. He saw them for who they were and gave them the opportunity to become great. Even if Jesus isn't a part of your life, the message is the same. No matter what your struggles are, remember that we're all just doing our best in life, and we're all working on something.

Cover Image Credit: Life Teen

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How Catholic College Students Experience Lent

I'm gonna be riding the struggle bus for 40 days straight

In the wake of Ash Wednesday, we have officially entered the Lenten season - the 40 or so days before the Triduum and Easter Sunday. (PS - The Triduum is the three days that precede Easter).

Being a practicing Catholic while at college is enough of a struggle on it's own. Being a practicing Catholic at college during Lent can be a downright nightmare. If you've been treading water this past week trying to fulfill Lenten obligations while carrying on your usual college lifestyle, you are not alone.

Whether you attend a college with a strong, moderate, or non-existent religious atmosphere, there are some problems that any Catholic student will run across during Lent. While being at a school that offers more resources for religious services or outlets for religious practice can definitely make life easier for these students, the Easter season poses new problems that even campus ministry might not have the solution to.

Catholics hit the ground running during Lent. There's no gentle ease into it. No, the Church says, jump right into abstaining from meat and fasting today.

Fasting in the Catholic Church is defined as limiting your intake to one normal meal, and two smaller meals, which put together do not equal the larger meal in quantity. It is required only two days out of the liturgical year - Good Friday and Ash Wednesday.

Okay, you think, I can't eat as much as I normally would today, but it's not like I can't eat at all. Don't be fooled. The amount of energy a busy college student needs is definitely not fitting into those tiny portions.

Maybe if you were to stay in your room all day and do some light homework you would feel fine. But imagine you have a big test and all you can think about is how tired or hungry you feel. Or heaven forbid you're an athlete - no way are you completing a workout or practice on that amount.

But Ash Wednesday is in the past, so you are halfway through your fasting obligation. Then you remember - meatless Fridays. Unless you're already a vegetarian, this can put a real damper on your Friday-night dinner plans with your friends.

You could easily order something without meat, but depending on your school's location, quality vegetarian options might be hard to come by. Plus, when all your friends have a big hamburger in front of them and you had to order the Caesar salad because the local diner's veggie options were basically spinach or potatoes, you feel a little left out.

Even in the school dining hall, you can run into issues with questionable seafood, scarce vegetarian options, and lame salad bars. Lent forces you to get creative with your meals, which a college student doesn't necessarily have time for.

Another struggle? Church. Finding a Church that's near you, has Mass that accommodates your schedule, and being able to find transportation if you're not in a city or town can prove difficult. Catholic school students, be thankful for the campus chapel.

Last but not least is the ultimate and perpetual struggle of sticking to your Lenten sacrifice. Cursing, coffee, chocolate, alcohol, Netflix. Whatever you've given up is probably one of the sole things that has been keeping you going this semester.

Without it, where are you finding the motivation to complete work, get out of bed, stay healthy? Short answer: you're probably not.

Lent can be a stressful time for practicing Catholic college students. Take time each day to just sit, reflect on your intentions and goals for the day, and remember that at the end of this all, you get candy and Jesus. Look forward to it!

Cover Image Credit: Pxhere.com

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