While cleaning out bookshelves this summer, I came across the 2009 Bull Bay Review Young Author Anthology of Virginia. Published by the Writers Studio of South Boston, Virginia, it contains writings of five poets and authors chosen by three judges. Flipping through the pages, I found an essay written by our daughter. Rebekah was a high school freshman and fifteen years old when she wrote this essay in 2008.
It has been fifteen years since my husband Dave fell off a roof and shattered his heels. Every August 11, we remember. In gratitude to God for sparing Dave’s life and in recognition of His guidance through those next months, I share this essay by Rebekah – with her permission, of course.
If you are not familiar with the story of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea on dry ground, you can read about it by going to this site.
A Red Sea of Our Own
by Rebekah Slabach
Things were normal at home when my sister and I left for a week of church camp. When we got back home, things were anything but normal.
My mom had driven 350 miles to be at the closing program. I’d had a fantastic time at camp, and the next day was my eleventh birthday.
I was putting my clarinet away when Mom said, “Girls, I have something to tell you, and I want you to listen to me closely. God did something very special for our family on Wednesday.”
We looked at her, confused. Then she continued.
“Your father is in the hospital. He fell off a roof, but he is going to be okay.”
I stood there, stunned. I didn’t know what to think or do. I just stood there, hoping that somehow I had misunderstood. But I hadn’t. My father had indeed fallen off a roof. He was lying in a hospital bed, overcome with pain, hundred of miles away.
How can this be happening?! Why is God allowing this to happen to my family? To me?
I wrestled with those questions all the way home from Pennsylvania to southern Virginia.
Ever since I can remember, my dad has been the glue that has held our family together. Never one to complain about working, my dad always believed that one of his main priorities was to provide for his family – his wife and six children. He would work overtime – or whatever he had to do to make sure our bill were paid, food was on the table, and that we never had to worry about anything.
As I sat there, stunned, I realized I had taken my dad, and everything he did for our family, for granted.
Now, I wondered, what are we going to do?!
I asked my mom, “How are we going to have food to eat?
She just smiled and said, “I don’t know, Rebekah, but we are going to sit back and watch God do some amazing things. I don’t know how God is going to do it, but He is going to take care of us.”
I soon realized that God was taking care of us. As much as I wanted to go back in time and erase what happened, I knew I would have to cooperate and believe we would be okay.
On Wednesday, August 11, 2004, my dad was painting a roof for a customer. As he moved the ladder to paint the next section of the roof, the ridge cap buckled and the ladder started sliding. My dad let go of the paint can and the ladder, and tried to brace himself for the fall. He told us later that the ride down wasn’t so bad; it was that sudden stop that hurt! He slid backward down the roof and dropped to the ground, narrowly missing a fuel tank on his left and a window air conditioning unit on the right. He dropped fourteen feet, landing on his heels before falling onto his back.
My older brother Jason had been painting on the other side and called, “Are you okay, Pop?”
“No, I’m on the ground!” he answered. Jason climbed down and helped while my dad grimaced with pain and slid over to the porch. Anywhere he put pressure, his feet hurt.
My dad called my mom, told her he had fallen off the roof, and asked her to bring ice for his feet. On her way to town, my mom called our pastor, Larry, who just “happened” to be driving through town. When my mom and Larry arrived, they decided to take my dad to the hospital.
Because his feet were swelling drastically, the medical staff had to cut off my dad’s pants. The x-ray showed what damage had been done. The results were devastating; both of his heels were crushed. Mom said the heel looked like a shattered windshield, but all the piece of bone were intact. The doctor told my dad he would be out of work for at least six months.
While my sister and I were off having fun at camp, our father had been in the hospital for the rest of the week.
My sister and I arrived home on Saturday, my eleventh birthday. I was able to visit my dad in the hospital. I cried because I was mad at my parents for not telling me about his accident the day it happened. My dad just gave me a hug, explained that he didn’t want me to have a bad time at camp, and handed me a birthday card.
Sunday was a special day at church because we were going to have a prayer of dedication for my oldest brother, Ben, who was heading off to college that week. The doctor knew my dad really wanted to be there, so he released him in time to attend the last part of the service.
The first evening my dad was home, he had us all gather together to talk about what had happened. He said there were three things he wanted us to learn form this experience: to draw closer to God, to be more willing to help others who are hurting, and to be able to look back someday and see how God took care of us.
The first days were very hard and tiring. My dad had to get a wheelchair, and it was a big hassle transporting it anywhere we went. He was in a lot of pain and didn’t want anyone to touch his feet or bump his chair or hospital bed. Sometimes he was pretty grouchy. It was personally hard for him because he didn’t like the idea that he couldn’t provide for his family.
My mom, who is an R.N., went back to work for the first time in about twenty years to provide income for our family. My sister, Sarah Beth, and I had to start carrying the load of cleaning the house, doing laundry, and fixing the meals. Tim, Jason, and Aaron made sure the wood stove was stoked each morning and evening and took care of the cattle.
Little did I know those were the least of our problems. Taxes were due at the end of the month, and my dad had planned to use some of the month’s income for the taxes. I felt worried and scared that we wouldn’t be able to pay our bills, but my mom and dad kept telling us kids that God would take care of us. They reminded us that God would part the waters of our Red Sea.
Word spread quickly about my dad’s accident. Immediately, donations poured in all over from family, friend, and neighbor. Our church set up a “compassion fund” for our family, and our mailbox was always full. My dad got over one hundred get-well cards which we hung in his room. People started bringing us dinners. My aunt and her girls came and cleaned our house for us.
One morning my dad mailed a check for our electric bill. He told me he didn’t have enough money to pay it, but he knew that someone would give us money to help cover the full amount. Tears rolled down my dad’s face that afternoon when he opened a card from a church with more than enough money to cover the electric bill. The person who sent the card apologized for not sending it sooner. She had gone out of town and had forgotten to mail it. But we didn’t need the money before that day. Once again, God had parted the waters for us!
Our church also decided to do a chicken barbecue to help raise money. We were completely sold out of chicken early in the evening. I still can’t believe we had to turn people away at the door because we didn’t have enough chicken. That fundraiser brought in about $5,000!
After that, I was finally assured we were going to be okay after all. Our taxes were paid in August, and there was always food on the table.
My dad began doing any work he could that wouldn’t hurt his feet – such as fixing a toilet or changing a door knob – working on his knees or sitting down instead of standing. We still had our days of turmoil, but things were finally beginning to simmer down.
Over four years have passed since my dad fell off the roof. His feet still hurt sometimes, but not as much as they did at first. The doctor told him he would never run again. However, he has proven the doctor wrong and is able to run. Before his accident, he was a sharp and quick runner. Now when he runs, he looks more like a duck than a deer. Even though he can’t play high-paced sports like basketball because he can’t pivot, he is able to play softball and volleyball.
Looking back, I am glad we went through that tough time, even though it was difficult. Whenever someone else loses a job now, I no longer just brush the news off so easily, because I have been there and know how it feels. I’m not afraid to talk about our experience; it is actually a pleasure. Now I know that God still works miracles. I know He allowed my dad to fall off the roof for a reason. From this experience I have learned that there is nothing God can’t do, if you trust Him. Another lesson is that people always care and want to help you. Since my dad’s accident, my faith has grown stronger. Even though sometimes bad things happen to you, God will always be with you and take care of you every step of the way through your own Red Sea.
The feature photo credit belongs to Moody Publishers / FreeBibleimages.org.