a special thank you for miracles.

Last year, right around this time, I posted my dad’s story. The story of his life threatening accident and his incredible road to recovery. This past fall, I took a “picture in writing” course at my elementary school. The art teacher offered it to teachers and I jumped at the chance to do a class with her. She is an incredible teacher and person, one that inspires absolutely everyone around her. The theme of the workshop was “family stories”, and it was offered to teachers who enjoy writing, who wanted to tell their own family’s story, but also for those who might be interested in exploring this type of writing in their classroom. First, our pictures were done by creating textured paper through the use of watercolor. From there we cut and pasted our papers to create several collage pictures, which in turn helped us map out and write down our stories. It was amazing. Most teachers told the story of their ancestors and the hardships they faced while immigrating to America. These stories, with their words and pictures, were all incredibly and heartbreakingly beautiful.

I chose to write my story about my dad.

We were asked to write the piece in the 1st person, from the perspective of the main character. At first, this was difficult for me, but as I dug my heels deeper into the story it became completely natural and satisfying.

I gave this story to my dad for Christmas and I could see it on his face how much it meant to him that I wrote it all down. He sat quietly reading it and I sat nervously hoping he would like it. He did, very much, he said. With tears in his eyes, these four words were all I needed to hear to know he loved it, “Wow, Anna. Thank you.”

I am choosing to share it here so that my family and friends can get a peak at it, too.

This is for you, Dad. I love you.

The house on Ackerman Ave is where my story starts. It was just an ordinary house that sat on a hill in an ordinary city, filled with ordinary people. And for a long time, I was just an ordinary guy. Known by many, loved by all, and knuckle-headed often by my older brothers. Those brothers! They called me “Red”, and the color of my hair explained it all.

There was happiness in that house. And family love and contentment and routine. I fit right into my life, and into the small little world where I lived. I was “Red” and I liked it. “Red”, the one with the smile on his face and a laugh not far from his heart.  Growing older, with my basketball in my arms, I laughed throughout my days and I felt happy. Just an ordinary guy who had no idea that he would live to tell an extraordinary story.

The snow was falling and falling hard on that late December morning in 1973. I was 20 and it was the start of my holiday vacation. Bliss and freedom roared through me like a firecracker. It was the morning my friend Billy and I went out in his jeep to pick-up the best Christmas tree we could find. It must have been the promise of Christmas in the air. We had four days before the presents and food would be right at our fingertips. Just the thought made our eyes wide. They warned that snow was coming, but in winter, in Syracuse, snow is always coming. And with Christmas Eve around the corner, we welcomed it. The anticipation of the holidays was finally here. Christmas! We picked up the tree, all prickly with needles and sticky with sap, then we jumped in the jeep and sped off for home.

As we drove back home the snow started to pick up. The sky turned gray as the white flakes poured down in balls from the sky. We drove on with the music and the white. I remember being surrounded by white. The white snow on the road and the white flakes in the sky swirling and swirling, spinning circles in front of my eyes. We couldn’t see the other car slip as we came around the corner. We couldn’t see it hit the ice and turn out of control. We couldn’t know that within seconds we would crash, and suddenly, my white world would go black.

I was thrown from that jeep that day. Thrown from that jeep where I flew through the white, through the snow, through the air, and landed on my head.

I laid in a coma for 3 months.

In the dark.

In the black.

They said the damage to my brain would be too great to recover from. They told my family that I might not survive. They told my family that they would likely have to say goodbye.

I wonder what it was like for them. To wait and wonder and stand around and hope and pray and cry.

But then came the miracle where I survived.

I survived.


When I woke, I was scared and broken. I was alive, but I couldn’t walk or talk. My right side was paralyzed from the impact of the fall and my mind was compromised. I don’t remember much about those days, but what I do know is that I couldn’t have made it to where I am today without my mother and her faith and perseverance. She loved me too much to let me slip away. I needed to re-learn everything. Everything. How to eat, how to walk, how to talk. My mother put her life into helping me recover and I still can’t express the gratitude I feel for her love. She learned “patterning”, which is a specific type of rehabilitation for people with traumatic brain injuries. She patterned me every day, several times and day and taught everyone around to help too. I was patterned each day by 4 or 5 people at a time. Slowly, slowly regaining my strength and my speech, and most of all, the old “Red” I used to be.

One night, a year or so after the accident, when I was still recovering and using a wheelchair, I was at a bar with my brother Dean when I met a girl. Her name was Sandy. It wasn’t anything really, just an acquaintance, a friend of Dean’s, but over the next several years we kept crossing paths. We’d see each other here and there, at a wedding, during a night out with friends. A year passed. And another. One day Dean came home, so excited to tell me that Sandy had been asking about me. “She wonders how you are,” he said. “You should ask her out.” Not knowing what to do or how to act, I waited on my pursuit. I was shy. And unsure. And still clueless when it came to dating. A few months later when I saw Sandy on school vacation, I finally got a feeling in my gut to ask her out.

For our first date I had a “buy one, get one free” pass to the Old Stone Mill in Skaneateles. Upon picking her up I told her we couldn’t get any drinks or dessert. She probably thought I was crazy. And you know what? She married me despite it.

We were married in August on a warm summer day surrounded by family and friends and I have never felt more extraordinary than I felt on my wedding day.

From that day on, we have spent our days together.

We laugh and have a good time and most of all, I always love how she loves me for me.

Today, I am alive and well. I walk with a limp, and my speech isn’t perfect, but my mind is sharp, and my laugh, stronger than ever. Without the help of my family and friends, I don’t know where I would have found the will to survive. They stuck with me, they guided me, they kept me going and going and going. They helped me back into the man I was and the man that I now have come to be. I still live on an ordinary street in that same ordinary city, but I am no longer an ordinary man. Sandy and I have lovingly raised two daughters, and could not be more proud and humbled of the strong, kind, compassionate women they are today.

We still talk about my story together often, among other things, like the days we spent together in our house as a family. We have memories that could fill a book, days at the lake, and on family road trips, and of Christmases singing in church together. More than anything we always smile and give thanks. Thanks for each other and for our health and happiness.

And always, a special thank you for miracles.


  1. Oh my gosh, Anna. Oh my gosh.

    This is so good!

    I mean, I knew you were good at writing, but you. are. a. writer. The pacing is wonderful. You kept my attention the whole time. I loved it.

    And the pictures are amazing. What a neat workshop to attend. That would be so bonding for a faculty.

    • You know, it really was. During one of the days we had to share part of our piece by reading it aloud. Everybody shared and everybody cried. I feel closer to those teachers because of that.

      It was such a beautiful and fufilling workshop.

      Thank you, E.

  2. Oh, Anna. You’re making me cry over here. This is beautiful. I can only imagine that this was the greatest thing you could give your dad. Amazing. You’re an amazing person.

  3. Love.

  4. I loved reading this. I’m so proud of you and what you are sharing with the world.

    I love you so much and think you are amazing.


  5. This is incredible. So amazing, Anna.

  6. I am speechless. I am inspired. I am proud to call you & Uncle Chris my family. Anna- you are indeed a writer. What a beautiful gift. Love you-

  7. What an amazing writer you are. And what a sweetheart. I loved this; thank you for sharing.

  8. Oh Anna, this was so beautiful! What a sweet gift for your dad. I’m sure he will cherish this always. What a neat class to take! You are quite the writer. I think you’re going to do big things one day :)

    • Gosh, thank you, Laura. I never even considered I liked writing that much until I started this blog. Now I know that I love it. Don’t know if I’ll ever do anything more than just blogging, but for now, it’s enough. Thanks for reading!

  9. anna – this was beautiful. i’m so glad you decided to share it – what a special gift this must have been for your father. i had tears in my eyes over the love his mother displayed, i laughed at what he said to your mother on their first date, and my heart is so happy to see the amazing life he created after being granted this miracle. thank you so much for sharing this, it’s a story i will continually use to inspire me, give me hope, and keep my faith. thank you.

    • You’re welcome, C! And thank you for your words! Sometimes it’s scary to put your writing out there– but then I always think of friends like you that will appreciate it, and understand and love you better for it.

      You’ve had many stories that have inspired me, ones I think about all the time!

  10. Amazing, Anna. Your writing is wonderful. The art accompanies it beautifully too. I’m sure your father was blown away by such a kind and thoughtful gift.

    • The art was so fun to do. I had no idea I had it in me to create such pictures! But like I said, the teacher is amazing! Everyone’s collages were just so terrific.

  11. uncle dean says:

    awesome and from the heart great job

    i love yor dad too. but he still drives me crazy like i do him.

  12. Tears streaming. Now I need to go back and read your first post about your Dad’s story.

    What an incredible gift – your art, your writing, and most importantly your heart, which has so clearly been shaped by your family. I can only imagine the joy your Dad felt receiving this.

    • Thanks, Shannon. I know I get my positivity from my mom and dad. They are the KINDEST people and are my biggest role models. Always!

  13. Anna, this is beautiful! Thank you so much for sharing.

  14. Wow, that is beautifully written (and illustrated!). Thank you again for sharing this story that is so important and so special to your family. You are such an inspiration to be bold (that’s my word for the year).

    That is such a heartfelt and heartwarming gift. I’m sure it will be read and re-read for many years to come! :)

    • Thanks, Kiki! It was kind of scary to hit “publish” at first. Just because it’s so personal, you know? But I’m so glad I did.

  15. This is beautiful, Anna! The pictures drew me in initially – tot.a.lly. pro.fresh. And oh, the story! Beautiful, heartwarming, sad and glad!

    Honestly, between your excellent writing and seriously talented illustration abilities, you could write a children’s book! Or a grown-up book. But mostly a children’s book so I can stare at more of these collages. Wonderful!!

    • Gosh, I never really thought of myself as an author.

      But children’s books have crossed my mind in the past.

      Mostly, I just want to be like Kathleen Kelley and own an adorable little shop around the corner when I grow up. (DREAM.)

  16. Love this, Sparkle Sister 1! Your dad’s accident and slow recovery–I was 7–were my first profound memories. Grandma Grace’s perseverance was truly astonishing and what helped to make the miracle. I remember when he went back to college and I was worried that the teacher’s wouldn’t understand his writing! LOL! (I was 8 or 9 and bossy and didn’t want them to give him a bad grade.) I remember he used the typewriter to rectify this.
    Keep writing!

    • Oh, I know. In the book I gave to my dad (it’s bound and everything) there is a dedication page…

      “To my grandmother, Grace Burns.”

      She was amazing. Absolutely amazing.

      And so are you! Love hearing about your 9-year old bossy self. So fun. : )

  17. what an incredible story, but even more so, how AMAZINGLY you told it, illustrated it and made it this gift. I am in awe.

  18. Aw, Ann, that was so beautiful! You can tell how well you know your father, because as I was reading I was just able to seep into his voice without it feeling forced. And the illustrations you created to go along with the story – magnificent. You truly are a special person, and so is your dad! :)

  19. OMG ANNA. i have such intense goosebumps. so much love and so much care in this story and i know it will stick with me for such a long time. your dad must be so proud to have you as his daughter. you are a wondrous being, anna. xo

    • Oh, Mackenzie, it’s so weird. I was literally JUST THINKING, I hope Mackenzie reads this post.. Just because you are A WRITER. You know?

      And the fact that it gave you goosebumps is the best kind of compliment. MADE MY DAY. :)

  20. Seriously beautiful. It’s not just wonderful that you have the skills and creativity to bring such an amazing story to life…it’s also that you take the time to do it…and that you have such an open heart that you want to keep these miracles of life alive.

  21. This is just beautiful. Thank you for opening up and sharing.

  22. That is a great story! Your writing is great and I am sure your dad loved it!

  23. Anna..simply amazing! The artwork, your words, the story. Amazing.

  24. Loved this post!! Just thinking about how much I love your blog!!

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