to fight or flight

As a rule of thumb, phone calls that begin with: “Now Sweetie, everything is okay–but…” typically bring with them more disruption than your average “Hello.”  It was on this particular day of disruption that the process of Fight or Flight began.

My mom proceeded to tell me that my sister, my baby sister—whom I refuse to believe is actually 22-years-old—had fallen off of a roof. Not a bunk bed, not a golf cart (she’d already tried out those hazards before), but a three-story, Dallas-Texas-sized roof.

Fight: to open the eyes and plant the feet. To beckon “I am okay,”
though symptoms may argue otherwise.

Her nook was nestled in the corner of a shared ICU room; one could joke that it was cozy, with its sliding, cream curtains and its ever-rotating selection of trauma roommates. Kelsey fit in just fine, and it made my chest sink to see it. “Sister, I’m not sure how well those machines will fit inside your cap and gown…but if nothing else, you can brag that you went out with a bang!”

Fight: to tilt the head upwards when the body sinks down, to remember
that a light heart reminds hard circumstance that it’s not meant to stay too long.

It took seven family members, six hospital days, five pony-tail attempts, four graduation banners, three room-changes, too many Jello’s, and one metal plate, to put my sister back together again. That week, not only did pieces of Kelsey break, smash, pierce, and bleed, but they mended. They stuck with her as she stood at the foot of her bed, refusing to turn down a challenge to move.

Fight: to walk forward, to take notice of passing tiles and cracks in the ground
—because movement can be slow and crooked and full of seams,
and beautiful in its detail.

I wish that I could say that I jumped, that I flew myself back to Dallas and into the apartment as a sister-certified nurse. After all, hadn’t I just spent hours telling God, “I’m ready! I’m here! I can be used, if you want me.” But: I needed the plane that day. I needed to be called into helping her and sent by something bigger than myself.

Fight: to depend on another,
to be okay being carried.

 …I could write for days on why my sister is a fighter. And I could journal for pages on how my way of fighting looked so starkly different from hers. She fought for her body’s movement; I fought for my mind’s stillness. She willed herself to recover, and I prayed for willingness to help. We both won (and are still in the process of winning).


I began a painting two days before this event. It was filled with all the workings of beauty, but lacked the direction to make it whole. The creative process of Fight or Flight needed that day of disruption, just like I needed a plane to move me forward. Through a series of unfortunate events arose a series of choices—

Fight: or Flight.
When it comes down to it, fighting gives
you just the same wind in your hair as flighting
—only it breathes a purpose, not a need for escape.

This piece is an embrace of all directions, an inclusion of many forms, and a glimpse into the victories of a fighter—because pressing forward often looks like inching sideways and joining hands and letting hope lift your weight.