Watching Lydia toss and turn in a restless sleep, Chase Elliot had not left her side since he pulled her from the fire. As her mother, I feared she might not be able to recover from the intensive burns and injuries she sustained. Chase fell asleep in the hospital recliner, murmuring unintelligible words reliving the rescue. I looked out the hospital window into the vast starless sky. The darkness seemed to envelop us in this foreign unknown territory uncertain of what the outcome might be. Leaving the room, I walked to the nurses station to ask for an extra blanket. I brought the blanket to the room, spread it over Chase's sleeping form. Next I kissed my daughter on her forehead, whispering words of love in her ear. For right now, I needed to reflect on God’s word and the comfort it would bring.
Dawn ushered in the new day, I pondered what to do step by step. This morning the doctor would make his rounds and inform us of Lydia ‘s condition. Chase and I waited for the doctor and the only sounds in her room was the machine helping her to breathe easier. The first talk, Lydia was heavily sedated and this is the news we received. Lydia's burns extended to second degree burns to her neck, head, and right arm. This type of burn affects both the epidermis and the second layer of skin called the dermis. It may cause swelling and red, white or splotchy skin. Blisters may develop, and pain can be severe. Deep second degree burns can cause scarring. The doctor recommended a treatment plan of laser scar treatment, skin grafts, and reconstructive surgery could involve months to complete.
Lydia and Chase had broken up a month before this vicious assault occurred. Lydia was very quiet about the break-up simply stating she realized just in time they were too different from each other. Lydia had met a new man, I hadn’t even met him yet. This was their second date, on the first date they had gone to see a play at the theatre on campus at the college they both attended. On the second date, they went out to eat at a restaurant that Lydia had chosen. The restaurant was Outback Steakhouse, and Lydia was wearing a little black dress, accessorized with a gold chain belt to emphasize her small waistline. She had gone to the hair salon, choosing a shorter cut and color, ash blonde for a new look. Lydia walked to the bathroom in the restaurant, her date accused her with flirting with an admirer. Unexpectedly, from behind he poured gasoline all over her when they reached his car. Chase watched from the parking lot and took action. Now in this present time, the first thing you noticed when you looked at her was the ugly purple skin on her neck and above that matted hair, in need of washing and untangling.
Lydia and Chase found their way back to each other, through a lot of laughter and tears whenever I stepped out of the hospital room briefly. Often both Chase and I would be there in the weeks in the hospital and the burn center as an inpatient. At times Chase would go home to his Mom and Dad's for a rest, shower, and meal before returning as we started to relax a bit. I went to our home, it was lonely without Lydia beside me. Our dog, Toby a blonde cocker spaniel was so sad at home that I took him over to my sister's house for playdates with her collie dog, Queenie.
Most days Chase or I would take turns walking with Lydia down the hallway. Holding the IV pole and fluids, Lydia seemed to gain strength each day. Losing some friends along the way, Lydia drew to us for strength as I sought strength from God and my Sunday school class from church. A day arrived quite unexpectedly that transported Valerie from our neighborhood and on our street. She had called Lydia to ask if she could come visit. The treatments were coming to a close: the reconstructive surgery was complete, skin grafts were complete, and the laser scar treatments were halfway through. The visit went well, and Lydia looked forward to her discharge from the burn center. The doctor had been pleased with Lydia's progress. Treatments, the doctor spoke of for a couple of weeks in outpatient therapy. Lydia and Valerie poured through wedding magazines planning an intimate private ceremony. Valerie was asked to be the maid of honor and Chase’s brother Josh was asked to be the best man. Mrs. Elliot and I shared conversations for the upcoming wedding. In our latest conversation, she said we are going to be family, call me Gayle.
Lydia was determined not to hide away and isolate herself due to this unfortunate circumstance. On the day of the wedding, a deacon from my home church escorted Lydia down the aisle. The delicately designed veil covered the burn on her head. The neckline of her wedding dress was heart shaped, exposing the burn on her neck, a small amount of scarring. More scarring was on her right arm not visible to the eye. She looked absolutely radiant, reminding me of when I married her father. The war in Iraq took him from us forever. Lydia was a baby when her father died, has no conscious memory of him. Memories I share are all from my loyal heart, she deserves that much from me.
Lydia begins the journey of a lifetime with the love of her life by her side. Chase’s Uncle Bob has loaned him his Studebaker from his car collection. Ridgefield’s Country Club has packed an abundantly full picnic basket perfect for a drive in the country. In the basket is a small decorated box full of well wishes from the intimate party of wedding guests. All of us touched by this sad circumstance has come through the fire tried and true. Showing strength, courage, endurance to persevere in adverse conditions. You learn who your friends are and who they are not. Lydia learned of the faithfulness of a lifetime companion. Saving fire burning away the dross and stubble, leaving only fine gold and silver.