Mercy Finds Kelli Weed
Broken body, healed heart.
by Kelli Weed as told to Terry Murphy
A beautiful April day, 1998. Relieved to be done with work, my boyfriend and I were loosening up at a friend’s house.
“Want a drink, Kelli?” my friend asked.
“No, Tad and I are going to the bar. I’ll wait till we get there.”
But Tad had already had several drinks before he met me that day, and he had not refused the drink offers here.
The Idaho breezes were sweet running through our hair as we mounted Tad’s motorcycle. Idaho law didn’t require helmets; the air was too good to block it out with a heavy, useless piece of equipment. The engine pulsed and cried out beneath us as we accelerated quickly down the road. Freedom!
That’s all I remember, until I found myself unable to move. Something held me around my neck so I couldn’t turn my head. Things were taped to every part of my body: my arms, my mouth, all over my head. Strange beeping and humming noises were on my left, murmurs and whispers somewhere near me.
A face came near; someone dressed in blue. The person disappeared, then another face drifted above me. Who? Mom? Then everything disappeared again.
I had been in a coma for nearly four weeks after the motorcycle crash, almost dying three times. A stroke affected my whole right side. Three chest tubes helped re-inflate my collapsed lungs. My liver had been lacerated, and my broken left wrist was surgically equipped with pins. My sternum and all the ribs on my right side had been fractured; a body cast immobilized me.
Over the next three months of hospitalization the people in my church prayed for me. My mother remained at my side constantly while I underwent surgery to repair extensive brain damage, then another surgery to fuse three broken places in my back.
How had I gotten to this place? I had been raised “right” in the church. I’d been taught to follow the Ten Commandments, to not smoke or abuse my body, and to think of others before myself. I had agreed with all these principles enough that, at age seven, I accepted Christ as my Savior.
But by fourth grade, things changed. My family couldn’t afford church school, so I went to public school instead. The kids there seemed wilder than the crowd I had gone to school with before. They dressed differently, wore make-up and jewelry. And I was introduced to boys.
Meanwhile, I began to notice that many people I went to church with talked like Christians at church but didn’t live like it during the week. The church taught against the things I saw “unbelievers” doing, yet the adults there seemed free to do such things themselves. Disgusted with the hypocrisy I saw, I turned my back on God himself. When I was thirteen, I asked that my name be removed from the books at church.
In ninth grade I was sent back to church school, but I no longer wanted to submit to rules and regulations. I ran with the preacher’s daughter, learning how to smoke pot and drink beer. I would baby-sit, then use my money for cigarettes and drinks. I skipped class to go to the store, talking an older person into buying for me.
By the end of ninth grade, I was buying cigarettes on my own and drinking. As soon as I was offered it, I tried cocaine. Finally, I was kicked out of school for using drugs.
Before my family could convince me to get back into church school for tenth grade, I quit school entirely. I was fifteen years old and had already met my “first love,” a man twenty years my senior. Better to move out and move in with my boyfriend, I thought. The lifestyle I want is not going to fit in with a family in the church. I want my own freedom but don’t want to adversely influence my younger sisters.
I stayed with the guy almost seven years, and he constantly asked me to marry him. Sometimes I wonder how my life would be different had I said yes, but I wanted to see the world, not stay at home and be a wife. After seven years, I called it quits.
I moved in with a new boyfriend for a year-and-a-half. He battered me frequently. I thought perhaps he would quit beating me if we got married, but he didn’t. After six years, I filed for divorce.
The ‘good’ life
For the next few years I lived the “good life,” partying every weekend I could. Because I worked two jobs, drinking seemed the natural way to relax. I’d have one or two drinks when I got home and, gradually, everything would seem good again. What had mattered before didn’t matter after I drank; I didn’t have to deal with anything. Alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs made me feel part of my group of friends, though I learned how to hide the quantity of my drinking and my drug use from all but my closest friends.
I lived with a series of men, six months to a year-and-a-half each. They all drank, and several abused me physically as my ex-husband had. I was sure I had loved each of these men in different ways, but I always left them. What was I looking for? The good life led to a painful life and hard drug addiction, almost killing me more than once from overdoses.
Then there was Tad. I met him in Boise. It seemed almost like love at first sight. He was in the process of getting a divorce and seemed to be so good for me. I had been shooting up with cocaine and heroin for five years when I met him. Tad helped me quit using the needle. We lived together about a year-and-a-half and actually planned to stay together, but it was too late for that now. I found out that Tad died within a day after the accident with a blood alcohol level twice the legal limit. He was only 35.
The doctor transferred me to a hospital in Portland, Oregon. After a couple of months of recuperation and therapy, I moved in with my mother.
She and brother-in-law made a special trip to Idaho to retrieve the last of my things. Among them were three of my favorite acid rock CDs. Now, resting quietly in the spare bedroom in my mother’s house, I listened to each one, shocked at the vulgar language in the songs. This used to be my favorite music; now it was just ugly and disgusting, talking about walking a highway to hell. I dropped my head in shame and wept when I heard the lyrics of willful rebellion and scorn — words that so marked my own flight from God. What a horrible waste of time it had all been, trying everything, risking everything, throwing my love in every direction but God’s.
I realized that, for some reason, God had saved me through this accident. Why would He do such a thing? I had lived a wicked life away from Him. Now I abruptly picked up my CDs — all that remained of my past life — and threw them away.
Confession and peace
One day my mother gave me a pamphlet describing the steps to receiving Christ. By then I was ready to come back to Him.
“Lord,” I prayed, “if You’ll have me, I want to give myself to You. I repent of all my sins. Can You ever forgive me?”
I knew in that moment that God had forgiven me from every sin; peace finally filled my heart.
Immediately, I asked to be baptized in the church. Leaning on my younger sister’s arm, I made my way to the front of the church. The days of smoking, drinking, taking drugs, and running away were over for good. With Jesus’ help, I’d never touch such things again.
Spreading the word
I still struggle with the effects of the stroke and continue with a lot of physical therapy. But everywhere I go I try to tell my story, from my beginnings in the church to my rampage away from God’s righteous regulations to my collapse into His mercy. Now I live each day for Him, doing His will and not my own. I’m grateful to be alive and to have another chance. I know He has a purpose for me to witness for Him each chance I get.
God is available to all of us and waits for us to surrender to Him. He stands at the door of each of our hearts and knocks. If we open, He will come in and change our lives for the better. Jesus took our place for us and we can now ask for forgiveness of our sins, no matter what they are. He will forgive.