Lori Walker: "I Am Not Broken”
In February 2019, Lori Walker walked into her family’s vacation home but never walked out, as the house exploded while she was trapped inside. She did, however, make it out alive thanks to countless miracles and three heroes. In the days, weeks, and months that have followed the explosion, Lori has become more convinced of the goodness of humanity, the omniscience of a loving Heavenly Father and the resilience that is found inside each one of us.
I don't remember the pain at all. I remember how amazing it felt to feel carried through that experience.
Lori's Website: CourageandKindness.org
Deseret News story about the explosion: "Family, friends of Utah woman rescued from cabin explosion offer thanks, encouragement," February 21, 2019.
Anthony Sweat’s Instagram posts about Lori:
- When the accident first happened, see instagram.com
- When she came home from the hospital, see instagram.com
Invitation from President Nelson to read the Book of Mormon: "Sisters' Participation in the Gathering of Israel," President Russell M. Nelson
Quote: "When the time for decision arrives, the time for preparation is past" (President Thomas S. Monson, "Are We Prepared?" 2014 Ensign).
Video: I Feel God's Light - New Children's Song by Lori Walker and Blake Gillette
Video: I'm Not Broken (Original Song by Nik Day from "Fighter") by One Voice Children's Choir
2:06- February 15, 2019
11:35- Three Heroes
17:31- God’s Hand
26:00- Receiving Service
33:39- Power of Prayer
36:48- God’s Light
38:37- A Sweet Little Patting
42:31- Current Challenges
52:11- What Does It Mean To Be “All In” the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
Morgan Jones 0:00
On February 15th, 2019, Lori Walker's life changed forever as she opened the garage door of her family's vacation home and immediately smelled gas. Moments later, the home exploded with Lori trapped inside. In Moroni 7, a series of questions are posed as Mormon asks, "Has the day of miracles ceased? Or have angels ceased to appear unto the children of men? Or has he withheld the power of the Holy Ghost from them? Or will he, so long as time shall last or the earth shall stand, or there shall be one man upon the face there have to be saved?" Lori Walker's story is proof that the answer remains clear: "Behold, I say unto you, nay."
Rather than the traditional biography that we normally share at this point in the podcast, and despite the fact that there are many things that we could say about Lori Walker, I would like to instead share the words of author Anthony Sweat, who also happens to be Lori's neighbor. "Lori is one of the most Christlike people I know. She is the embodiment of service, kindness, generosity, faith, intelligence, and the 13th article of faith. Each year, she has all of her family members select someone from the community that has blessed their lives and puts on a "Light Award" program to honor the recipients, trophy and all. Who does that? Lori. All who know her have been blessed by the light she brings into life."
This is All In, an LDS Living podcast where we ask the question, what does it really mean to be all in the gospel of Jesus Christ? I'm Morgan Jones, and I am so honored to have Lori Walker with me today. Lori, welcome.
Lori Walker 2:04
Thank you. It's a pleasure to be here.
Morgan Jones 2:06
So Lori, you have a pretty unbelievable story. I was amazed—I live in Utah, and I was not really familiar with your story. Could you walk us through your experience and what happened on the day that your home exploded?
Lori Walker 2:28
Sure. Before I get started, I should let you know, before you feel too bad for me, I don't remember most of this. So don't feel too bad for me, because it's all gone from my memory. In February of 2019, so about a year and a half ago, we were expecting to go up to a favorite vacation spot up in Heber—a cabin that we'd go to often with a couple of families and have a weekend of ice fishing and fun. And, as is usual for me, I'd packed up several coolers of junk food and was ready for a party. We went off for the drive, and the last thing I remember is being about halfway through the drive in Provo Canyon, talking to my dad on the phone. That's the last thing I remember. After that, we arrived at the cabin. I had my minivan with my four children, and three of their friends had joined us, so we were a full load. I got out of the car to manually open the garage door, which is typical. I don't have a clicker for it. When I got out, I could smell gas, even before I opened the garage door. And when I opened it, I smelled it even stronger.
I went back to the car, my kids were already unbuckling and starting to grab their stuff, and I said, "Hang on a minute. I want you guys to wait in the car while I check something out. I think I smell gas." And my kids tell me that Ben, my 10-year-old son, fought me on that a little bit and didn't understand why he couldn't go in. And I guess I was very persistent about, "No, stay in the car." I'm so grateful that my kids were obedient and weren't just running around outside, but were actually safe and inside the minivan. I went into the house, and I called my husband on the phone who was going to join us in an hour or so. I told him I smelled gas, and I was going to check a few things out. He says I headed down to the basement where our furnace room is to, I imagine, see if the pilot light is on or something—I don't know what I was thinking. I don't know what I was doing. But the phone connection cut out.
It's not unusual for that area to have spotty coverage, so we didn't think it anything of it. But something about the way I went downstairs—it could have been me flipping a light switch, it could have been static from my coat, it could have been metal on metal as the furnace door opened. I'm not sure what happened and we never will know, but something sparked an explosion. It had to be this perfect storm of weeks and weeks of gas filling that home while we were away from it, and a spark, and just the right amount of oxygen coming in from the door I had opened—and I created a massive explosion. The home caught on fire, and a portion of the home collapsed on top of me, along with some furniture. The staircase that I had come down was partially pinning me, and I was trapped. Outside, my kids started yelling and screaming—almost all of my kids. My youngest, my 7-year-old was watching a DVD in the back of the minivan and didn't know anything was going on. But my oldest, who was 15 at the time, ran for help, and three gentlemen who lived nearby—pretty much our next-door neighbors, whom I had never met—came running for help. If it wasn't for them, I most certainly would not be here today.
They circled the property and couldn't find a way to get in. All of the obvious entry doors were full of flames and smoke, and there was just no way to get through them. One of the gentlemen happened to be—and I say "happened to be," because we all know it's no coincidence—an off-duty firefighter, and I think he was sort of the man with the plan. He yelled for my oldest daughter to go to his house and get an axe. I mean, how many people just have an axe laying around? But he sure did. And my 15-year-old ran for that axe, which I believe was a really big part of why I'm still here. She doesn't think she did much to participate, but the minute that it took for her to go run and grab that axe and come and help them find a way to get to me faster, every second ended up being very important. So she grabbed that axe, they busted through a downstairs window, and it was a nightmare inside of there. Not only were there flames and smoke, but because of the explosion, they didn't have a hallway to walk down. Everything was in their way. Shards of glass and splinters of wood, they were getting cut and scraped and burned and fighting their way to find me. They didn't even know where I was. So they were in that home for I think about 40 minutes until they were able to get to where I was and start pulling on me.
I was really pinned under the debris, so they weren't able to just easily grab me and take me out. They started to lose hope, actually, that they'd be able to get me out at all. One of the gentlemen was eyeing the axe and thinking they might need to use this axe to chop off my foot that was pinned under the beams, since it seemed to be the biggest obstacle in getting me out of there. If that had happened, I promise, I would have forgiven them. But as it turned out, they said, "All right, one more pull." And I took all three of them. With every ounce of strength they had, they got me out, and they worked together to carry me through all that debris until we got back out of the house. About a minute and a half later, the whole home collapsed. We would have all been stuck inside if they've made any other decisions.
They took me down a snowbank just behind the home to get me away from the heat of the flames that were blowing in that direction. Laying me in that snow and getting me out of that heat probably saved my life as well. The burns were really severe, and I was bleeding quite a bit, but unfortunately, because they had brought me down to the bank, we were out of sight of most everybody. When the firefighters arrived, they didn't know that we were safe and out of the house and over that bank. So when the home collapsed, they assumed that we were gone. And when my husband arrived on the scene, they told him that I was gone. And that was so hard to hear about, and so hard for my husband to have to go to my children and let them know that I had died in that explosion. They all grieved together for 10 or 15 minutes before one of the men who had rescued me found his way to my husband to let him know that I was alive. He said, "She's in rough shape. She doesn't look great, but she's alive. We've got to get her to the hospital."
Morgan Jones 10:36
It's such an unbelievable story. I think there are so many parts of that story, Lori, that I want to touch on. First of all, I cannot imagine being your husband and your children. I think there's this unbelievable roller coaster of emotion, right? You're at the lowest of lows, and then you probably feel like you're getting the best news you've ever gotten, that you were still alive. First of all, though, before we get into some of these more intricate parts of the story, when you think about those men who risked their lives to save you. I watched a video where you and your family and these men share this experience—and we'll include that in our show notes because I think it is so powerful—but you talk about how they had to make that choice so quickly of whether or not to go into that house and risk their lives to save your life. How would you describe the gratitude that you feel toward those three men?
Lori Walker 11:44
Boy, that is a really difficult question, because it's so hard to put into words the emotion behind that. I cannot believe they made that decision. I'm grateful that I'm here, but if I was any one of their wives, I would have been saying, "What were you thinking?" The odds of coming out of that unscathed were so minimal. I mean, the gentleman who was the off-duty firefighter at the time, he says that if he had arrived to the scene with his firetruck and his crew and all of his equipment, that he would have advised the crew not to go inside because it was that dangerous. And here are three men with nothing but a winter coat on, and only one of whom has formal training in this type of an event—if you can ever be prepared for that kind of an event. One gentleman was a wilderness guide, and I'm guessing had some training in emergency preparedness, but for sure not in home explosions.
And the other gentleman, the third one, he's the one that brings me to tears the fastest, because I can relate to his situation. Here he is, a young father with two little boys who need him and no formal training of any sort, and he has to make this decision of, "Do I go in there and hope to help the situation, or am I going to go in there and make it worse, because now I'm somebody that needs to be rescued also?" For them to take that calculated risk and decide together that, as a team, they would do their best to get me out of there. I think partially motivated by the fact that they could see and hear my children crying and screaming and knowing that their mother was in there. They said that, if they hadn't heard me screaming, they probably wouldn't have gone inside. I can't believe that I was given the ability to scream in that situation, in a smoke-filled home for 30+ minutes. I don't know how that's possible. I don't believe that it's beyond the scope of reality that it's possible. It wasn't just my voice, if it was even my voice. I believe I had a lot of help.
Morgan Jones 14:28
Lori, what do you remember after the explosion?
Lori Walker 14:37
First thing that I remember. I remember feeling really groggy and sleepy, like waking up from a really hard nap. As I was waking up, I really couldn't see anything—I think I was struggling to open my eyes at all. But even once I could open my eyes, I had double vision and some severe vertigo issues. So that explains why I really couldn't see, but I could hear, and I could hear the sound of beeping, which I could recognize as a hospital-type sound, and the hustle and bustle of medical personnel and people that sounded like they were attending to me. I remember somebody trying to speak to me, but I couldn't really speak. I later would learn that my jaw was wired shut, having had multiple injuries to my face.
I don't know if I would have even had the energy to speak, but before I could really respond to my environment, I had a very strong impression that I was fine, that everything was going to be okay, and that I didn't need to be afraid. Those thoughts ran over and over in my mind, like a broken record to the point that I almost found them annoying. Like, "I get it, I'm fine, I'm okay, I'm gonna be okay, and I don't need to be afraid." But because those things had been so instilled in my heart, I really believed them. So even as I gained consciousness and learned about the accident, I really think it took probably three days for me to fully understand what had even happened, because I was sort of in and out of consciousness, and gathering information little bits at a time. But every time I learned something new or came to a better understanding, I was always guarded with that feeling of, "But it's gonna be okay. You're okay, it's fine. Everything's going to be all right. You don't need to be afraid." So I really never was afraid, and I never gave a strong reaction of sadness or anger or shock. In fact, I think the nurses were wondering if I was mentally okay, because I wasn't giving the reactions that they were expecting. I would just nod and go along with it. "Okay, okay, what else?" Because I already knew that I was going to be fine and that I didn't need to be afraid. So why bother acting upset for a second if I already know how it's gonna turn out?
Morgan Jones 17:31
Yeah. Lori, when I first reached out to you, I was impressed by your reply. I think I'm always drawn to people who don't want attention, and you strike me as someone that is that type of person. One thing that you said in your email, you said, "Sometimes when I share our story, I worry that people will think I'm spreading the message that if you're faithful, you'll be spared." You then said, "I have no explanation for why I'm here, but I do feel an obligation to share the things we experienced that are spiritual in nature, along with my feelings of gratitude. I just don't know any other way to repay this unexplainable gift of being able to continue life." You expressed that you wanted to steer clear of this idea that if you're faithful, you'll be spared. I think that's so important because otherwise, sometimes people can hear stories like this, and they can say, "Well, why was she spared, and this person that I love was not?" I wanted to talk with you, because I do think that expressing gratitude for an experience like this is important, and I think it's important for us to know that, when it is the Lord's will, He can perform miracles in our lives. So first of all, I wanted to ask, you said that you felt looking back—so this has been a year and a half ago—you said that you felt you had been prepared for this experience, and that obviously it wasn't something that you knew would happen, but that looking back, you could see how the Lord had prepared you for this. How do you see the Lord's hand when you look back in retrospect?
Lori Walker 19:22
As time goes on, I feel like I find more and more. First of all, in about 2012, I became really motivated to become physically strong. This was almost laughable at the time, because I'm not somebody that likes to exercise that much. I mean, ask anybody that used to be on my hockey team in high school or track—I was lower-tier athletic material. But I felt really strongly about it and highly motivated. Like, they say do 30, and I wanted to see how many more I could do. I just was on fire, and I worked and worked, I went to this crazy workout class with my friend Kristen, who yells and screams at you until you do it right and you do it 100 times. You know, the kind of environment where you throw up and cry every once in a while.
But I loved it, and I had been told by so many doctors that, because my body was so physically strong, I was able to withstand so much. I mean, my lungs alone being able to breathe in all of that smoke and because I had so much muscle—I don't mean to say I was a bodybuilder by any means, I just had a strong body—the muscle carries blood and and nutrients and oxygen, and all these things that your body needs to repair itself and heal well. They were always calling me a "superhero healer" and were amazed at how prepared my body was to fight this. And I feel, especially because that motivation to be fit and strong has somewhat left me at this point, I know that Heavenly Father was telling me, "Trust me, you're gonna want to be strong for this."
I also think that I was mentally prepared. I have always found it a sort of a fun exercise to imagine myself in different scenarios—whether that's pioneers crossing the plains or just incredible feats of heroism or bravery or going through hard things—imagining myself in that situation and trying to think of who I could be, who I really wanted to be in those types of situations. So even though I had never imagined I would be in a home explosion and trying to fight my way back to recovery, I had imagined myself in thousands of other scenarios that were difficult and trying, and I'd already decided who I wanted to be in that kind of a situation. It made it easier to fall into that role when I was put to the test. I think mental preparation is huge. And I would say that the three heroes that rescued me have probably done similar exercises, otherwise I have no idea how they would have made that decision so quickly, that they wanted to come rescue me.
I felt emotionally prepared because I had this awesome team of people in my life, ready to help. I had these strong relationships with my family, with my friends, in my community. I had built this beautiful team of people that helped me through every part of this. I never could have done it by myself. I don't like to brag about a lot of things, but one thing I can very easily brag about is that I am a very good "friend-finder." I found all the best people and had them close to me at a time when I needed them the most.
I would say the most important aspect of my preparation was being spiritually prepared. I was really excited about the challenge that the Prophet issued when he asked everybody to read the Book of Mormon before the end of the year, and I accepted that challenge, but I put my own spin on it. I had recently been thinking about these four family themes that our family always teaches our kids. (1) That you are loved no matter what; (2) that it's not all about you, and that you have to be ready to go out and serve and be more than just yourself; (3) that you need to learn how to choose to be happy; and (4) what does the Spirit feel like to you? So I read the Book of Mormon looking for scriptures that reinforced these four family themes, and I really attached to "what does the Spirit feel like to you?" I became almost obsessive about the Holy Ghost and how people feel it, how people find it in their lives, how they feel guided and directed by it. I found 295 references that I found meaningful to the Holy Ghost in the Book of Mormon, and I just was spiritually on fire with it. I was loving waking up and coming down to my office and doing my personal scripture study that I journaled along with, and I just was feeling so high on that feeling, and also feeling like somewhat of an expert on the Holy Ghost. So when it came time for me to be laying in a hospital bed, unable to participate in life much, but I could listen, I knew what I was feeling was the Holy Ghost, and it made it easy to listen to and be directed by.
Morgan Jones 25:07
I love that so much. And I think it reminds me of the President Monson quote that says, "When the time for decision arrives, the time for preparation is past." I think it's such a good reminder that the Lord can prepare us in a lot of different ways for different experiences, and we never know what the reason that we're feeling prompted to do something—to get in shape, or whatever it is. So I think that's such a powerful reminder. Lori, I love what you said about feeling like you have a talent for being a good "friend-finder." I think that is a very valuable talent and a skill. But one thing that you mentioned in your email to me when I reached out to you, you replied, and you mentioned that there had been people that had served you in a wide range of ways. I have thought a lot about one thing that I think would be tough in your situation, is when you have been the person that gives service and is healthy and all of that, then having to humble yourself and be the recipient of service. So what has being that recipient taught you?
Lori Walker 26:25
Well, I should say that I didn't need to put any effort into humbling myself because I think that I was about as low as I could have been at that time. So I did not put any effort into that, it happened all by its magical self. I do prefer to be the doer. I think most people would agree that it feels better to be the doer than the receiver. But I was so touched by the ways that people found to serve us. We had a Google Doc passed around the ward, and then it got spread out to the community, and even out to my husband's work and beyond that, of people who wanted to provide meals, and we had meals for months without a single break. Meals seem like such a small thing to provide, but those meals put a lot of pressure off of our family, that there was no need to go off to the grocery store or put any mental effort into figuring out what we were going to eat. It just was provided, and one less thing to think about. It allowed us to have some normalcy of a sit-down family dinner, instead of bowls of cereal for every meal.
Along with that, I've got a list on my computer, more than a hundred items long, of beautiful ways people served. Some of the most meaningful ones were, a carpenter up in the Heber area, where the cabin explosion was, whom I've never met, made me a beautiful stool and had the heroes that rescued me all sign it. It was the perfect height to elevate my foot. It was the perfect height to drag over to the piano and give lessons to my kids on. I use it every day, and I just thought, "Who would have ever thought that a stool would have made such a difference?" But it really did. I had some friends, the Sweat family, that campaigned this "Lights for Lori" thing, where they had people hang hearts of lights in their window to show support and love for our family. And they hosted a parade when I came home from the hospital with glow sticks and people waving, just driving through the community and seeing people that didn't even know who I was, hanging hearts in their window hoping that I would be okay, was so touching. We had a primary that came from out of state to line our driveway with lanterns, paper bags that they had decorated and punched into shapes, so that our driveway would be lit. And that was exceptionally beautiful. I had a friend who worked at a medical spa gift me all sorts of lotions and treatments to help me with my burns and any discomfort that I had.
Maybe the most meaningful of all was a gentleman who had no idea who I was. I was familiar with him, Blake Gillette, because he had written some primary music that I loved to teach my primary kids. I reached out to him at one point to thank him for his music, and I closed my email with something like, "I'm in awe of your talent. I've tried to write songs before, and I can't do it. I'm just really glad that somebody like you is out there sharing music with the world, thank you." And he wrote back, let's hear what you got. And because of his willingness to reach out to me, we co-wrote this song, "I Feel God's Light," where I got to testify of how I feel the Holy Ghost impacts me on a personal level, all the time, but most especially during this accident when I felt so in tune. Whenever I was having a difficult day, and those days did come, if I listened to that song, it was a reminder to me of all the miracles that we'd felt, and how strong the Holy Ghost was attending to me during that time. And even still, it brings me to tears just thinking about how special that time was, and to have that captured in song was really special. I'm really grateful for people who served with their own personality.
Morgan Jones 31:08
I think that that is so beautiful. The idea that we bring to the table what we have to offer. It's kind of like the wise men, right? They brought what they had to give to the Christ child, and every one of us has an opportunity. When there is someone in need of love, it doesn't mean that—maybe you don't have nursing skills, or maybe you don't do well at the sight of an open wound or whatever—but you can bring what you have to offer, and that can make a beautiful difference and an impression on someone's heart. And so I think that's such a good point, Lori.
Lori Walker 31:54
Absolutely, you said that so well. I've really learned that serving with who you are individually feels the very best to people, and that display of love is what heals more than the gift itself. I've also found myself, at times, shying away from opportunities to serve, thinking, "Well, this feels like an especially hard time, I'm sure they only want close family or friends right now," but I've learned that not knowing somebody very well should never stop me from writing a note or dropping something off. I've been very touched by people's willingness to reach out in any way they knew how.
Morgan Jones 32:36
Yeah. I think sometimes, we feel uncomfortable because we think that. We think, "Oh, I don't know them," or, "They're gonna think this is weird," and we let all of those things hold us back. I've quoted this quote before on this podcast, but I think it was Camilla Kimball who said, "Never surpress a generous thought." My grandma was a great example of that to me. She had a neighbor who, her husband passed away, and my grandma had been without her husband for years. She called this neighbor, and she said, "I know that you're going through a hard time, and I just wondered if I could come and sit with you." She didn't know this lady very well, and we didn't know that this had happened until after my grandma passed away and this lady reached out and told us about this experience and how much it had meant to her. And so I think, sometimes, we kind of have to step out of our comfort zone. Knowing my grandma, that was not in her comfort zone. So I think that idea, Lori, is so beautiful and important. I want to talk a little bit about what you've learned from this experience about the power of prayer.
Lori Walker 33:48
Wow. Well, I think we were prayed for in a variety of ways, and I think every one of them helped. We had our ward fasting and praying for us. We had our names in temples around the world. We had little primary kids who never fast decide that this is the first time they're going to give it a go. We had priesthood blessings give us strength and hope. I had the very special opportunity of having a priesthood blessing—several, actually, but only one of which I was conscious for and remember—from a gentleman who was my home teacher my whole life long, back in Boston, and he was he was now living in Salt Lake and was able to come to the hospital and give me a blessing. To have that blessing from two sources that knew me so well. One, a man who had known me my whole life from the time I was a baby, and two, Heavenly Father being behind that and knowing, not just who I've been, but who he wants me to become. The words from that blessing are personal and special to me, but what I really got out of it was that I was going to be okay (which I'd already been told), and that I would be more from having gone through this.
That prayer gave me this feeling of empowerment. Like this wasn't just an accident that happened, and now deal with it. It felt like it was part of the plan for me all along, and that I was ready for this and I knew that I wouldn't know what to do with it. I'm still figuring that part out, but those words were very comforting to me. I felt so much love coming from the whole world into our hearts. You know, sometimes you hear people talk about the Spirit feeling like a hug around you? I felt lifted, carried through all of this. Like I just was above all of the worst aspects of this. I have people ask me what it was like to feel the pain that I was feeling in the hospital. I don't remember the pain at all. I remember how amazing it felt to feel carried through that experience, and I believe it was prayer that lifted us through.
Morgan Jones 36:32
Yeah. Lori, you mentioned that the song that you were able to help write, that it's called—correct me if I'm wrong—I Feel God's Light. Is that right?
Lori Walker 36:45
Morgan Jones 36:48
So how have you felt the light of God and the love of God in the days, weeks and months since the explosion?
Lori Walker 36:57
Wow. Well, the days I may have touched on a little bit already, where I couldn't communicate, but I could listen, and I felt so much comfort coming from those feelings of "It's going to be okay, you're going to be fine, and you don't need to be afraid." As my progress allowed me to be more verbal and communicate and move around a little bit, I become a little more independent. The feelings I was receiving were more of comfort and peace—and even joy, really. Is that possible in a hospital room? It brought me to a point where all I thought about were the most important things—and the most important things, I still had. I was given a lot of confidence and strength. I feel like I was given the knowledge that things were going to work out well enough. When I think about the ways that I feel the Spirit, I feel it with feelings of humility, faith, gratitude, hope, feeling bonded with my family and friends, having scriptures or meaningful quotes come to my mind at just the right moment. A real, deep sense that God knows me and loves me. And I felt all of those things.
Morgan Jones 38:37
Yeah. Lori, let me ask you this. You mentioned in the video that I watched that your mother passed away, how long ago?
Lori Walker 38:48
My mom passed away April 15th, 2018, after more than a decade of complications with early-onset Alzheimer's. I felt closer to her after this accident than I had felt with her for some time. Of course, you feel close to someone when you serve them, and you learn to love them in a unique way. But in terms of that bonding that a mother has with her child, where you turn to your mom because she knows what's best, or all the right things to say—that had been gone for a little while with this disease having ravaged so much of her personality. But in this accident, I felt my mom fighting for me. And I felt her presence close. I felt closer to her than I felt in so long.
I don't always share this experience—I think it might sound strange to some, but it's very real to me. There was a time in the hospital. Most of my experience in the hospital was that I was kept very comfortable in terms of physical pain, but there was one evening where I woke up in a lot of pain. It was strange, I hadn't felt that much pain. But there's this magic little button, you push the hospital, and in the unit I was in, when you push that button, they come running fast. I pushed that button for help to see if they could give me some more medicine, and nobody was coming. I don't know how much time had passed. You know how it is when you're alone and in the dark and in pain, that time feels like it's going longer than it is. But I had a thought, "Silly Lori, why don't you say a prayer?" So I closed my eyes and I leaned back and I asked for help to get through this time. Maybe for the pain to subside, or for someone to come quickly—just for help. And at that moment, I felt a sweet little patting on my leg.
I opened my eyes, thinking it was a nurse telling me that she had my medicine, and to sit up and take the medicine. But there was nobody there. I looked under the sheets, I looked all around me—I could find no explanation for that sweet patting on my leg. But I laid back down and decided, "I'll just keep praying until the nurse does come." And all that time while I laid back and prayed and waited, I felt that little patting on my leg. I didn't see anything, I have no confirmation that that was my mom, but it reminded me so much of when I was sick or distressed, and my mom didn't know how she could help but she would just pat me on the leg while I talked. It felt very much like my mom just being right there with me and saying, "Hang on just a little bit longer." Eventually, the nurse did come and everything worked out just fine. I went to sleep. I might have even forgotten the experience or decided that, "Well, it was the middle of the night. It could have been just a dream," but I woke up my dad who was asleep in the cot next to me to make sure that he knew what had just happened. I'm so glad that I said something, because it's so easy to forget those very special things. But because I said it out loud, and shared it with someone, it made it easier to remember.
Morgan Jones 42:31
Thank you so much for sharing that. That's such a beautiful experience. Lori, where are you at now in terms of your healing process? And what unique challenges does this present stage bring for you in healing?
Lori Walker 42:48
Well, maybe I should give you a rundown of what the initial injuries were so I can tell you how they've come along.
Morgan Jones 42:55
Lori Walker 42:56
My face was blasted pretty well. I am missing most of my teeth on the right side of my face. I'm still waiting for permanent teeth to go in there. I think that those will happen in a few more months; I have to be patient while we wait for the bone grafting to take and heal. My face has been restructured with all sorts of materials that aren't natural to the human body, but those have done fairly well. I've got some facial swelling and facial scars, but I don't have to look at myself nearly as often as the rest of you do, so I'm fine with that. I have burns, I was told about 36% of my body was burned, but the scars really don't bother me. If anything, they're sort of a visual reminder to me of everything that we've gone through, like a tattoo that I didn't mean to get. I had a surgery on my thumb—my left thumb had initially been pretty much blasted off and was resewn on by a miraculous surgeon. It doesn't have a lot of function, but a recent surgery gave it a little bit more, and I can play the piano—not very well, but I can play the piano. I can't give thumbs up to people. They don't know what I'm doing when I try. But I can pull a cookie sheet out of the oven. I can do the things that are important with it.
My right foot is probably my biggest frustration because of how severely it had been damaged. I don't have full use of my foot. I can't feel all of it. There are some swelling issues we're trying to contain with compression socks and massage and elevating. The bones are bone-on-bone. There's no longer a natural gap there, so I have some severe arthritis. I had a really disappointing experience, where I had hoped that a special brace I had made for my foot would make me walk normally. I had seen these YouTube videos where people couldn't walk 1000 feet, but they put this brace on and they could run a 5K, or go rock climbing, and I just thought, "This is gonna be at my everything. This is gonna fix my whole life." I put that brace on, and with the first step, I just started to cry. I thought that might happen, but I thought that I'd be crying because I was so excited and relieved that I could live my life with this brace. I was crying because I felt the same amount of pain that I did before. The brace wasn't everything that I had hoped that it would be, and it won't allow me to run a 5K.
The first year was all about fighting for every ounce of anything that I could get, and going to doctor's appointments. There was so much change all the time. I mean, week by week, we were seeing progress. It was very motivating, and I had this idea in my mind that, because I'd been promised that I was going to be okay and everything was going to be fine, that meant I'd be fully healed. And I was really, really helped by that feeling. The second year, the last three months, really, have been maybe the hardest of the whole experience. I am starting to understand that "fully healed" doesn't mean exactly the way your body was before the accident, that "fully healed" is probably going to more mean, feeling 100% okay with this new normal, and being able to do the things that are most important to me. It's hard to let go of. I'd hope that everything would be perfect. Perfect is a hard word to use. And now I need to come to a new understanding that it's not going to be exactly the way it was. And then I'm going to learn to be okay with that and choose to be happy, like our family theme. It's hard. I'm a very naturally optimistic person; I have been my whole life, and it's been discouraging to find myself being less optimistic than I'm used to being. I haven't always understood a lack of optimism in people, and now I'm learning that there is a place for those feelings. There's a time to be discouraged, and there are things to learn from that. I'm learning a lot in some of the darkest times about myself. And I think the lower I drop, the easier it is to recognize when I'm being lifted.
Morgan Jones 48:31
Yeah. Lori, I think that is such an important thought that you just shared. I think sometimes when we are naturally a certain way, then it can be difficult to understand, "Well, why isn't everybody?" Whitney Johnson was on this podcast and she talked about how, when you think something is just naturally easy, that that usually is a good indication that that's a strength of yours. So, in your case, it sounds like you were a naturally optimistic person, and that was a strength of yours, but I think it's interesting how we have experiences that allow us to have empathy for others around us. So sometimes it requires having experiences to be like, "Oh, that's how that person felt in this situation," and then that will serve you for the rest of your life. Hopefully, you do go back to feeling more optimistic, but at least you'll have had that experience to draw back on. Lori, before we get to our final question, I just wanted to ask you how you feel that this experience has made you appreciate life more fully, and how it has changed you as a person.
Lori Walker 49:49
I had a dream once a long time ago, like a decade ago, that I was put in this room and given a piece of paper and a pencil, and I had a limited amount of time to write down everything that I was grateful for, or it would disappear forever. And I remember waking up really stressed from that dream about, "What did I forget to write on that list?" I feel like I'm living life a little more intentionally than I ever did before, and I find myself grateful for the smallest of things like, "Oh, I can get up off the couch and walk to the bathroom today, that feels nice." Just the smallest things. There's a Nick Day song that I really like, called "I'm Not Broken." And a line in there, "I may be bruised, but I'm not broken. I may be tired, but I'm alive. And I will live with arms wide open. This heart can love. I'm not broken."
There are a lot of things that I can't do anymore, and it's a little sad. I mean, I used to be the strongest person in my little group. You know, if somebody needed something lifted, I was the first one to say, "Oh, I'll get that for you." I just feel so capable. I used to get so much done in a day. I would walk faster than most people. In fact, one of my biggest hang-ups was people that walk slow, like, "Come on, there's so much to do! Walk a little faster, we got places to go, things to do." Now I'm the weakest one in every group, and people save me the soft chair, and I'm the slowest walker in every crowd, even in nursing homes. But I love more deeply than I ever did before. I mean, when you hang out with friends and you say, "Oh, I love you." No, I don't love you, like, I LOVE you. I love you so hard. It's awkward. I'm sorry for it, it's just, I do feel like I take life a little more seriously than I did before. That's not always a good thing. I think I used to be a little sillier and a little lighter than I am now, but it does make me appreciate things on a deeper level. And I am grateful for that.
Morgan Jones 52:11
Lori, I wish that you could see me right now, because I can't get a hold of myself. I'm very emotional all of a sudden. Thank you so much for sharing that. My last question for you—and you know that this question is coming—but it's, what does it mean to you to be all in the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
Lori Walker 52:30
My brain did not go any one direction when you asked me that question. The first thing I thought about was food. I really, really love food. I have my whole life. I really enjoy it—an unusual amount, more than most people. When I was younger, enjoying food meant, "I like it when people serve me food that I like," or, "I like going out to eat at this particular place." But now that I've grown in maturity for my love of food, I don't as much enjoy being served delicious food as much as I love creating it myself. I like trying new things and serving it to people, and, best of all, I love it when they take a bite and say, "Oh, this is so good." I mean, I'd rather somebody say "this is so good" than "you're so nice." I just love it when I can make something that other people enjoy.
Then I also thought about this wedding that I attended this weekend with my good friend Nicole, watching her make this decision to be joined with somebody and no longer be seen as an individual, but as part of a team, and have this new identity where they work together for everything. We don't always use these words in our temple sealings, but, "for richer or poorer, in sickness or in health." She's all in with her husband for it all. No matter what, that's who she wants to be with. There's a line in the hymn "I Believe in Christ" that says, "Come what may, with Him I'll stand." When I think about that wedding, I think about how committed they feel, come what may, I'm here for it all.
Lastly, I thought about my relationship with Jesus Christ and how I feel completely dependent on him: indebted and deeply grateful for what He gives me that I can't do on my own. There's no amount of work I can do that makes me good enough, that qualifies me to return to my Heavenly Father without Him. There's there's no way to thank him for that, or make that equal, I just can be indebted and feel grateful. So when I think about your question of being all in, I think about how, like my love of food, I love to share the gospel, and it feels the best when I am able to share something that is then meaningful to, say, my children, for instance. Being a parent is so hard, but when you see your kids latch on to something that has also been important to you, I feel like "Ah, that's great, that feels great." I feel fully committed to this gospel, like my friend was her wedding, that makes me more than I can be by myself. And I feel so indebted and grateful for Jesus Christ. And that's what all in looks like for me.
Morgan Jones 55:44
Lori, thank you so much for being willing, not only to share your experience, but to share your heart and the things that you've felt and the things that you've pondered over the course of the last year and a half. I am just so grateful to you for being willing to share all of this with us.
Lori Walker 56:03
Thank you so much. It means a great deal to me to be able to share the things that are so important, so thank you.
Morgan Jones 56:11
We are so grateful to Lori Walker for sharing her story on today's episode. After we recorded this episode, Lori shared a thought with me about scars in an email, and I thought it was so wonderful that it needed to be shared with you in an additional audio clip.
Lori Walker 56:30
Sometimes, I have strangers approach me and asked me about my scars or my limp, and they want to know what happened. I've given a lot of thought to my appearance, and how I stand out from the crowd because I don't walk as smoothly anymore, and I really am not bothered by my scars at all. At all. They don't bother me at all, even the ones that are on my face. I'm fine with it. I've given a lot of thought to what people say about how, after this life, we'll all be made perfect again, that we'll be whole, that everything that's been injured or harmed will be made perfect.
And I consider that, but I consider that along with knowing that the times that Christ has appeared after his resurrection, He's appeared with His scars. He comes and shows his scars, and encourages people to touch them, and He uses them to testify of who He is and what He's experienced. And I think I can learn something from that. I think that if I think of my scars as an opportunity to testify of who I am and what I believe, most especially having experienced all that we have, that's a pretty awesome gift. I mean, how many people would have just approached me in a normal circumstance and said, "Hey, you look like you've got something interesting to say. What do you think about life?" Now, people will come up to me and say, "Hey, what happened to you?" And I get this platform to tell people that I believe in miracles, that I believe in a Heavenly Father who knows me well enough to help me through hard things, that I believe in a Holy Spirit that can comfort and guide and inspire. It's awesome. So I've chosen to be grateful for these scars.
Morgan Jones 58:58
You can read and watch more about Lori Walker's story and her recovery by visiting courageandkindness.org. We are so grateful to Derek Campbell of Mix at 6 Studios for his work on this episode, and we are so appreciative to you, as always, for listening. We'll look forward to spending more time with you next week.