Thursday, June 23, 2011

Update: 12:15pm on 6/23

Tuesday, I unexpectedly got the chance to go to DC and see Forrest, Austin and Rae. I hadn’t seen Forrest since about 48 hours after the accident, so I was very excited to finally get to see him again. Truth be told, my excitement turned to nervousness as I got to National Rehab around 2:30; as Rae and Kent’s assistant for the last 3 and a half years, I have had an intimate perspective on the last 5 months, and I just didn’t know what to expect, and worried about whether I would burst into tears when I saw him, what to say….I don’t even really know what, just the unknown of the whole situation. 

Forrest was in the hallway in his chair when we got up to the floor, and Rae told him that I had come to see him. I can’t find the words to express how great it was to see Forrest, to hold his hand and talk to him about what was going on at the farm, about how proud I was of him and how happy I was to see him. While he was pretty quiet and tired yesterday, more than once, he made direct eye contact with me and held my gaze for a while, letting me know that he knew that I was there. After we talked for a bit, he dozed off for a quick snooze before his physical therapist came to take him to do his walking for the day.

My first experience with the word humbled on this day was watching Forrest work in his PT session. His therapist and Austin got him up on those impossibly long legs, and for those minutes, you just  have never seen anybody work harder than Forrest did. His concentration was evident on his face as he fought to connect thought to movement, and we were overjoyed to see him take a purposeful step; the joy that radiated from Rae when he did was palpable.

I left to run to National to go pick up Aunt Lobie, returning for another session of frontline Team 44. After dropping her off with Rae, I intended to back up to the floor to say goodbye to the boys quickly before fighting through the rush hour traffic to get home. I ended up staying with them for almost another 2 hours, during which I had opportunity for more encounters with the word “humbled”. In Forrest’s room, for the most part, it was just the boys and me; nurses came and went, but mostly, just us. To have the opportunity to just hang out with them was nothing short of amazing. Austin moves with a quiet purpose, constantly monitoring Forrest’s movements and expressions, his breathing rate and his lines. Much of the time, Austin worked on flexing Forrest’s legs, easing the tension in his hamstrings, and I knelt on the floor next to Forrest’s bed, holding one of his hands and using the other hand to help soothe him when he would seem to become distressed. Austin’s dedication to caring for Forrest has been apparent to anyone who reads the blog, but to see it in action was incredible. I am awed by his devotion to his little brother and to his family. With the exception of greatly missing Forrest’s witty conversation and snappy comebacks, it felt like old times to be with them and joke around and just hang out. Again Forrest made direct eye contact with me on more than one occasion, making sure I knew he was with us and a part of the conversation, even though he couldn’t verbally respond.

Finally, it came time for me to go home, though honestly, I hated to leave. Whatever nervousness I felt at first was so quickly replaced by the ease of old friends, and my tremendous love for the two boys I spent the evening with. Rae, Kent, Austin and Forrest have become my extended family in the time I’ve been with them, and I am honored to be a part of theirs. I told Forrest that I had to go, promising that it wouldn’t be so long before I saw him again. I kissed his hand and stood up, turning to give Austin a hug when Forrest raised up his right arm towards me; Austin said, “He’s trying to give you a hug!!” which after some maneuvering, he was able to do. He rested his arm across my shoulder and very purposefully patted my back several times, while Austin said that that was the first time he’d done that in some time. I blew them a kiss goodbye, and I am not ashamed to say that I walked out into the hallway and burst into tears by the elevators, totally overcome with pride for how hard Forrest is working and what an amazing man Austin has become, awe for how Rae and Kent have held everything together for their family and work’s sake alike. Humbled doesn’t begin to describe it.


Forrest hard at work as Austin looks on.

Rebekah glad to be reunited with Forrest for the first time since January.

Rebekah and Forrest


  1. Hi Forrest. I'm so happy to see that you are up in your chair again, AND learning to walk again!! I know it is SO HARD for you to have to achieve all of this again, but I feel SURE that you can do it again, just like you did it before!! There are so many of us out here praying for you that I KNOW He is with you every step of the way. Just know that we are continually praying for you on a daily basis, and we'll continue to do so until you have conquered this thing!!

    Love to you all, and God Bless!

    Wilbur and Joyce Ellis

  2. Rebekah, what a wonderful post, and what great news. SO good to see you back at work walking and moving that bod, Mr. Forrest! Go, 44, go!!! You are a superstar! Caroline knows first hand how hard all that physical therapy is, so she is rooting for you the loudest!

    Carina and Caroline Elgin
    Team 44 cheerleaders - RAHRAH!

  3. Rebekah, it was great to see you today even though Kent had disappointing news for me and my almost horse. :( I really enjoyed hanging out with the Virginia Equine folks.

    I enjoyed hearing about your visit with Forrest first-hand, and now reading the eloquent details you included. Sounds like an awesome and inspiring visit.

    Rae, Kent and Austin - your tireless devotion is overwhelming to those who know you. Please be assured that we pray every day for you and your precious Forrest. I hope that this facility is one in which you can be confident and that each day in the coming weeks assures you of this. I also pray that you receive a renewed sense of hope with each of Forrest's accomplishments. I pray that the next course of action, therapy, or surgery is made clear and that the path is straight and you are confident in it.

    As you might imagine, we're itching to see all of you. We'll wait 'til you're settled and we hear news of your readiness for more visitors.

    I know from my nursing years, rehab is the grunt work of recovery. I know from spending time at your farm today, and in the presence of Kent's medical prowess and the business of his professional team, you all are really good at grunt work. Hard, focused, grunt work that leads to success.

    Lastly, I know from my years as a mother, seeing your child suffer is the grunt work of your faith.

    Keep the faith, dear friends. Your reward will come.

    "He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." (Isaiah 40:28-31)

    With love and hope,
    Shannon and family

  4. What a wonderful post! I love the verse above by Shannon. So encouraging. Praying you will soar like and eagle and run and not grow weary some day soon.

    We love you!
    Kelly and Family:)

  5. forest,
    you are so loved and cared for. you have an inner strength that will pull you through this. a challenge you will achieve. I think about you every day and your family. There is nothing stronger than belief, prayers and strength for you and your family.

  6. Thank you for such a nice post and allowing us to vicariously enjoy your visit...lots of good things to read. Forrest, it is great to see you standing with the therapist and connecting with Rebekah - we too continue to pray for ongoing successes, hard work and needed rest, and the conviction to keep moving forward. We are with you in spirit, believing in you and your Team and all that is possible in the time ahead. With love, The Shermans

  7. What a great and hopeful post. Forrest, it is so inspiring to see your hard work in action. Humbling is the perfect word to describe the progress you make every day.
    Jim and Gail Wofford

  8. I'm sending prayers and good wishes to Forrest and family. I'm sorry I didn't get to actually see you during your most recent stay at UVA - we are all hoping for miraculous progress every day for you.