They had been married only 14 months when they traveled from Nashville to New York for a wedding. It was August 14, 2015, and in a matter of moments, their life together was irrevocably changed.
Harrison Waldron is 23. His wife Hayley is 22. On August 14, Harrison was involved in an ATV accident that left him with a severe brain injury. The Waldrons are former members of my congregation. Like thousands of others, I learned of Harrison's accident on Facebook, and I followed the Waldrons' posts as they rushed to be with Harrison in a Pennsylvania hospital.
Harrison's mother posted, the only hope we have is a miracle from God.
Fast forward to November 21, 2015, in a hospital room at the Shepherd Spinal Center in Atlanta, Georgia.
On that day, Hayley Waldron looked at an iPad screen and saw three sentences--sentences that perhaps most of us would take for granted, that we would expect our spouse to say, but which Hayley would not--and perhaps never will again--take for granted.
"I love you."
"I have wanted to say that."
"My wife is the best."
Hayley's response was to burst with joy. As did everyone else who read her status update that day.
More than anyone, Hayley, this 22-year-old wife, has born the brunt of this journey she is making with Harrison. She has sat with Harrison, listened to doctors' prognoses, watched nurses as they cared for him, seen therapists work with him. She is living in the house of a very generous and hospitable couple. Daily, she gets up, spends her days with her husband, and then returns home.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
For Hayley, there was no question that she would journey with Harrison. She has chronicled this part of their lives in numerous Facebook posts and in videos, and in a journal she is keeping for Harrison.
The Christian Chronicle told their story in this article, published in mid-November.
For weeks, her prayer request was for Harrison to "wake up". Friends, relatives, and even people who didn't know them used #wakeupharrison to spread the word.
He began "waking up" when he started pointing to "yes" and "no", when he started pointing to words, when he was given an iPad and let people know in no uncertain terms that, on that day, he was done with therapy.
We knew he'd awakened when he told his wife he loved her.
Later, his parents--who now live in Honduras as missionaries--asked him, what do you want us to bring you from Honduras?
His answer: "Coffee."
Then he was asked, how long have you been able to hear?
He said, "I have been able to hear since Pennsylvania."
And then he apologized for making everyone worry about him.
Hayley has documented all of this. She's been our window to this journey. She shows her faith and courage daily as she reports on Harrison's progress. She demonstrates faith as, day by day, she travels to the Shepherd Center to observe Harrison, to talk with him, to watch his therapy sessions, to visit with those who come to see him.
They are due to go home on January 27th.
Hayley and Harrison's journey will not end when they leave the Shepherd Center. There will still be therapy, still be care, still be challenges to face. In a sense, they are trying to walk from Washington state to Washington, DC.
For Christmas, Harrison arranged to give Hayley a ring and bracelet with opals (his birthstone).
She framed a copy of their wedding vows and, in a video she posted on Facebook, read them to Harrison. She said it was a reminder of what she'd promised him on their wedding day.
In a day and time where wedding vows are broken for superficial reasons, Hayley has refused to give up on her husband. She takes seriously the portion of the traditional vows that state "for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, for as long as we both shall live, until death do us part." She chooses daily to remain by his side, to join him on the walk he is taking.
I have spoken much about deeds, faith and courage. I realize, as I am writing this, that I've neglected to say where Hayley's faith comes from and from where she draws her courage. Over and over and over, she has credited God, expressed faith in God, poured out her heart to God, requested prayers on Harrison's behalf. She has chosen to reach outside herself for what she needs day by day. Her faith is not in any strength or courage that she has mustered up, or in any "positive thinking" that she may be able to create. She knows that, day by day, only God can fill her with what she needs.
The website dictionary.com defines heroine as "a woman of distinguished courage or ability, admired for her brave deeds and noble qualities."
Look up that definition, and you ought to find a picture of Hayley Waldron.
Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.