10/31/2018 2:28:00 PM Publisher's Column
Emily has always been special, as a daughter and as a person
It was a real joy seeing Emily receive her Toward Zero Deaths award last week in Mankato and the attention that she has received as a result.
Emily and I fell in love with each other quite soon after I met her, her mother and her brother. She was eight-years-old and sick with "the flu" the night we met. She rested on a couch while Melanie and I talked on another couch. Her brother David was going on two and spent a lot of the evening resting his head on my knee and listening to us. Emily hardly moved.
I was publisher of a newspaper 40 miles from their home. Melanie sang in a choral group, Kampeska Chorale. Emily, David and I would go to all their concerts together. I was usually tired when we got to the concerts and would fall asleep on occasion, often to the point of snoring. Emily got to be pretty good at knowing just when to poke me. It got to be kind of a game.
We had just completed the foundation, framed up the walls and installed the trusses on a 28' x 40' addition to our home she and I were building, when she had her accident. We had painted the house together, Mel and David helped with that, too, but she was my go-to building buddy.
She worked with her school counselor to start a mentoring program to help elementary students with problems by getting them a high school student mentor. She also worked with the dance coach to develop a dance program for girls in elementary grades. We knew nothing about these projects until after her accident and mothers started showing up at our door asking how they might help Emily and telling how she had helped their children.
When Emily was discharged from the hospital, we were advised to place her in a nursing home, advice we ignored. The first Sunday she was home, we took her to church in a wheel chair. When we got home she said she would not ride in the wheel chair again. We had to assist her, one on each side, when we went out.
Emily was always very independent and had super people and leadership skills. She was always looking for ways she could use those skills to help other people and to help people get along. Teachers often commented that when Emily came problems in the classroom dropped off, that she was a peacemaker.
I don't know what Emily would have accomplished if she had not suffered a traumatic brain injury, but I am proud of how she has refused to allow this tragedy to define her life, that she has retained her dedication to using her life to make the world around her better to the best of her ability.
Emily works to share her story in hope of preventing other people from having a similar experience. It was a joy to see her get the award for that service to others and to see her realize that she is making a positive difference in other peoples lives.
She was overwhelmed, and so were Melanie and I.
Thanks, too, to all of you who let her know you read her column. It means so much and encourages her so much when she learns her column is being read.