Grateful and Positive

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Grateful and Positive

Dustie Nelson, Design Editor

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“Have you ever wondered, if you died who would ever show up to your funeral? I now don’t have to question that…”

Linda Miller, Ceramics and Art Teacher at Lincoln High School, had a near death experience in the fall of 2017. It was late in the afternoon after a staff meeting, which had run long, and she was just finishing up a conversation with her close friend, and art teacher, Vonnie McGinn. McGinn wished her safe travels, and Miller got into her car; continuing her evening just as she did every other day of her life in Lincoln.

As  Miller drove along the old country roads on her way home, she noticed an oncoming driver in the distance ahead of her. As the man neared her, she began to realize that he was driving into her lane. Miller looked to her left and to her right, but there was nowhere for her to go without disrupting the cattle that grazed just beyond the chain-linked fences.

“It happened in a split second, and in that split second I made the decision to try to just go around him,” said Miller. She further explained that she had tried to avoid him by driving into his lane. Miller was later told that the driver had been asleep; he had woken up and then tried to veer back into his lane, which caused him to collide head on with Miller’s vehicle.

Miller was awake throughout the entire accident, and claimed that her experience was out-of-body. “I remember watching everything happen. I experienced everything happening from left to right, I felt like someone had pulled me out of the car, and I felt like I watched it from the side of the window,” stated Miller.

Immediately after the accident, Miller was in a state of shock. She hadn’t been able to comprehend that she had survived, in fact she had completely expected to die. Miller had sat in her car for about ten minutes screaming for help before two men came to her rescue. She only directly spoke with one of the men, who claimed to own a farm near the school and to also be a veteran paramedic. The man attempted to help Miller out of her vehicle, but her injuries were too substantial for him to safely remove her from the car; so the man sat with Miller for an hour and a half, supporting her both physically and emotionally.

Miller doesn’t know the identity of this man, however she wants to ultimately find him so that she may thank him for his efforts and for his help.

The paramedics eventually came and removed Miller from the vehicle. They had to pull on her legs, where she sustained most of her injuries, back into place and assess the damage right there on scene. When  Miller was transported to the hospital the ER doctors told her that they did not have the ability to help her because the damage to her body was so extensive.

After transferring from several hospitals, Miller had learned that she had two to four broken bones in her right foot, a broken heel, shattered right tibia, a shattered right femur, a fractured left fibula, a fractured left ankle, six broken ribs in total, and three broken bones in her spine. She also contracted a pulmonary embolism, in which blood clots gathered within the arteries in her lungs. “I mean, I knew how close I was to death, I thought for sure I was going to die. But then even after that, I didn’t know how close to death I was, or how badly damaged I was,” stated Art and Ceramics Teacher, Linda Miller.

After a single surgery – with the possibility of two – and a year of physical therapy, Miller had graduated from complete bed rest to a walking cane; which she still uses now.

Miller explained that this experience has strengthened her beliefs and awareness of her purpose in life. “I feel like there was a purpose and a plan for what happened,” claimed Miller, “It was not good, but I got blessed so much by the experience in a really backwards, crazy way.”

After endless visits from her friends and colleagues, Miller truly began to see each of the lives that she had touched. It was humbling and awakening for her to see how her life truly affected others’. Miller explained that during her hospital stay, her cousin started a GoFundMe page that raised enough money for an entire month of care; mostly funded by friends, strangers, and distant acquaintances.

“Everything worked out amazingly, because I literally had just enough money saved, aside from one month of expenses. And that was the month that I used my GoFundMe money. It literally carried me financially through the difficulties,” explained Miller.

“Do you ever wonder, what’s the point? Why does it matter? Why am I here?” asked Miller, considering the same aspects of her life. “We all have those feelings. Every single person, I think, has those feelings.”

Miller further elaborated, “my life matters a lot, and there are people who I have affected, and that is such a great feeling.”

This experience not only allowed Miller to consider herself, but to also consider the role she plays on this planet, and how she affects the lives of her students and audiences. “I think that’s why I became a teacher too, and why I am an artist. It’s because I can do things, and I can make things that help somebody build their life. That’s what’s important to me.”

Miller also explained that though this experience did open her eyes, it was difficult for her to be away from her students for so long. “I thought about my students every single day that I was gone. I even got a zebra blanket and some zebra pjs,” said Miller, “I just missed my kids so much. I wanted so badly to be back at work.” Eight weeks off turned into three months, three months turned to four, four turned to seven months. It was important for Miller to fully heal before returning.

The Art and Ceramics teacher is extremely excited to be back at Lincoln High. This school year, she is a director in the LHS Art Club. Miller is already busy writing grants for new kilns and art supplies, and also deep in the creation of her own art. At the moment, Miller and her colleague, Art Teacher Deborah Pratt, are focusing on really building and expanding the ceramics program, and she is working alongside the various art teachers to improve and grow the art program; trying to introduce an advanced art class.  Miller is content on only looking on the positives of her experience, claiming, “Right now I am focusing on what I have to do today, and maybe even what I have to do tomorrow.”

Miller wants to use her energy in positive ways, expressing her gratitude for her time here. She wants to focus on her students, on her teaching, on her life, and on her art.  She only looks at her experience with optimism, and only focuses on the true meaning of what happened. “I still drive down that same road on my way home every day, to this day. I still think about it, and I still wonder exactly where it was… But I drive down it, and I think ‘okay, this happened, and guess what? I am still on this road, I am still driving home, and I am okay.”