The Words of the Weber Family

Like A Phoenix: a story about surviving disasters

Ken Weber
January 29, 2011

In Ancient Egyptian Mythology, the phoenix was a sacred bird said to come out of Arabia every 500 years, where it consumed itself in fire on an altar, and arose from its own ashes renewed as a young and beautiful bird. It is a symbol of rebirth and immortality.

Part One: Disaster

Whenever 20 year-old Janice Boyle skated at the local ice skating rink, she attracted the attention of everyone, pros and amateurs alike! She sailed effortlessly around the ice as if she was floating on a cloud, for when she was skating, she was in heaven! She loved to skate and disciplined herself to be the best skater that she could be.

Janice was just as disciplined in other aspects of her life as well. In church, for instance, she was deeply religious. Religion was more than a one-day-a-week event for her. She studied at home on a daily basis, attended meetings at the church, and the thing that she loved most, taught Sunday School every week.

Her mother, Martha Boyle, was proud of her daughter and participated with her in as much as she could. Skating together, mother and daughter would sail around the rink. But eventually Janice would leave her mother to perform some new moves that she had learned, and Martha would watch in amazement and awe at the skill of her daughter. At church they studied and prayed together and attended the various meetings together. Martha even acted as assistant teacher in her daughter's Sunday School class, and she was moved at how much Janice loved each of the children.

It was on an outing after the church service one Sunday that disaster struck. The entire congregation had gone on a picnic at a nearby park. While the adults participated in the various outdoor activities, Janice and her mother led the children in various games. However, as the games progressed, one young toddler's attention was attracted to a squirrel scampering around some distance away. Being curious, the child left the group and began advancing toward the frisky animal.

Janice told her mother to watch the group while she went to retrieve the stray tot. She laughed as she watched the interaction between the child and the squirrel. Each time the tot walked forward and reached for the animal, the squirrel would scamper away. Several times this happened, and it became a kind of dance between the child and the animal. The child would advance, and the squirrel would run away…child advance…squirrel run away… After a few times the toddler became determined that he was going to catch this elusive creature, and he braced himself to run after the squirrel the next time it moved.

They were now next to a road, and too late Janice realized what was about to happen. In a swift movement, the squirrel darted across the road, and in a not quite so swift movement, the child followed. Janice screamed! A car was now speeding down the road! It looked as if there was no way to keep the car from hitting the tot. Using every ounce of her energy, Janice leaped into action and started running as hard as she could. Out of the corner of her eye she saw the car getting closer and closer. It was clear that the driver did not see the child. With only a second to spare, Janice leaped into the air, grabbed the child, and tossed it forward to the other side of the road.

The impact came while she was still in the air. Janice bounced off the hood of the car and felt herself flying through space. Landing on her back on the pavement, she felt pain surge through her body. She tried to move, but none of her muscles responded. Closing her eyes, she felt the pain sweep over her body, and she passed out.

Slowly she fought her way back to consciences, and as she did, she became aware of a voice speaking to her. "I love you so much," the voice said. "Ever since your father died, you have been my pride and joy. Please don't give up! Please don't die!"

"Mother?" Janice tried to speak. But she found that she was unable to talk or move in response to the voice.

"Please don't give up!" her mother's voice repeated. "Please don't die!"

As Janice listened, the voice seemed to fade in the distance, and she passed out again. She was aware that time was passing, and then she felt a gentle hand touching her forehead and stroking her hair. Opening her eyes, she found herself lying in a bed in a white room, and her mother was standing over her, brushing her hair back with her hand.

Martha gasped when she saw her daughter open her eyes. She stepped back and pressed an intercom button by the bed. "Nurse!" she cried. "Come to room 348 immediately!" Then she leaned over hear daughter again. "Janice, can you hear me?" she whispered with tears coming to her eyes.

"Mother?" said Janice. "What happened? Where am I?"

"You were hit by a car," explained her mother. "You're in the hospital!"

Janice began remembering the events leading up to the accident. "The child," she whispered. "Was the child hurt?"

"No," said Martha. "You saved his life. He's fine!"

Janice tried to move, but she found that she could not feel her arms or legs, or most parts of her body! "What's happened to me?" she said beginning to panic. "Why can't I move?"

Martha closed her eyes, unable to look at her daughter. "You were seriously injured," she whispered. "Your neck was broken. The doctor says that you will probably be paralyzed. We were actually afraid that you were going to die. You have been unconscious for three days."


Now that Janice was awake, doctors and nurses came in and began checking her out. They conducted test after test. They asked her to try to move her arms and legs, and they asked her if she could feel it when they touched or poked her on various parts of her body.

Then, when they were finished, a doctor came in and sat with Janice and her mother. "Janice," he said. "The reason you cannot move or feel anything on the lower part of your body is that your neck was broken in the accident. You are paralyzed from the neck down. The nerves that were severed will never heal, and you will never again regain feeling or movement in these parts of your body."

After the doctor left, Martha sat with her daughter holding her unfeeling hand. Both women wept.


Time passed, and as the days went by, Janice began realizing just how helpless she was going to be for the rest of her life. She could not move by herself. Someone else had to put her into a wheelchair. Then she herself could not move the chair. Her mother had to push her around. She could not even eat by herself. Her mother now fed her just as if she were a baby again. She was now completely helpless and dependent on others for her survival. For a young woman who had once been so free and so active, the situation was now very depressing. Everything that she had valued about herself and her abilities was gone. She now felt completely worthless.

On one night, Janice was particularly depressed about her situation. She closed her eyes and cried herself to sleep, and as she drifted off to sleep, it felt as if some new and comforting presence had entered the room. It was one that had not been there before. Janice woke up and looked around. No one was in the room but her mother who was sitting next to her reading a book. "Did someone just come in the room?" asked Janice. Her mother looked up and shook her head. Janice closed her eyes again, and yes it felt as if there was a presence in the room, someone other than her mother. Opening her eyes, she looked around again. There was no one there.

"Whose there?" she silently wondered.

It seemed as if a voice whispered to her. "Close your eyes," it said. "I will come to you in your dreams."

Janice looked around nervously.

"Relax," whispered the voice. "Go to sleep, and you will see me."

Janice closed her eyes again. She was tired, and her mind was obviously playing tricks on her. She relaxed, and began to slowly drift off to sleep. As she slept, she began dreaming, and an image appeared before her. It was the image of a golden-haired woman in a white robe. She was standing next to a volcano! As the woman held out her hand, the volcano seemed to explode! Fire and smoke belched into the sky, and lava flowed down the mountainside killing every living thing in its path. Soon everything around the volcano was covered with hardened lava and white ash. All life on the side of the volcano had been wiped out! Everything was dead! "Watch," said the woman holding out her hand again. Now time seemed to be flying by, and as Janice watched, new plants began springing up on the side of the volcano. After awhile this once dead volcano was teeming with both plant and animal life again! It was lush, green, and full of life once more! The woman smiled at Janice. "From the ashes of disaster comes new life and new beginnings!" she said.

Janice continued dreaming, and as she did the scene changed. The golden-haired woman was still there, but now she stood next to some kind of altar. "While you sleep," said the woman, "you will find that you have new abilities. Like a phoenix, you will be able to rise up out of the ashes of disaster and become a new and beautiful being!" As the woman spoke, a phoenix bird came flying down out of the sky and landed on the altar. Instantly it was consumed by fire and soon all that was left of the bird was a pile of ashes. Then suddenly a new, younger and more beautiful bird burst forth from the ashes and flew away. "Look!" said the woman. "Take flight tonight! Become like the phoenix!"

The scene faded from Janice's mind and she woke up. "Boy! What a weird dream!" she said out loud. "Why would I dream about such things? It's really puzzling!" She looked around. Her mother was still sitting next to her reading a book.

Martha looked over at her daughter. "We all dream unusual things at times," she said. "No one knows what causes us to dream the things we do."

"Yes, I guess you're right," said Janice closing her eyes. Slowly she began drifting off to sleep again. But, this time before she was fully asleep, she heard a voice calling out. It was a child's voice.

Janice awoke with a start and looked around. "Did you hear that voice, Mother?" she asked.

"No," said Martha. "What did it sound like?"

"It was a child's voice," said Janice. "I couldn't make out what it was saying. It was almost like someone moaning in pain."

"You must still be dreaming, dear," said her mother. "Go back to sleep."

"But the voice seemed so real!" said Janice.

Janice closed her eyes, and in a few minutes she had drifted off to sleep again. As soon as she was asleep she could hear the voice again, louder and more clearly now. It was definitely a child's voice and it sounded as if the child was moaning in pain.

Janice tried to move; but she was unable to. She tried desperately to move her arms and legs; but she was unable to move. Concentrating extra hard now, she imagined herself breaking free of her body.

Suddenly Janice felt herself rising up in the air. "What's happening?" she wondered. She looked around. It definitely seemed as if she was floating in the air. Then suddenly, she realized that she could move! She could move her arms and legs! Janice took a deep breath and let out a scream of joy!

Looking up from her book, Martha gave a cry of surprise. Lying on the bed before her was the body of her daughter. Yet, in the air, she could see another image of her daughter floating and moving freely above the bed.

"I'm free!" cried Janice. "I can move!"

Dropping her book on the floor, Martha stood up and walked forward. "What in the world is happening?" she said reaching out. She gasped as her hand passed right through the image of her daughter floating in the air.

When this happened, Janice looked back at the bed. There she saw her body. "Am I dead?" she cried.

Martha leaned forward and examined her daughter's body in the bed. "No," she stammered, "…just asleep! But, how can you be asleep in bed and floating in the air at the same time?"

"I don't know," said Janice. "But somehow I am no longer limited to the confines of my body. I'm somehow free of my body!"

Janice could hear the child's voice again, and she began drifting down the hall towards it.

"Janice!" stammered Martha. "Come back!"

Janice turned and faced her mother. "Watch over my body! I'll be back soon!" Turning again, she began following the voice. It was definitely the voice of a child moaning in pain. She floated up and down hallways searching, and finally she found the room that the voice was coming from. Floating into the room, she saw a young boy lying in the bed. It was this boy who was moaning.

Slowly Janice floated forward until she was just inches above the boy. Looking down, she wondered what could be causing this boy such pain. Slowly she reached out to touch the boy, yet her hand passed right through him just as her mother's hand had passed through her minutes before!

Suddenly the boy's eyes opened, and, seeing her, he gave a cry of surprise! Rolling over on his side, the boy pulled the covers up over his face. As he did, the covers came off the lower part of his body. Janice stared in amazement! The boy had no legs!

So startled was Janice that she staggered back. Now she felt herself being drawn backwards in the direction she had come from. She drifted backwards through the halls…backwards into her room…and back into her body! With a jolt, Janice woke up and opened her eyes. Her mother was still standing above her. With a panicked whisper, Janice looked up into her mother's eyes. "That boy!" she cried. "He has no legs!"

Part Two: Up From The Ashes

Janice and her mother spent several hours talking over the experiences trying to figure out what had happened and what it meant. First of all, the dreams of the woman who showed her the volcano and the phoenix definitely seemed important. Then the experience itself seemed to be what was known of as an out-of-the-body experience. Also, there was the boy with no legs. Who was he? And why was he important?

The various things, when put together, seemed as if they could be classified as a spiritual or religious experience. So, the next day Martha called in their minister, Pastor Allen. As Janice told him of the experiences, Pastor Allen listened and shrugged his shoulders. "To my knowledge," he said, "only deeply religious people who are very disciplined are capable of having out-of-the-body experiences where they move around at will. Your experience was probably just a continuance of the dreams that you had been having."

"But, I saw Janice myself!" exclaimed Martha. "I saw her and spoke with her while she was floating in the air!"

"All right," said Pastor Allen looking at Janice. "Show me how you do it."

"OK," said Janice closing her eyes. "The woman in my dreams said it would happen when I'm asleep. So, just watch." Janice lay quietly in the bed with her eyes tightly shut. Every now and then her face twitched and her expression would change. Finally she opened her eyes again. "Darn it!" she said. "I can't relax enough to go to sleep."

Pastor Allen nodded. "Well, I had better be going." And before either Janice or her mother could say anything, he had walked out of the room. Both women stared at each other with frustration and disbelief.

"He must really think we're crazy," said Janice. "And maybe we are. Maybe it was just our imaginations. Anyway, let's forget about it. Most likely, nothing more will happen."

Little did Janice realize how wrong she was. Not only were the events going to continue, but they were going to keep getting more remarkable as they went on! They began happening again one morning after a particular exhausting series of tests and treatments. Janice and her mother had gone to the hospital cafeteria, and as they prepared to eat, Martha again picked up a fork to begin feeding her daughter.

"Oh Mother stop!" cried Janice. "This is hopeless! My life is over! I should have died in that accident!" In despair, Janice leaned back and closed her eyes. Her mother sadly watched as she cried herself to sleep again. Then, slowly Martha took her daughters food back to the food counter to get it wrapped up for later.

Soon Janice began to dream. In this dream, the woman with the golden hair stood before her again. "Janice," said the woman bending forward and touching her on the face and forehead. "Your value is not determined by this body of yours. This body is just a shell, a house for your spirit while you are alive." She continued to stroke Janice's face and forehead. "Your value is determined by who you are as a person! Look around! You will be amazed at who you are and what you are still able to do!"

Janice woke up with a start. Realizing that she had been dreaming again, she put her head back and closed her eyes again. But now she became aware that someone was indeed touching her face and forehead. That part was no dream!!!"

Janice opened her eyes and looked around. A little boy in a wheelchair was touching her and looking her in the face. Janice gasped. It was the boy with no legs that she had seen during her out-of-body experience! …and he was speaking. "I saw you in my dreams one night," he was saying. "I dreamed that you were floating above my bed! Now here you are!"

Janice looked away, not quite sure what to do or say.

The boy rolled his wheelchair back. "Watch me!" he said. He began rolling his wheelchair around the cafeteria. "I used to run, and swim, and play baseball!" he shouted. "I may not be able to do these things again. But, I'm going to walk again!"

"But you have no legs!" whispered Janice.

"Yeah!" said the boy spinning his chair around and nearly running over a man carrying a food tray. "The accident I was in really changed things. I'm going to have to do things differently. Maybe I will have fake legs. Maybe I won't. But, I'm not going to give up on living!" The boy sped around the cafeteria causing several people to dart out of his way. Finally he sped out a door and down the hall.

A woman with golden hair now came forward. Janice gasped again. It was the golden-haired woman from her dreams! "Hello," said the woman. "My name is Aurora White! I'm Toby's mother, the boy in the wheelchair. Toby was so thrilled when he saw you here!"

Janice turned to look around to find her own mother. When she looked back, she was stunned. The golden-haired woman had disappeared.

Now Janice saw her mother over by the food counter. "Mother!" she cried. "Come here quickly!"

Her mother walked over carrying a container with Janice's uneaten food. "So, you're awake again. Are you feeling any better?"

"Did you see them?" Janice shouted. "…the boy in the wheelchair? …the woman with golden hair?"

"I saw the boy in the wheelchair," said Martha. "He was having quite a time racing around. But, I didn't see a woman with golden hair."

Janice told her mother to sit down. "You're not going to believe what just happened to me," she said.


Janice was exhausted by the time Martha wheeled her back to her room. "Please let me rest here in my chair," she said. "It's too much bother putting me in bed if I'm going to have to be up later for tests." As Martha sat down to rest as well, Janice closed her eyes. Soon she was asleep.

Suddenly Janice was jolted into wakefulness by a voice calling to her. "Follow me, Janice," said the voice. Janice opened her eyes and saw the golden-haired woman floating above her chair. "Reach up and take my hand," said the woman.

Janice felt herself leave her body and begin floating in the air. She looked over and called out to her mother. But, her mother had fallen asleep in her chair and didn't hear her.

"Follow me," said the golden-haired woman again. Reluctantly Janice reached up and took her hand. Soon the two of them were floating down the hallways toward the physical rehab center. Stopping at the window of the rehab center, the woman said, "Look at that! I'm so proud of Toby! He just never gives up!"

Janice looked through the window and saw the boy. He had been fitted with artificial legs and was struggling to learn how to walk.

Tears came to Janice's eyes. "He'll never make it," she said.

"Watch!" said the woman proudly pointing to her son.

As they watched, the boy lifted himself up on a bar, and then letting go he balanced himself on his artificial legs. He held his hands up over his head and gave a shout of victory. "Look at me!" he shouted. "I'm standing!"

"The doctors are totally amazed with Toby," said the woman. "First of all, he realizes and has accepted the fact that things will be different and that he will never be able to do things like he did before. Yet, in spite of this, he is not giving up on life! He keeps trying to do what he can in whatever way it takes to do it!"

The next thing that Janice knew, she was being pulled backward down the hall, into her room, and into her body. She opened her eyes and thought deeply about what she had just seen and heard. Then looking around, she saw her mother asleep in the chair. "Mother!" she called out. "Wake up!"

Martha woke with a start. "Is something wrong?" she asked.

"We have to get down to the rehab room," said Janice. "Quickly! We have to hurry!"

Martha quickly wheeled her daughter down the halls. As they arrived, a man was just leaving with the boy and was pushing him in a wheelchair down the hall toward them. The man and boy stopped and looked at them.

"Look Dad," said the boy turning to the man. "It's the girl from my dream, the one I saw later in the cafeteria."

The man stepped forward. "Hello," he said. "My name is Dave White. I'm Toby's father. You must be Janice. Both Toby and my wife have been telling me about you."

"Yes," said Janice. "Mrs. White just came to me and brought me to see Toby working in the rehab room."

Mr. White closed his eyes and sighed. "I would have thought things like this were impossible! But it really seems to be happening!"

"I told you, Dad!" said Toby. "Mom did too!"

"I know," said Mr. White looking down at his son. "It was just so hard to believe!"

Janice looked at the man. "This has been a rather unbelievable experience for me, as well," she said. "Do you know what's going on?"

"Yes," said Mr. White. "But, first I need to explain something that happened to Toby and his mother. It's why we are in the hospital. You see, my wife, Aurora, and Toby were in an automobile accident. Aurora was driving when another driver ran a red light and hit them. Toby's legs were crushed and had to be amputated. Aurora wasn't as lucky!"

"What do you mean?" asked Janice.

Mr. White began leading them down the hall. "Her entire body was crushed under the full weight of both cars." he said. They were now standing in front of an open door. "This is her room."

They all entered the room and saw a golden-haired woman lying in the bed. She was in an oxygen tent, and there were tubes and wires connected to every part of her body. Janice gasped. It was the golden-haired woman she kept seeing in her dreams! "We meet again," said the woman looking up at Janice, "this time, in the flesh!"

Janice looked in shock at the woman lying before her. "If you were crippled in the accident," she asked, "how did you visit me?"

Mrs. White closed her eyes. "The trauma of the accident was an incredible shock to me. There was so much pain that it was unbearable to be in my body. Then one night, while I slept, the pain seemed to leave me. I woke up and looked around, and I found that I, or rather my spirit, was floating above my body! I found that when I slept at night, I could get my spirit to leave my body. When this happened, I could float around and explore the hospital.

"It was on one of these trips around the hospital that I discovered you and felt your hopelessness. I wanted to show you something that my son and I have come to realize. Our value doesn't lie in the external things. It lies in what we are as people!

"Look at me! This crippled body is not me! My spirit is what makes me who I am! Even though my body will never move again, my mind and imagination still allow me to be a great person and to do great things. And Janice, even though you are paralyzed, you can still be a great person and make a difference in the world! Toby and I have a lot of changes to make in our lives. If we can do it, you can too!"

Janice and Martha spent several hours visiting with Mrs. White, her son, and her husband. As they got ready to leave, Mrs. White called after them. "You still have a lot you can do with your life," she said. "Find out what it is and give life everything you've got! Have a great life!"


Soon after these experiences, Janice was released from the hospital to go home. The following Sunday, she came in to visit her Sunday School class, and as Martha wheeled Janice into the room, all the children cheered and ran up to embrace them both. Tears came to Janice's eyes as each child hugged her.

"We were so worried about you," said one child.

"We prayed for you every day," said another.

"Are you coming back to teach our class?" asked several children at once.

"I'm just visiting today," said Janice. "But I'll be back next week to begin teaching again." One little boy walked up and looked seriously at Janice. He ran one hand up and down her wheelchair. "But, you won't be able to skate again," he said.

"No," said Janice. "I won't be able to skate again. But, I'm a teacher. I could still teach others to skate. If I started a skating class, would you like to be one of my students?"

"Oh yes!" said the boy giving her a hug.

Janice put her head back and closed her eyes. "OK," she said. "I'll see what I can do."


Now whenever Janice Boyle is at the local skating rink, she still attracts the attention of everyone, pros and amateurs alike! Now, she and her mother sit in the center of the rink and they are surrounded by children who are skating effortlessly around the ice as if they are floating on clouds. Janice and her mother are now teaching children not only to love skating, but to love life and to be the best at whatever they can be!

And, in spite of difficulties and changes, for them, life is beautiful! 

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