This is the story of a miracle. And a little girl whose family won a place in my heart so many years ago.
It makes sense that Talia would find a place there, too. She’s an angel. Precious, precocious; a glowing ball of light in what seems to be a world that goes darker every day.
I had the pleasure of finally meeting Talia — real name Natalia, nickname Tallie — face-to-face on Saturday on a trip to my native Maine. She was everything I imagined she would be and more.
Her being a miracle is just the beginning. Her heart and soul runs so much deeper, even at six years old.
Those from Maine likely already know Talia’s tale.
A little after 4:30 p.m., on October 30, back in the year 2013, a gunshot rang out inside a Bangor apartment building.
In an instant, lives were changed forever.
The bullet ripped into her neck and, doctors said, “nicked her spinal cord.” It left the 3-year-old little girl paralyzed.
In the nearly three years since the investigation into what happened opened, there have been no charges brought forward by this accidental shooting.
But this isn’t about what happened in the apartment that day. Nor is about what happened in the early wake of that fateful day, as Talia’s grandparents fought for and won custody over her and her two siblings.
This is about a pair of blue eyes, and a smile and personality that won me over in a very big way on a Saturday afternoon at a campground in central Maine.
This is the story about today’s Talia and the hope of how tomorrow is going to be even better.
As a regular reader of the Bangor Daily News, I heard about the shooting rather quickly. When I learned it happened to the granddaughter of somebody very near and dear to my heart, I was heartbroken and devastated.
I knew this family extremely well back in my younger days, but even as we grew apart over time, I have found that the ties that bind always seemed to hold us tightly together in our love for one another and the memories we all had held so dear.
And part of what devastated me so deeply about this tragedy was knowing all too well the losses the family had suffered before — a daughter being snatched from the sky at age 26; a mother being taken away by cancer at age 46.
The one thing I knew as Tallie lay in a hospital bed, unable to breath without the help of a ventilator, unable to move, she had two of God’s best angels at her bedside.
I’m pretty sure those angels were with us on Saturday as I pulled up the campground of my friends for what I thought would be a quick visit and ended up being a day-long stay of laughter, memories, tears and Tallie.
And, oh my, that Tallie.
She is larger than life, even as she sits there in her wheelchair, a tracheotomy tube still in her throat … but now only to help her breathe while she sleeps. The family and doctors hope that will be coming out soon, as well, the next step in this little miracle that is happening in a family that deserves each and every special moment that finds its way to them.
Doctors once said they didn’t know if Tallie would ever walk again.
She’s taken 41 steps in therapy.
The little girl who was once on a feeding tube?
She’s feeding herself and, let me tell you, she’s a fan of french fries, but not a big fan of clams.
She still learning to use her arms and hands again, but I witnessed her literally tie a dog leash to her chair in the fashion of a hair braid.
And watching her work to push herself up, back into a sitting position from a spot where was leaning over to pet a dog, was simply inspiring to say the least.
Nothing is going to stop Talia from living live and finding the next miracle.
But I can’t say I’m surprised.
Her bloodlines — the ones that come from the family I know and love and admire so much — will never let her give up.
They are some of the strongest people I’ve ever had the honor and pleasure to know and the way I admire them is barely explainable by mere words alone.
I think of Lisa, the sister, the one who brought me into her family’s world … I think of Sandy, the family matriarch, who accepted me with open arms and gave me place where I could always turn … and it still hurts so much to know that both were taken away far too soon.
But because of them, I can think of Joline and Robyn, the sisters who are carrying on their family’s strength and love, holding each other up and helping each other out … and I think of Wayne, Joline’s husband, once my nemesis, yet now a man I admire and respect.
And I think of Talia. Tallie.
I think of the bright blue eyes that glow when she smiles and that laughter that we shared as she tried to help me catch her “Mimi” making faces at me. I think of her strength and how she forges ahead not asking “Why?” and looking back, but asking “How?” and looking forward.
She’s a little miracle, sure.
She’s an absolute angel, too.
But what makes Tallie so great, in the end, is she’s a kid living her life and giving people she touches hope for the future along the way.