It was the summer of 1997, and Faith Eversull was weeks from starting her senior year at Curtis High School, fueled by the immortality of being 17.
She and two friends were driving to Wild Waves water park. Faith was in the front passenger seat. As they sped onto state Route 16 from the Mullenix Road onramp in south Kitsap County, the car encountered a raised section where a lane had been recently repaved.
“The tire kind of locked on this track and all of a sudden I saw the back end of the car sliding ahead of us,” she said.
The car left the road and crashed into a tree. The two other girls inside were shaken but largely uninjured.
Faith was no longer in the car with them.
“I’d bounced up through the sunroof, and witnesses said I flew about 40 feet through the air,” she said. “I woke up on the side of road. I was numb; I couldn’t move.”
She was flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle with a broken neck. Her grandmother arrived almost as soon as she did.
“She told me I was as beautiful then as I’d been the day before, that it could have been so much worse,” Faith said.
“Even then, I believed there was a plan for my life. I’ll never know, this side of heaven, the reason for it, but I believe there was a reason everything happened to me that day.”
She’s 33 now, and this weekend she will speak at a Gig Harbor women’s conference called “Steppin’ Up!”
“It’s about living out your dream, not letting marriage or kids or obstacles stop you,” she said. “It takes perseverance to get there. I try to encourage women, rejuvenate them.”
In the 16 years since the accident, she has gone from a teenage paraplegic to a woman who has regained use of both hands and arms.
She met Shane Ecklund at Hope Community Church in University Place, and married all 6-foot-8 of him.
“When he’s standing and I’m in my chair and he’s talking to me, people often think he’s talking to himself,” she said. “They don’t even see me.”
The last few weeks, Faith Ecklund has been living out her dream — watching musicians play her music in a Nashville, Tenn., studio, where she will soon lay down vocal tracks for her first professional CD.
“I write and sing Christian pop, and we’ve been in Nashville for 2 1/2 years, shaking hands, kissing babies,” she said, laughing. “This is everything I’ve worked for. I was never sure I’d hear my music played.”
Faith plays the keyboard well enough to compose music, and there’s another project tied to her recording — a children’s book about living with a disability. She helped Fircrest friend Carrie Case finish it.
“My father had (multiple sclerosis) and was in a wheelchair nearly all my life,” Carrie said.
“That was normal for my brother and I. He was our dad, the smartest man alive. He passed away while I was pregnant with my first child.
“I wanted my kids to have the same mentality we had, but I couldn’t find a children’s book that dealt with wheelchairs.”
So she wrote one, put it in a drawer and never quite forgot about it.
Carrie and Faith met at church and became friends. One day Carrie showed Faith what she’d written.
“She liked the idea and we thought it should be set to rhyme,” Carrie said. “We did that together; she even became a character in the book. Her agent took it to Tate Publishing in Oklahoma.”
“Friends In Chairs With Wheels” will go on sale this spring. A children’s song to accompany it, written and performed by Faith Ecklund, will be offered as a free download.
When Faith flies to Washington and returns to the Olympic Peninsula for the three-day “Steppin’ Out” conference that begins Friday, she and Carrie Case will be the main speakers.
Faith insisted there will be no bad memories.
“I’m not ashamed of who I am. I’m in a chair, but that’s not who I am,” she said. “I need the chair to get from Point A to Point B. My faith does define me.”
Faith in God, yes. Faith in her husband, and in herself.
Once, not long after they were married, Shane Ecklund wanted to swim in a lake with his wife. Faith loved the idea but was afraid.
“He picked me up and we jumped into the lake,” she said.
They have been making leaps ever since. She’s even returned to the scene of her life-changing 1997 accident.
“I don’t find that day tragic,” she said. “I remember the car actually went up a tree. I’ve been back there since, and I like to look at the new growth there. I’m not the same person I was then, either.”
For more on Steppin’ Up women’s conference, go to steppinupconference.com.
On Faith Ecklund’s music career: faithecklundmusic.com
On the book "Friends in Chairs with Wheels": friendsinchairswithwheels.com.Larry LaRue: 253-597-8638 firstname.lastname@example.org