In the blink of an eye

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By DC Duncan | PREVIEW Columnist

Summer Phillips enjoyed an extraordinary, carefree life. She was Pagosa’s premier goldsmith, a masterful artist with a huge clientele. Summer adored her husband and showered her trusty dog with affection. Together, they lived in a beautiful, secluded home nestled in a fairytale forest, a spiritual sanctum away from the hustle and bustle. “You fill up my senses, like a night in the forest.” 

They loved, laughed and traveled to exotic venues, sometimes joining their friends, the boys of the legendary rock band Little Feat. The happy couple gave selflessly to the community, their family and friends. Life was good, “like the mountains in springtime, like a walk in the rain.”

And then one fateful evening, in the blink of an eye, Summer left her “old life” behind.

The accident occurred at bedtime on the 13th of November, 2021. She had fallen at home and had seriously damaged her problematic neck. Chris soon discovered his wife on the floor — unconscious. In a matter of hours, she was airlifted to UC Health hospital in Colorado Springs. Summer had injured her spinal cord and was now a quadriplegic. You can only imagine the terror that Chris must have experienced after being told of his wife’s dreadful condition. 

As you know by now, Summer was finally admitted to the Craig Hospital in Englewood, Colo., a world-renowned hospital and center of excellence specializing in spinal cord injury rehabilitation. Her dedicated husband was at her side every moment of the journey and his love for his precious wife was the beacon that guided him. “Come let me love you.” 

Everyday for months on end, Summer endured intensive physical therapy and put forth a positive attitude that was almost super human. Soon she was making incremental progress and slowly regaining some movement in her arms. Now the two have nothing but praise for the hospital and its illustrious staff. Chris said that getting into Craig was the happiest day of his life. His dedication to his wife is infinite. “Let me give my life to you.”

Summer and Chris

And, now, thankfully, they are home and the new reality sets in. Life is different, but so rich in many ways. The outpouring of love from Summer’s “people” is a testament to the downright goodness that all of us possess deep inside. Sometimes, unfortunately, it takes a tragedy for us to openly express our benevolent love and compassion, but when it happens — it’s pure grace. Summer remembers when they were on top of the world, helping others in need. She says: “Put good out and it will come back to you.” 

Their garage has been transformed into a home gym. “My team of PTs and OTs fell from the sky,” said Summer, referring to the “angels” who work with her Mondays through Fridays. She has an expensive, elevated therapy mat on which she stretches out while the therapist performs her magic. And what about the $4,000 customized standing frame machine? Once strapped in, she can be raised to standing position for special exercises. “I’m like a Weeble. I wobble but I don’t fall down!” I’m so glad that our Summer can still laugh out loud. Of course, laughter is good medicine. She jokes about her “magical unicorn poop” that seems to just disappear into the ether. (Don’t ask.) 

The warrior woman continues her noble battle and has made great progress. She has a new $20,000 motorized, hot-rod wheel chair that is incredible. She operates it with a joy stick with her right hand and off she goes. Thank God it has a horn. (And headlights, too.) It can elevate her to counter height and tilts back to shift her weight when necessary. (Oh yeah: She can dance in the chair listening to her Pandora radio.) Chris built her a work station for her laptop. She operates her computer with her Bluetooth-assisted technology, joy stick on her chair. It’s absolutely amazing. I call her and she actually answers the phone. Her fancy voice command iPhone does the work of three men: Moe, Larry and Curly. “Let me drown in your laughter.” 

They purchased a nifty wheelchair accessible van; they call it the Silver Pickle. Chris claims he’s gonna paint flames on the sides, but that might be going a bit too far. Maybe not? Summer has a snappy phrase: “Driving Miss Crazy.” Indeed. So she’s quite mobile. The other day I ran into them at Wally World. They had picked up a new printer. (Probably to print out the new “Driving Miss Crazy” bumper stickers.) They were in a horrible rush to get out of there. “I need to get home fast and take a shower,” said a flustered Chris. 

Summer Phillips, goldsmith, is now a memory. For many years, crafting her beloved jewelry was her profession. She calls the life she has forsaken “my other life.” She has Chris, she has their home, and thank God she has her life, and someday they may get another collie, but the goldsmithing is a thing of the past. Her sadness describing this terrible loss is palpable. What a world. “Let me die in your arms.” 

When Summer finally got home from the Craig Hospital, friends held a Kentucky Derby party in her honor. The fundraiser was a smashing success. Many friends and relatives attended and a good time was enjoyed by all. The entertainment was provided by my old band mate, Tim Sullivan. One of the highlights of the afternoon was Tim serenading Chris and Summer with his rendition of John Denver’s lovely “Annie’s Song.” One time not too long ago, the couple had held each other tight, waltzing in the garden. Now the song echoes in the dreamland of their minds: “Let me lay down beside you. Let me always be with you.” 

“We don’t take our friendships lightly now,” said Summer. A cherished lesson of life, I imagine. Family, friends and those claiming anonymity have contributed generously. Summer’s childhood friend, Kim Robason with a CaringBridge.org page kept us all up to date with her progress at the Craig and generated much needed donations; a GoFundMe, Summer’s Wings, account was set up and is still active; and a Believe Account is active at the Bank of the San Juans. I know that Chris and Summer appreciate this so much and are filled with gratitude.

Recently Chris and Summer hosted their friends and family at the Tennyson Event Center for an evening of celebration. The couple wanted to thank everyone for their heartfelt support. There was a righteous feast and Chris’ brother, Dan, showed up with his band from Nashville. The other brother, Mark, came in from Austin to sit in. Chris and Mark hadn’t seen each other for some time and were able to reconnect in a soulful way. Both brothers left their guitars at the Pierce house so as to make an excuse for a return visit. (Soon, I hope.)

All in all, Summer is improving every week. She is enjoying the little things in life that we often take for granted: She watches as the deer come into her realm, smells the freshness of the rain as it beats upon Mother Earth, hears the birds singing their splendid arias, and every strain and every lyric of her beloved Little Feat. And she wheels down the stone path that a young friend built to connect her with the garden patios. 

This is not some tragic tale of a poor girl who was devastated by calamity and wracked with melancholy. No; this is a love story about two people who cherish each other eternally. A beautiful, vital woman and her devoted husband: the wind beneath her wings. “Like a storm in the desert, like a sleepy blue ocean. Come let me love you, come love me again.”

This column may include both fiction and nonfiction, and views expressed do not necessarily represent those of The SUN. Submissions can be sent to editor@pagosasun.com.