I met Kiarra Dalley in late 2008. I had just moved to Utah from Texas and my new girlfriend, Melinda Ogden, suggested I drive with her from northern Utah to St. George (which is in southern Utah) to meet her sister and brother-in-law, their new baby Kiarra and the rest of their family.
A few years later, I married Melinda and one of the the best benefits of that marriage was the extended family I had just gained. Brothers and Sisters, neices and nephewes and a Mom and Dad to compliment my blood related Father, mother and brother.
Speaking of gaining extended family by marriage…there were so many of them. My wife has 6 siblings. Most have kids, but the Dalley’s have a lot of kids.
My oldest daughter Brielle and Kiarra were close as children. Brielle couldn’t say, “Kiarra” and chose the name, “Keyriah” for her favorite cousin. Since then, Kiarra has always been Keyriah to me. Keyriahs sisters and brother have always been close to their Aunt Mindy. While we lived in Oklahoma and Texas, the Dalley ‘kids’ would visit for extended periods of time. I have fond memories taking Keyriah, and her sisters Mailea and Eden to a place called 300 in Addison TX. Bowling, video games, pizza and huge sundays.
One of my fondest memories of Keyriah was a drive home from the Dallas Zoo. It was triple digit hot and we were driving in my Jeep with the top down and the doors off on the freeway. We stopped to get an ice cream on the way home and the combination of the heat and wind melted that ice cream and it was flying all over the place…in her hair, all over the Jeep – it was one of the best times I’ve had with her ever. Such a great memory.
We all have challenges in life. Rich or poor, intelligent or happy-go-lucky…we have something – some event that changes the life we enjoy into something we need to deal with. Some of us have an event in our life that alters you physically and mentally. I’m not talking about the things where time will eventually provide normalcy. I’m talking about the things that change your life…for ever.
Last summer, Keyriah was involved in an industrial accident while in shop class. I won’t go into details about how or why but the result of the incident left Keyriah without her left hand. This was a young woman who loved gymnastics, braiding hair, creating art and playing the piano.
When I heard the news, the first things that came to my mind were commonality, contrasts and comparison. I’m not sure why this was my initial reaction, but I attribute it to wanting her to have a normal life going forward despite an injury like this. I reflected on my own personal experience of multiple injuries I sustained in a motorcycle accident that I almost did not survive. Among numerous other injuries, the bones in my left hand were crushed and my right hand and wrist were badly broken. At the time, it wasn’t a sure deal that I would ever regain the use of my left hand again.
For 9 months I couldn’t do any of the things I loved to do: Drive my Jeep, ride my bike, use a computer, operate a cellphone or even play video games just to pass the time. But I was lucky. Time eventually brought my life back to normalcy.
This is what I wanted for Keyriah. I was sure that despite the tragedy, she would be made whole again with time. She had a great support group, a loving family and the best doctors in the state. We even made shirts that we would wear when visiting he in the hospital themed: “Kiarra Strong.”
For Keyriah, things were more difficult than they were for me. The doctors at U of U medical center could not re-attach the severed hand. Because of that, she had to re-learn how to do things we take for granted every day: tying your shoes, zipping up a jacket…making a sandwich. I have watched her do normal every-day things from a distance, in awe. Today, she can do them with efficiency that takes public-school educated people like me a couple of tries to get right. Things she can get right on the first try. And although I am sure she does have bad days, as we all do, I watch her crack jokes and laugh, do hand stands and play the piano. She enjoys having fun with friends and family and going on Jeep Rides:
Some might say she is doing great despite losing her hand. My retort to that would be she has become a better human being because of it.
A few months ago, Random Acts had informed the family that Keyriah had been chosen for an episode that would bring some of the details of her experience to the public via TV broadcast. Knowing how much Keyriah loves the piano and aspires to be a pianist, Random Acts brought Keyriah to meet with The Piano Guys and a huge audience to commemorate her victory in life despite the challenges.
I love this young woman.
She is an inspiration, lives life using the Gospel of Jesus Christ as her guide and is one of the few people I look up to in this world.
She truly is Keyriah (Kiarra) Strong.
Also published on Medium.