My name is Kristal Riggs, and this is my life story. Buckle up, it’s a wild ride!
The majority of my childhood was spent in homeless shelters and/or sleeping on friends’ couches until my family could find the next place to sleep. When I was in 8th grade, my mother finally got on her feet; we lived in an apartment for a little over a year. It was a two bedroom and for the first time I got a taste of what a “normal” childhood was.
Life was good until 2 weeks before Christmas, when our apartment complex caught on fire. After that, it was back to couch hopping. My mother tried to stay afloat, working two jobs. At one point, there were six of us living in a tiny, one bedroom apartment. But history repeated itself and we got evicted. This time was different…my mother hit rock bottom and everything seemed to fall like dominos. She found a way to escape reality—drugs. At the same time, my brothers went to prison for robbery and I found out I was pregnant.
I promised my unborn child that I would fight for her, every single day of her life to make sure she had a better life. I graduated from high school and immediately went to college for Medical Assisting. Though I struggled as my mother did, single, raising my child alone, I wanted my daughter to be raised in an environment that felt secure.
I needed to further my education so in July 2014, I made my way to Texas. My family said I’d never survive, even placing bets on how soon I’d be back. It wasn’t until July 25th, 2016, that I thought about moving home. Not because I had finally finished college, but because my life as I knew it would never be the same again.
Memories of July 25th, 2016 are vague.
I recall being at a pool earlier that day, kids playing, grilling dogs and hamburgers, and trying to find shade to avoid the scorching sunlight.
My very next memory was waking in a white, dimly-lit room. My body felt paralyzed. Unable to scream or yell for help, I anxiously waited. Finally, a nurse came to check on me. She informed me I was in a car accident; I was at a hospital in Dallas. The nurse momentarily stepped behind a curtain to return with a doctor and three nurses. He informed I broke my right arm and they needed to reset it. The doctor placed one hand on my shoulder a nurse assisted him in pulling my lower arm while the two other nurses restrained me. I couldn’t speak earlier but I somehow managed to belt out a scream that surely alerted everyone on the floor.
Next, I awoke in the ICU. This is when I learned I suffered burns to my face, neck, arm, shoulder, back, and to the right side of my body. I fractured my spine, and broke my right big toe and my right humerus. This was only the beginning of multiple surgeries and the hospital was my new home for the next 49 days. Family flew in and friends drove from Longview. I was so happy to be alive. I couldn’t quite comprehend what happened but the look on people’s faces and the red eyes from everyone in the room told me things weren’t good.
I couldn’t speak so that left me plenty of time to think…If I had left earth, was I walking the path that God wanted me to be on? Then my thoughts raced to that of Tess, my child. Without me where would she live, and who would console her in a time of need when she was feeling scared? Who would be there to share in her joys and laughter?
It took until the 45th day in the hospital to look at my reflection in a mirror. This was not something I had come to terms with. The nurses advised me it was best that I do it before going home. It was a sickening feeling. I wanted to cry. I wanted to wake up from this terrible nightmare.
I had officially hit an all-time low. I felt numb. The only pain I felt was physical pain. More times than not, I felt my daughter and loved ones would be better off without me. Desperate for something… anything…I started attending church. When I went, I was the person with my arms crossed, shaking my head during the sermon but still desperate for help. So I went back again, again and again.
I remember pulling up to church during Prepare 2017. I was sitting in the parking lot, crying, beating on my steering wheel, begging God to forgive me for my past decisions. I’ll never forget the people at church. They helped me understand how to have a relationship with God, and soon after I fully surrendered my life to Him. I look back on that time and I’m so thankful for the people that spoke life into me. They never gave up on me.
In April of 2017, my daughter and I were baptized together.
While 2017 was the year of spiritual healing and acceptance of my new life, I failed to address the part of me that would always compare myself to others. I read the book, “Who Am I?”, and it made a huge difference in helping me address these issues. After being burned, I had to literally re-learn myself…physically, emotionally, and my whole thought process. I am guilty of comparing myself to others…I felt like no one would love me again because of my scars. No one would ever express their love towards me in public because of my scars. I didn’t feel like I would amount to anything. It’s easy to push these thoughts aside but at night time when I was alone, the thoughts would drown me.
I often compared myself as a parent to other parents. I felt ashamed that I had put my child through the traumatic moment that changed our lives. I’d stay away from her school in fear that students would recognize me and tease her. I was sure she was embarrassed of my appearance but never got the guts to ask in fear of her response. Boy, was I wrong! She loved me!!
Since my accident, I’ve found a new, deeper faith and a deeper bond with my 14 year old daughter. I have come to understand that every day I have the choice to step up, to give and be my best. I’m discovering the best version of me that God always intended. With this understanding I choose every day to wake up a give my best in everything that I do. This experience has lit a fire in me for the Lord and to love those around me each and every day.
Not everyone is lucky enough to be given a second chance in life and I know with all my heart that I will make the most out of this chance with everything I am and have to offer.
After reading “Who Am I?” and attending a small group, I instantly shared the book with my burn survivors…or as I call them, “burn homies”. I could go on and on about the benefits of this book. It’s done wonders in my life! It’s helped me address the issues I struggle with in a healthy manner. It’s reassured me that though I have failed, God still forgives and through him I have life! If I am following the path God has created, I don’t need to prove myself.
Thank you, Pastor Jeff, for writing this book!! My life may not be perfect, but knowing who I am in Christ has changed me forever!