Last December, Lauren “Lolo” Scruggs suffered a sudden injury that made headlines around the world. The 23-year-old fashion journalist had taken a short flight to look at Christmas lights; upon exiting the small plane, she was hit by the still-moving propeller blade.
Scruggs opens up about the accident and the personal journey that followed in her new memoir, "Still Lolo: A Spinning Propeller, a Horrific Accident, and a Family's Journey of Hope." In this excerpt, Scruggs recounts the details of the night leading up to the accident.
Dad looked like a ghost.
Not one of those screechy phantoms you see in a horror movie, but like a pale version of his usually cheery self — white as a sheet, except for the dark circles under his eyes.
“Cheryl.” His voice was thin. He coughed, then said, “I don’t know if I can do this tonight after all.”
“You want us to take you home?” Mom said. “We’re not very far.”
Dad was behind the wheel, but he nodded at Mom’s offer, coughed again, and turned the car toward home. Beads of sweat lay across his forehead.
It was Saturday, December 3, 2011, about 4 p.m.
We were heading to The Village Church for a regular weekend service. Advent season was upon us, and it felt like Christmas was in the air. From the backseat, I reached over and gave my dad a warm pat on his shoulder. “Have some chicken soup,” I said. “Maybe a little oil of oregano mixed with orange juice. Fights infections, you know. I think there’s some in the kitchen pantry.”
Dad coughed again and grinned weakly.
I wasn’t in the habit of babying my parents, especially not my dad. But there were definitely days I felt like a grown-up around them, a colleague more than a kid. At age 23, I wasn’t a child anymore. True enough, I had recently moved back home to start my online fashion journal, LOLO Magazine. But living at home was just temporary. I’d graduated from college with academic honors. I’d successfully completed two internships in New York City, where I’d lived on my own. I’d traveled to Paris, Montreal and New York to report on their Fashion Weeks, the intensive seven-day stretch where all the next season’s new designs are showcased. I’d done numerous video-reporting segments where I’d interviewed actors, celebrities, and fashion industry insiders. Nearly nine years had passed since our mysterious guest had predicted a big life and a big battle for me. Life felt big some days, but nothing that could be considered huge. At least, not yet.
We dropped Dad back at home so he could lie down and fight his cold, and Mom and I headed to church. We got there early and saved seats for friends of my parents, Mike and Shannon, along with three friends of theirs. The plan was for all of us to head over to Mike and Shannon’s house after church for a chili feast.
Paul David Tripp, a guest speaker that night, took the stage.
“I don’t know if you’ve thought about this or not,” he began, “but you’re hardwired for hope. You don’t live by instinct. Every decision you make, every choice you make, every response you have to the situations and relationships of your life is fueled by and motivated by hope. Your story, the story of your life, is a hope story. Your happiest moments are hope moments. Your saddest moments are about hope dashed, hope destroyed. You’re always looking for hope. You’re always attaching the hope of your heart to something.”
I had no inkling yet of the journey of hope I would soon embark on, but I could relate to what Paul said. Already I hoped for a lot. I wanted my magazine to be a huge success. But it wasn’t just about numbers. I hoped my magazine would help people live better lives. Sure, it’s about fashion, about looking good and feeling good. But it’s also about being confident, expressing who you truly are. It’s about going places and doing things that matter.
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I also hoped for that special someone. I guess everybody my age does. Only a month before, I’d broken up with my boyfriend, James. It felt like the right decision at the time. Plenty of girls would line up to date James; he’s one of those sincere, solid guys who’s always there for you, always says the right thing.
But ... ah, what was it exactly? In the back of my mind roamed an image of another guy — tall; beachy good looks; laid-back yet driven personality; tender and caring; funny and genuine; a heart for God; and a clear direction in life. I needed to be honest with myself. While James was almost everything a girl could ever ask for, this other guy — this idealized image of the perfect mate — well, maybe he was worth holding out for, at least a little while longer. Or maybe he was just a dangerous fantasy, like a glossy picture in a magazine.Video: Lauren Scruggs reveals what she saw in the mirror (on this page)
James handled the breakup in a totally good way. We reassured each other we’d stay friends. “Promise me you’ll be really careful, Lo,” he said when he dropped me off at my house the night we broke up. “I can’t quite explain it, but I have this feeling like something bad is coming your way.”
I nodded, and we hugged, even as I shivered a little. James had always been there for me. He saw God’s purpose in things, even difficult things. What more could a girl ever want?
When church was over, we headed to Mike and Shannon’s house in McKinney, which is about twenty minutes from our house. Sometimes it’s hard for someone who’s not from Texas to understand the size of things in this state. For instance, if you go to a restaurant and order a soft drink, they don’t have small, medium, and large. They have small, medium, and “Texas-size.” People just do things in a big way around here.
Mike and Shannon are no exceptions. Everything Mike does, he does in a Texas-size way. Mike buys and sells companies, in addition to being a real estate developer. Their home is one of about 130 houses built around a private airstrip. One of Mike’s hobbies is flying, and he owns three planes.
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We all ate chili and salad around the long wooden table in Mike and Shannon’s dining room. Some other friends came over. There were maybe a dozen people total. Christmas music floated in from the sound system. Everybody was just talking and laughing. Nobody was drinking that I remember. It wasn’t that type of party.
“Hey, Mike, you mind if I borrow your plane?” one of Mike’s friends asked.
“Help yourself,” Mike said. “You know what to do.” Mike and his friend, I knew, both had their pilot’s licenses.
“Who wants to go flying?” the friend asked. “The Christmas lights are going to be great tonight.”
Reprinted from “Still Lolo: A Spinning Propeller, a Horrific Accident, and a Family's Journey of Hope” by Lauren Scruggs and the Scruggs Family with permission from publisher Tyndale Momentum. Copyright © 2012 by Lauren Scruggs and the Scruggs Family.
© 2012 MSNBC Interactive