She’s More Than the Chair
By Kate Berkey - February 22, 2018
Posted in Stories from NMC, You'll Get Through This
When people look at her, the first thing they see is the chair. It’s black and has chipped paint where she nicked the wall too many times. It’s fairly simple and low-tech, but it’s her mode of transportation. As much as she hates it, it’s how she gets around. It’s how she travelled to classes at school. It’s how she travels throughout her home. It’s her wheelchair, but it’s not her.
Kate Miller is more than the chair.
Kate is 19 years old. Last May, she graduated from Northwood High School, and now she splits her time between working with kids at Nappanee Elementary School and the Nappanee Public Library. More days than not, she feels like a normal girl trapped in her body, a body that is slowly being overtaken by a genetic disorder.
When Kate was a toddler, her parents noticed that she struggled to walk, falling more often than other kids. Her parents, Todd and JoLynn, still remember the day the call came. The diagnosis was almost too much to bear. Their hearts grew angry, and the question, “Why?” became a constant refrain. All the hopes, all the dreams, all the wishes for their little Kate were turned upside down as the reality of her disorder sank in.
But there came a moment when the question was no longer, “Why?” Rather, they began to ask, “Why not?” because they too realized that their Kate was more than the chair.
Kate is a compassionate fighter.
Kate knows what it means to be the underdog. She knows what it’s like to be on the margins, and these experiences haven’t made her act like a victim. They’ve made her into a compassionate fighter for those who can’t fight for themselves.
“Kate’s heart is both strong and compassionate. She isn’t afraid to speak up for what she believes in, and when someone else is sad or hurting, she shows them love,” Kate’s good friend, Jama Rice said.
Over the years, Kate has given a voice to the voiceless. She has given presentations, approached leaders, and shared her story in an effort to raise awareness for those who can be easily forgotten, ostracized, and ignored.
Her disability can make it challenging to communicate. It can make it challenging to get around and to keep up with others, but this doesn’t stop Kate. You can find her on the frontlines, fighting for the underdog, believing that everyone deserves a chance.
Kate is a woman of courage.
Of course Kate has moments when fear overtakes her. Speaking in front of groups will always make her nervous, and it’s intimidating to be looked at as the spokesperson for people with disabilities. Yet, Kate is a woman of deep courage. In high school, she had the courage to run for student council. With the help of a close friend, she had the courage to approach their principal about creating a more handicap-friendly building. With faith, she had the courage to step out of her comfort zone to contribute to the greater good.
“I’ll always remember one year after summer camp. One of the leaders approached me when they returned and told me about the moment Kate shared her story in front of the entire group. I thought, ‘My shy, quiet Kate?’” JoLynn said.
At this camp, Kate allowed God to use her story of faith in the midst of daily challenges to inspire and challenge a group of high school students and adult leaders in remarkable ways. Following this summer camp experience, Kate would share her story again in Student Ministries. Time and again God would use her story, her courage, and her faith to challenge multiple generations.
So although she may not always feel filled to the brim with bravery, Kate is a woman of courage grounded in the Lord, a woman who channels this courage to share the love of Jesus with anyone who will listen.
She is resilient beyond comparison.
Ask anyone who really knows Kate, and they will tell you just how competitive she is. She doesn’t give up or give in easily. She shines in a game of UNO or Crazy 8s, and during her time in Student Ministries, she became known as the UNO Queen, beating small group leaders, friends, and even Pastor Tim time and again.
This grit and resiliency can be seen outside of games or sports or competitive things. Kate has a tenacity that doesn’t allow her to give up. She will try and keep trying. When she took the bus to school, she stretched her tired legs and took the steps one foot at time. It’s not easy to stand or walk, but she never gives up.
The challenging days come, even days that shake her faith. There are moments that she has to ask God, “Why?” Day after day, she prays for healing, but healing hasn’t come yet. But Kate does not give up. She does not lose faith. When she gets knocked down, she holds fast to Truth, picks herself up, and clings tightly to the Lord.
Even in the midst of daily challenges that affect her body, soul, and spirit, she is resilient beyond comparison.
This is Kate.
“Often times, Kate tells me that people never get to know her because they can’t see past her chair, and I think about how much those people are missing out. If people are able to forget about the chair and meet the person who is sitting inside it, then their lives will be changed for the better,” Jama said.
“I have an amazing friend named Kate. When I think of Kate, I picture her pretty, brown hair and her inviting smile as well as her kindhearted, funny, and talkative personality. Her heart is tender, as she always wants the best for those around her and strives to make others feel included, something I wish everyone could see before they see Kate’s wheelchair. I feel blessed every moment I am able to spend with her, and I am grateful for how my faith has grown through our friendship,” Kate’s good friend, Hannah Walter, shared.
When we think of the stories we’ve heard during You’ll Get Through This, it can be easy to focus on the challenges, the hardships, those very things that create the difficult situations people are trying to overcome. For Kate Miller, this difficult situation fills every part of her life, yet every day, she wakes up and chooses to trust, chooses to believe, chooses to pray for healing. And on the hard days, she reminds herself that God doesn’t make mistakes. She is deeply loved by her loving Father, and He has a remarkable plan for her life.
Kate is more than the chair.