Now, 16 years after the accident, she is ready to release her personal story, Fractured Not Broken, written with the help of her aunt Michelle Weidenbenner of Warsaw.
Fractured Not Broken tells the story of Schaefer’s life since the accident and how she came to terms with her disability.
“It’s a story of tragedy, heartache, and then triumph and love,” said Schaefer, a teacher at Holy Trinity Catholic School.
Weidenbenner, already a self-published author of three books, tried to write Schaefer’s story eight years ago, but Schaefer wasn’t ready to tell it yet. It was still too soon after the accident.
“At the time, I just was not ready,” Schaeffer said. “She kept asking me questions, we tried to get the ball rolling, but it was just a little fresh, too fresh for me, and I became too emotional with it.”
Weidenbenner then sought out other sources, what Schaeffer called “doing the legwork.” She interviewed people who had been in the ambulance after the accident and collected information from courtroom documents about the drunk driver. It wasn’t until October 2014 that Schaefer was ready and the writing process could finally begin in full force.
“I would never have done this if my aunt was not an accomplished author,” Schaefer said. “So she has been my guide through it all, and who I lean on. The real heart of the story lies in her hands, and I had to trust her with my words.”
But by waiting eight years, the story grew. Inspired by her from a distance, Shawn Schaefer sought out the woman who would eventually become his wife, writing and hand-delivering a love letter to her house. They were married in 2009.
“I think he is what makes the story unique and special,” Schaefer said.
As far as how the book will affect her life, Schaefer said she doesn’t yet know. She has spoken about her life experiences before, but the writing process itself has been therapeutic. In this book, Schaefer said she is able to put all her memories into one space, the good and the bad. She said it was something she has always wanted to do, but didn’t know if she had the strength or if she was deserving enough to have a book written about her.
“It’s humbling when people say, ‘Oh, I can’t wait to read your book,’ because I feel very ordinary. So I’m excited about that,” she said. “People will see the details of my life.”
Schaefer said she wrote her story so readers could see what lies behind the face of disability and tragedy. By understanding her trials and triumphs, she hopes readers can identify and find strength through her. She also hopes that her book can shine a light on how people with disabilities are not so different than the able-bodied.
“We are more alike than we are different. They’ll read things that I go through and see that I might look physically different, but we have so much in common,” she said. “Everyone has a story. Everyone has heartache. Everyone struggles, no matter if you’re sitting or standing.”
Woven throughout Schaefer’s memoir is a testament of faith. She said her ultimate message is one of trust in God and how He has a role for each person to play in life.
“Even though it might not be a glamorous role, it still comes together and can make a beautiful life,” Schaefer said.
Fractured Not Broken will be released July 10th, and Schaefer will be reading excerpts from the book July 25, 7 p.m. at VUJC’s Center for Technology, Innovation & Manufacturing Theater as part of the “Will Read and Sing for Food” show.
The book will be available locally at iCandy Salon and Spa and Krempp Lumber in Jasper and at online retailers including Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble and Apple iBooks.