Living Proof

“Living Proof,” New Era, Nov. 2005, 33

Living Proof

Two bullets nearly ended Kim’s life. Even though she has no memory of exactly what happened, Kimberli Lingard knows there are good lessons to learn even from bad things.

Sixteen-year-old Kimberli Lingard left for work one afternoon last summer, having no idea that in a few hours she’d come face-to-face with a killer and be shot twice and left for dead. After what should have been a fatal event, a series of miracles occurred, and now Kim is living proof of God’s blessings in her life.

Kim worked at a laundromat in Grantsville, Utah, a tiny town where everyone knows everyone, and few people lock their doors. The town is located near a major freeway, and in early June 2004, an angry gunman on the run from the police pulled off the freeway into this quiet town. He looked around at local shops for an easy place to rob until he found the laundromat where Kim was working alone.

The man took what little money was in the cash register, shot Kim in the head and shoulder, and fled. With Kim lying on the floor and losing blood fast, time was precious. A woman—only the second customer to come in during Kim’s shift—entered just minutes after the shooting to discover Kim lying in a pool of blood. The woman raced to a nearby restaurant and called the police.

Uncertain if the shooter had left the premises, a brave man from the restaurant rushed to find another priesthood holder, and they gave Kim a blessing. Kim was soon flown to a hospital and immediately underwent seven hours of surgery to remove bullet fragments from her brain.

Knowing Where to Turn

Kim can’t remember any of this. The last thing she remembers was being alone at work. But her family has a clear recollection of everything after the shooting. They remember turning immediately to the Lord. Her younger sister Rachel says, “I was really scared. I came downstairs and knelt down beside the couch and said a prayer that she’d be okay.”

The 45-minute drive to the hospital was tense, but her little sister Jenessa says, “I just sat there praying the whole time.”

Kim’s friends at school started calling other friends to ask them to fast and pray for their dear friend.

Many hours and prayers later, Kim was stabilized. Three days after being shot, she woke up in the hospital to see her older sister Nicole leaning over her with a tear-stained face. Kim wanted to know what was wrong but couldn’t ask. Her vocal chords had been partially paralyzed from the shooting. Kim couldn’t talk, eat, walk, blink, or smile.

She couldn’t move her right arm or hand, and the doctors weren’t hopeful that she would ever fully recover from her wounds.

Even with Kim’s future uncertain, her family drew comfort from the Holy Ghost and remained positive. The Lingards say there was a special feeling in Kim’s hospital room throughout her stay. Her youngest sister Kristin explained: “When I came into Kim’s room, I didn’t want to go because I felt the Holy Ghost so strongly that I wanted to be in the room more.” This feeling helped the family to be calm and hopeful.

Kim wanted more than anything to be able to play the piano again and wrote a note asking the doctors if it would be possible. She says, “They just got this look in their eyes. They wanted to say yes, but they couldn’t. And from then on, I wanted to prove them wrong. I was going to get well.”

She received another priesthood blessing that she would heal quickly, and with faith and hard work, Kim made astonishing progress.

Making the Milestones

Kim’s family stayed by her bedside for weeks while she was in the hospital. Every day, her sisters would massage her hands so the nerves might begin to work again. And Kim worked hard to exercise her hand.

Eventually Kim’s voice came back, and she regained movement in her face. Then one day her family came in and found her moving her fingers—something the doctors never expected to see. Kim’s stepmom, Karen, says, “Every day seemed like a week’s worth of recovery. You’d see her the next day, and she’d be doing something they said she may not ever be able to do.”

Kim’s condition improved at a remarkable rate, and she became eager to leave the hospital. Just over three weeks after the shooting, she went home—in time for her 17th birthday. The only obvious change in her appearance was that her hair was shaved short from the surgery.

Still, Kim faced weeks of voice and hand therapy. Although her rehabilitation was difficult and painful, she didn’t complain. Her father, Craig, says, “Her testimony is stronger because she sees how her Heavenly Father has blessed her.”

The Power of Testimony

Kim’s family are no strangers to loss. Her mother died of lung cancer only three years earlier, leaving behind a family of 11 children. And now this challenge. But Kim doesn’t feel the need to ask questions. She simply says, “The Lord knows a lot more than we know.”

The Lingards count their blessings. Brother Lingard says, “I knew that if the Lord preserved her life, we could live with whatever else we had to live with.” Kim’s family was calm as they relied on the Lord for strength.

Kim says, “I think about how the Lord hears our prayers. I know that the Lord knew I could do this. I know that He lives and that He’ll help me, and I’m so glad it was me and not someone else.”

Kim’s testimony left her with a good attitude and peace throughout her struggle. And because of that, Kim says, “I was able to forgive the shooter. I know that he is a son of God, too. He made serious mistakes in his life, and I feel sorry for him.”

Without Regrets

From the looks of the half-inch round scar the bullet left on the back of her neck, it seems impossible that anyone could live through such an injury. But these days Kim is driving, painting, playing the piano, and laughing with her sisters. Kim has several lasting effects from the shooting, including weakness in her right arm, no right jaw socket, and total deafness in her right ear.

“The doctors didn’t know if I would ever be able to live a normal life.” But Kim was at school the first day of her senior year, just 11 weeks after the shooting. She graduated with her senior class and is now a freshman at Brigham Young University—Idaho.

Kim has few regrets about what happened. “It just amazes me how aware the Lord is of us. The Lord knows all things. We just need to learn to trust in Him. There are good days and bad days, but He is there for us when we need Him.”

Photography by Janet Thomas and courtesy of the Lingard family

Above: In the hospital Kim Lingard improved rapidly due to her determination and hard work in therapy. Opposite page: A year after the shooting, Kim is still making progress.

Kim and her father, Craig, enjoy paddling around in a kayak on a lake inlet behind their home.

Kim is gradually regaining her ability to play the piano. Below: Kim and three of her sisters pictured here are the youngest of 11 siblings. From left to right: Karen, Rachel, Kristin, Kim, Jenessa, and Craig Lingard.