‘It just wasn’t my time’

Published 6:11 pm Saturday, June 27, 2009

WINDSOR – Blessed.

The simple word describes the emotion felt most by Bertie High School’s tennis and softball coach following an automobile accident here nearly a month ago.

“I’m blessed, number one, and lucky,” Copeland said. “It just wasn’t my time. The Lord kept me here for a reason.”

Four weeks ago yesterday (Friday), Copeland’s car overturned several times while she was trying to avoid a deer that ran out in front of her. The night of the accident, nearly every member of her softball and tennis teams at BHS made their way to the emergency room.

Their support hasn’t waned in the past four weeks, according to the coach, and she has been grateful.

“My softball team is part of my family – players, manager, coaches, everyone – and they have really been there for me,” Copeland said. “They were there especially during the first two weeks which were so tough for me. I’m an active person and not being able to was difficult, but they were there to support me.

“They are still coming by the house or sending me a text message that makes me laugh,” she said.

Copeland said she was also supported greatly by many of her friends in the coaching profession who had called, come by or sent words of encouragement.

It wasn’t just the teams she coaches that have been there; however, as Copeland said the entire Bertie High School family has supported her.

“All of Bertie High School, including my principal, Mr. Glenwood Mitchell, has been here to support me,” she said. “Mr. Mitchell and Stephanie Cottle were at my house the morning after the accident.

“I have had colleagues and teachers cook and bring food,” she continued. “They have all been so nice – all of Bertie High School.”

During the accident, Copeland cracked two vertebrae, had glass in her eye, an inflamed shoulder and is having some severe headaches that will be examined during upcoming doctor’s visits. Her recovery time is estimated at two to three months.

While the injuries have kept her moving slowly and in pain, Copeland said she would still be coaching tennis this fall at Bertie High.

“I’m intending to be there,” she mused. “It won’t stop me.”

In fact, the injuries didn’t keep her away from the annual summer softball camp that she conducts each year in conjunction with the Bertie County Recreation Department.

During the three-day camp, Copeland said she relied heavily on her nephew, Bertie Middle School softball coach Grantley Mizelle, her mother, Edith Williford, current player Jody Mizelle and former player Jordan Mizelle.

“They made it possible for me to be able to conduct the camp,” she said. “They got me out there, helped me and then got me back home to rest so I could go again the next day.”

Copeland’s 2009 Bertie High School softball team captured the Northeastern Coastal Conference championship and, in the process, she was named the league’s Coach of the Year. She said those types of honors meant even more now.

“Before the wreck, I appreciated those types of honors – the things my players worked so hard for and achieved – but now they mean even more,” she said. “I treasure what I have and I’m still here, so hopefully, there will be more success and I will appreciate it even more.”

The amount of help and support she has received from many areas has been overwhelming to Copeland and her family – husband, Hunter, as well as her parents, Jack and Edith Williford.

“There are no words to express how much I appreciate the support I’ve received from my church (Cashie Baptist Church), other churches in the area, family, friends and neighbors,” she said. “I’m blessed by the Lord to have people in my house almost constantly to keep me going.

“I’m a people person and I need to be around people,” she said. “I have been blessed to have people with me morning, noon and night. They have motivated me to keep me going.”

She said she was grateful just to be alive.

“I’m home and I can’t do the things that I normally would like to such as jogging and things like that,” she said. “I can’t be selfish about it, though, because I am living. God left me here to accomplish something else. I’m not sure what, but there is a reason.”

Looking back on the accident, Copeland said she believes God intervened to keep her from being hurt more seriously or even killed.

“I have a little glass angel that someone in my family gave me that was always in my vehicle,” Copeland said. “Someone found it after the accident and gave it back to me. It reminded me that angels were around me and the Lord was with me. I’ll always treasure that little angel.”