On August 18, 2013, I suddenly felt dizzy. It had been a nice Sunday afternoon. The hanging plants on my balcony were slowly swinging in the breeze, and I remember admiring them. I remember what I was wearing. A mauve colored peasant blouse and white pedal pusher pants. And I remember that the sun was shining through the dining room windows and my cats were curled up on the couch. It had been a good day, because I had spent the day in prayer. I fasted for eight hours that day. Only eight hours. I had fasted several times before, for more than 24 hours on a few occasions, and never had a problem. This day was different.
What was the purpose of my fast? I felt disconnected from God and disconnected from people. I prayed an earnest prayer for God to do whatever he needed to do to help me to reconnect with him. You see, about 20 years earlier I had been a devoted follower of Christ. I had even picked up my life in North Carolina and moved it to Washington, D.C., to be part of a church planting. I remember my faith soaring at that time, and I was an eager witness to others about Christ. But somewhere along my journey I became disillusioned through the death of my mother and failed relationships. I became a legalistic Christian and lived a life of drudgery. I eventually turned myself back over to the world and all its enticing lies about where happiness comes from.
Mind you it had been a long time since I felt my faith soar like those earlier days. So rising up off my knees on that beautiful, sunny August day left me feeling an incredible resolve. I remember how free I felt. I remember how much lighter I felt. And that’s when I decided to break my fast and eat. I simply went to the refrigerator, and that’s when the dizziness hit me. The next time I opened my eyes, my view of the world, my attitude towards God and people, and the things I treasured most in my life were forever altered.
For anyone who’s ever fainted, you know something is off because your world begins to shake a bit. Although I’ve never experienced an earthquake, I imagine the quaking I felt in my body could be likened to a tremor. Sometime later I opened my eyes. My whole body was tingling. Nothing below my shoulders moved, no matter how hard I tried. All I could see was ceiling tiles, and I felt completely disoriented. I was still able to move my head, and I tried to turn my head to get oriented. I remember almost passing out during that head turn, because the pain was so excruciating. Somewhere between the refrigerator and the floor I had fallen backwards, probably hit the stove handle just right to snap the C4 vertebrae in my neck.
I knew I was paralyzed. I remember thinking to myself, okay – this is how it is. I was in and out of consciousness for the next day and a half. When I was awake, I spent time praying and reciting Scriptures that I had memorized for challenging life moments. Although I never expected a life moment like this one. And please don’t think I’m a spiritual giant. I was terrified, and this was all I knew to do. My coworker came the morning of the second day with the police. The door was broken down, and I was found lying on the kitchen floor – close to death.
Prior to the fall, I had just returned from a vacation in Cancun a few months earlier and had kept up my tan via the tanning bed. My hair was streaked with blonde from being in the Mexican sunshine and $200 highlights at the salon. I worked out. I took walks. I had been athletic most of my life, and so I was fit and muscular. I had a closet full of clothes; a bunch of new furniture because I had just moved; a new car; many friends; and a close-knit family.
I seemed to have it all together on the outside, but inside I was groaning. I felt a yearning that could not be satisfied. Unbeknownst to the world, I was at the bottom of a dark spiritual well and didn’t know how to climb out. And I wouldn’t ask for help. Little did I know I was getting ready to take a journey with God that would teach me how to claw out of that well, inch by inch. When I woke up in the ICU a few days later, I suddenly had a desperate need for support from friends and family and a relationship with God. Thus I began my journey of physical, spiritual, and emotional healing.
After a long hospitalization, I went to live in a nursing facility. My family members didn’t feel they could provide adequate care, so this was the only alternative. After having such a carefree, independent, active lifestyle, I was suddenly completely dependent on the nursing staff to live. Prior to the accident I was on only one medication. Now I had to swallow 20 pills throughout the day. The staff was (and still is) responsible for everything. They took care of my hygiene. They dressed me. They exercised me. They lifted me in something like a human forklift to put me in my wheelchair. For some reason it made me feel humiliated to be lifted in that thing. To this day I still hate it. Then they would put me to bed at night. But somehow I have kept my faith. Some days I’m holding on by two fingernails and a thread, but I somehow hold on.
Since I became a quadriplegic, I’ve kept the belief that God has a greater purpose in this than what I can see. I believe this with all my heart! And yet maneuvering through each individual day and through an odyssey of emotions as I face increased medical problems and visits to the hospital ICU, it’s been hard for me not to think of each day as a negative event. I find myself asking God, can we skip all these days of suffering and just get to the end product? I seem to get the big picture in all this, but the day-to-day small picture deludes me. Losing the things I thought made up my identity – my home, my job, my physical appearance, all of my material possessions – was an adjustment I was not prepared to face. And learning to live life in a facility with 24-hour dependence on others was frustrating, degrading at times, and very discouraging.
In the first year I allowed myself to believe that maybe God had deserted me. In fact, I had some devastating things happen during that time and found myself asking God, what good is all of this? I was bitter and filled with rage much of the time. I was angry at God and angry at people. I lashed out at the nursing facility staff, and I lashed out at my family. I was confused, paranoid, and deeply depressed.
Thanks to modern technology, in this second year I’ve been able to search for answers in the Bible, write a blog about my life, and get input from other trusted Christian women. And of course I pray. But my prayers are so different now. They are raw and real and searching for answers. As a result, I feel like I’ve gained some positive perspective on my quadriplegia. Don’t get me wrong – I haven’t had a day yet when I felt happy about my current life circumstances. There are days when I just want to give up and wish I could disappear from this earth. In all honesty, I think there will be many more days like that ahead. But I do believe this life has a purpose, if I can just live victoriously one day at a time.
I talked with a dear friend of almost 30 years recently about healing. She is someone who I consider to be a spiritual mentor. She taught me about healing and how it comes to us in different ways. I realized when I was able-bodied I looked for self-worth through things of this world, and I never felt at peace or complete. Now that I have none of these things I am completely reliant on God for my peace and sense of completeness. This has been and continues to be a very healing process, and it has only come to me as a result of my accident.
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