Tagged with: anniversary disability Paraplegic post injury spinal cord injury wheelchair
Recently my husband “celebrated” his 8th anniversary of using a wheelchair. I tried to wrap my head around 8 years! Eight years of not standing up! Eight years of worrying about everywhere you go being accessible… of wondering whether your chair will fit in your friend’s bathroom or if some kid will be playing around in the accessible bathroom at the restaurant so that you can’t use it. Eight years of not being able to wiggle your toes! Eight years of no snow angels or feeling the cold sheets on your feet or knowing if you are burning your foot when you put it under the hot water. Eight years of wondering if there will be an open parking spot so that you can get your chair out or whether someone will be parked in the striped lines when you return so that you can’t get back in your car at all. Eight years of looking for curb cuts, and not being able to hold an umbrella in the rain because your hands are busy pushing. Eight years of wondering if today will be a day you are going to pee on yourself. Eight years of leg spasms, wheelchairs, and hand controls. Eight years of no running, jumping or dancing. Eight years of waking up every morning and remembering that life isn’t what it used to be.
It has to be an impossible thing to try and wrap your head around at first. Of waking up and being told you will never walk again and wondering what you will miss most and what you wished you could have done one more time. Wondering if life will ever be normal again. I have a friend who lost an arm and a leg in an IED explosion a few years ago and he says when he wakes up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night he falls flat on his face because he still forgets that he doesn’t have two legs. My husband says that when he dreams, he is always able-bodied. Yet in reality it feels like one day he will wake up from this “dream” of using a chair.
Most days in our household we don’t talk about the “what ifs”. I never knew him as an able-bodied individual so it isn’t something I “miss” about him and it’s not something he complains about often. But every now and then those thoughts come to mind. Sometimes, it’s in those frustrating moments when I wish he could help me with a task too challenging for me to handle alone like, moving a big tv or trying to hang something really heavy. It’s in those moments that I will make a snide remark about how it sure would be nice if he could stand up and help me. Or sometimes it’s in those moments when he sees me struggling or doing something considered a man’s job, like mowing the yard or taking out the trash that’ll he’ll say, “I sure wish I was able to do that for you”. Or occasionally he just has a bad day when he falls out of his chair or he can’t reach anything or life just seems to be particularly tough that day when he’ll turn and look at me and say, “You think I’ve learned all the lessons God wanted to teach me in this chair yet? Do you think I could be able-bodied again”? And then on the very rare occasion we allow ourselves to think about the “nevers.” Like I’ll never be able to dance with my wife or go on a trail run with you, or I’ll never be able to walk a daughter down the aisle or teach our boy how to play football. Or- what if we never have kids. Those are the things that hurt too much to talk about for too long. And while we can usually find humor in the times he falls out of his chair, or loses his dinner he just bought because it fell out of his lap, we aren’t able to find the humor in those.
You know that verse in the Bible where it talks about God never giving you more than you can handle? (I Corinthians10:13) –While taken slightly out of context, it also proves what I already knew; that my husband is one tough cookie, and able to handle with humor and grace things that I never could. There is another verse in the Bible that says “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”(2 Corinthians 12:9) These are the words God said to a man who also had some sort of disability or ailment and it paints a beautiful picture. Because God’s power is made perfect in what my husband perceives as weakness… and in that weakness God’s grace will be sufficient for him to make it through every day no matter how tough it seems. A famous quadriplegic named Joni Eareckson Tada who is an author, painter, and has been on Larry King Live once said, “if I were able, I would have my wheelchair up in heaven right next to me when God gives me my brand new, glorified body. And I will then turn to Jesus and say, “Lord, do you see that wheelchair right there? Well, you were right when you said that in this world we would have trouble, because that wheelchair was a lot of trouble! But Jesus the weaker I was in that thing, the harder I leaned on you. And the harder I leaned on you, the stronger I discovered you to be. So thank you for what you did in my life through that wheelchair. And now”, I always say jokingly, “you can send that wheelchair to hell, if you want.” What an attitude to have, especially after a lifetime spent as a quadriplegic.
So sitting here “just” 8 years in and on a good day, life doesn’t seem too bad. In fact without that chair in his life my husband and I would have never met and while it’s easier to say on my end I think he would agree that it was worth it if just for that. But when we get to heaven (and he gets to send his chair to hell) I think the first thing I would like is a hug – a real -wrap your arms around me tight with my head on your chest- kinda hug (and then after that we might go for a run!)