Sixth “Accidentiversary.” Not one of those much ballyhooed multiple-of-five years. While solemn, neither somber nor maudlin. Have been inspired and encouraged by valiant victors whose worlds have been rocked by trials far more severe, but who nonetheless press on and do the next thing. In their particular “captivities,” they rebuff despair, endeavor with herculean effort, and prosper, even if gradually — infusing those spaces they occupy in time with great dignity. Chapeau to that worthy group. Grateful for God’s mercy in granting a year of reprieve from medical issues, being able to continue working and to drive (thaaaaat’s right — keep to the sidewalk), seeing every day of the Tour de Frronze, and innumerable other provisions and blessings. For countless agents of mercy who, at varied moments, times and periods, in close and from afar, briefly and over the long haul, rehabilitatively, therapeutically, materially and relationally, have encouraged and helped me and my family. At the top of this list I place the lovely and heroic Alice Heidel, my eight children, my two sons and one daughter in law, my three grandsons, my sisters, Dianne Irving and Sue Heidel, Queen Granny Cakes, and my Uncle Sonny and Aunt Chris. All others are in a tie for first, and down stream newcomers will be next year. Life like this is still, if counter-intuitively, rich and worth living because of these trials, these provisions and blessings, and because of you all. I am and remain profoundly thankful.
On August 20, 2009, four years and five months ago, I enjoyed my last two-wheeled bike ride and experienced a real life-changer. Now a C7 tetraplegic, paralyzed from the mid-chest down, I have grown in my appreciation for God’s grace and mercy (after all, I could’ve been killed or much more profoundly injured). I have also tasted the richness of family relationships, other relationships established through the years, and the many shades of encouragement and support these friendships have borne. Living in a broken earth suit with limited physical abilities was at first very difficult as my identity, purposes, style, calling, and significance rested heavily on my abilities. I’m persuaded that independence can isolate, and that what amounts to diminished pride can be a good thing. My new normal has been characterized as a peculiar stewardship. My needs and dependence have deepened relationships with those who are close to me. And, they have brought me closer to those I knew well long ago but from whom I had grown apart. I appreciate, and can empathize more genuinely and experientially with, others who have met with deep difficulty. While I hope and pray for improved neurological function, this momentary light affliction is changing and refining me as I look to the Lord, endeavor to trust in Him, and live patiently in the “new normal.” Having once stood 6’4″, life now happens at 55 inches. Life, while at lower altitudes, is still very rich.