Grateful for Good Timing

November 27, 2010

The Thanksgiving week forever changed for me in 1997. For, on November 21st of that year, I was driving down the interstate when my front left tire blew sending my van careening across all three lanes of traffic heading my direction, through the median, and into the oncoming traffic. I hit a car, a car hit me, and it about killed me.  The doctors told my family there was no chance that I’d ever make it

I spent the next 13 consecutive months hospitalized, and really the majority of ever year after that in hospitals across the country throughout the next ten years. 2008 was the first year I didn’t stay at least two consecutive months in a hospital bed.

In many ways, this second accident has been more difficult than when I broke my neck. Some may think it impossible to have a paralyzing diving accident surpassed, but where the first accident had an instant totality; the second has had a persistent longevity.

In large part, two years after my diving accident I knew what my life was going to be like. I was back at school full time, driving, with the stamina of my peers. I knew those limitations, and other than a few bladder infections there was a baseline I could count on.

The second time around has been the complete opposite. It’d probably be easier for me to name the bones I didn’t break, than to list the ones I did. It brought with it a chronic pain that for much of the time kept me in a narcotic fog or debilitating pain. It’s been anything but dull though. Oftimes it’s felt as though just as one issue is resolved, another rears its ugly head.

Now, make no mistake, there’s been more joy and happiness in the days since November 21, 1997 than doom and gloom. We even celebrate the day of my accident. It’s an anniversary after all, and anniversaries are made for celebrating. (for more on the second accident and the anniversary tradition, click here.)

That doesn’t mean it hasn’t been hard though. It doesn’t mean that, try as I might, I don’t find myself wondering what might have been. It doesn’t mean I don’t get tired, down, frustrated and depressed. There are days when it takes everything I’ve got to keep on smilin’.

But every time that week in November rolls around, the 21st hits and it gets as difficult as it is at any time in the year, I get a blessing most don’t—Thanksgiving—a day when all you do all day long is think about your blessings. I know a lot about adversity, and there is nothing you can do to light up depression’s darkness than shine bright gratitude upon it. A thankful heart is the antidote to depression’s deadly venomous sting.

For some reason, this 21st was harder than most. I’m not exactly sure why, but my spirits were way down, and my chin was far from up. Things were hard leading up to the day, and for some reason I really got thinking about “Could have been’s,” and, “Why me’s?” (and we all know those don’t ever do anyone any good) and the fact that I wasn’t as vigilant about celebrating my “anniversary” didn’t help at all (see what comes from getting lazy!)

But then, just when things started getting their bleakest, four days later my annual blessing—Thanksgiving.  And ironically, in a year when this day was the most difficult in recent memory, I had more to be thankful about in recent memory.

Here are a few of the gratitudes that topped my list:

My Faith: In a year where I’ve been pushed to the brink, I know that I would have gone over the edge without my faith in God. His words, His Spirit, and His love have helped me get through those un-get-through-able days, and allowed me to find peace in a world swirling all about me. I know God lives and there is nothing in my life I have to be more grateful for than that.

 

My Girl: You don’t have to be around me long, or read much of what I’ve written to expect this one on this list. But this year is different. On the first of June, Ko was hospitalized with acute gall-stone pancreatitis, and on the third at 3:00 am I almost lost her. Just writing those words makes my eyes well up. But, as I think of the courage she’s shown and the valiant way she’s fought every day from that first day to this very day, makes me weep. She’s my best friend, my love, my hero and my inspiration—my everything. I am so grateful she’s still alive, and am blessed to have witnessed and continue to witness her strength and courage.

My Wingman: He’s been with me through it all this year. I don’t know what it is, but he has wisdom beyond his years. He always seems to know the right thing to say, the way to make me smile, or just the right look to lift my heart. I’m never alone with Coleman around. I am grateful for the light he’s been in my life. Just hearing him bust through the door screaming, “Dad!” brings light to my darkest day.

The Chorus:  A chorus by definition is a group of voices that come together. There’s no soloist, in fact, the reason great choruses sound so beautiful is that everyone contributes equally with everything they’ve got. I wouldn’t have made it any day of any year since 1997 without my chorus. But it hasn’t been shown as clearly or exhibited as perfectly in any year since ’97 than this one. The people who have pitched in to help me and mine make it through the hardest days than the support my chorus has provided this year. Many of the faces are ones you’d recognize. Parents (on both sides), brothers and sisters from the same, cousins, friends, and neighbors—they’ve all been there. In hospital rooms, bringing meals, watching Coleman, sharing a kind word, a compliment in person or on the blog have lifted my spirits more than anyone will ever know. I am lucky and grateful to have such people blessing my life.

These big gratitudes have lifted me, obviously through the whole year—but especially through the last few days. One of the things I love about gratitude is that it always makes me feel rich.

With things like this to be grateful for, I dare you to show me a wealthier man in all the world. I’m blessed—In so many ways. Not the least of which is that Thanksgiving is so close to the 21st of November.

I encourage you to partake of some of this “good medicine” for yourselves. Take a moment to leave a comment about something you’re thankful for. Doesn’t have to be a big act or blessing, it’s amazing how sometimes the littlest things bring the most mercy. The more of us that share—the more we each get to think about the great and wonderful in our lives. And the more that attitude of gratitude spreads the more the doom and gloom, the frustration and consternation are chased from our souls letting the light of hope shine bright.

I am grateful for the power of gratitude.

Jh-

PS: in an effort to show my gratitude for your sharing, one person leaving a comment will win a set of my motivational cards,  one of my autographed DVD’s (both seen here) and a $15.00 gift card from Walmart for munchies. ‘Cause what DVD’s not better with a little treat to go with! —Right?

And spread this one around; let’s see how many gratitudes we can come up with. Comments must be entered by Tuesday, November 30, 2010 at 10:00 pm PST.


100 Things

November 28, 2009

About eight months after becoming a quadriplegic, I was enduring a particularly difficult time.  I’d been blessed, and up to that time hadn’t really gone through and depression of any kind.  But, now it seemed as though things were beginning t mount.   I was more frustrated, depressed and discouraged and down than I had ever been since the accident.

I had been taught often about of the power of gratitude in the home I grew up in, and felt that if I had any chance to find a way out of the darkness my feelings had brought with them, it would be in large part because of some increase in my own gratitude.

In an effort to find a way to feel blessed, I pulled out a piece of notebook paper from my backpack and numbered it to 100.  I felt like 100 would be a lot, but nothing that couldn’t be easily handled in 15-20 minutes.

I was right—about the first 25.  They were simple and easy.  They were the big ones—stuff like family and friends, where I lived and what I had.

The second 25 took a little more thought.  The third 25 really made me think.  And, at 16, in order to finish the last 25, I wrote down anything I could see.  I was thankful for stuff like light bulbs, pencils, and the tacks that held up the posters in my room.

In fact, Number 99 on my list was the fact that I could pick my nose. (For more about that read here.)

It took the entire afternoon and most of the evening, but, when I was finished, I had my list.  Just having it in my hands made me more grateful; and by being more grateful, I began to feel the beginnings of a more positive attitude.

Through the next weeks and months, every time I felt down or depressed, frustrated or fraught with negativity, I pulled out my list—and each time I read my list, I started concentrating on what I did have and quit worrying about what I didn’t.  This new tool helped me to see the best and forget the worst.

This Thanksgiving I have been thinking about that original list more than usual.  So, in the spirit of the season and in honor of the original list, I spent some time yesterday creating a new list.

The thing that surprised me the most, was that my heart was as lifted as much this time as it was when I created the original list on that lined notebook paper all those years ago.

Here it is then.  I share it with you hoping that maybe seeing mine will inspire you to make a list of your own.  If you will, I promise a spirit filled with gladness and hope and a excellent tool in the fight to stay positive.

Remember what I’ve said before, “There’s not enough room in the human heart for depression and gratitude at the same time.”

Jh-

Jason Hall’s 100 Things To Be Thankful For

  1. My Faith
  2. Kolette
  3. Coleman
  4. Mom
  5. Dad
  6. Kendra
  7. Clinton
  8. Brandon
  9. Nathan
  10. Mom Coleman
  11. Dad Coleman
  12. Brothers & Sisters In-Law
  13. Grandparents
  14. Nieces
  15. Nephews
  16. Living in the United States
  17. Chance To Have Freedom of Religion
  18. Power Wheelchairs
  19. Accessible Vans
  20. Opportunity to get the best Healthcare
  21. Powerful Friends
  22. My Car
  23. Our Home
  24. Heat
  25. Air Conditioning
  26. Clothing
  27. Computers
  28. iPhone (and the return of the bar phone)
  29. Voice Recognition Software
  30. National Ability Center
  31. Disabled Skiing
  32. Bi-Skii’s
  33. Sight
  34. Hearing
  35. Sense of Smell
  36. Full Use of My Mental Faculties
  37. Growing up in Boise
  38. The Chance to live in The Eastern US
  39. Interfecal Pumps
  40. Graduating with my High School Class
  41. Attending BYU
  42. Working as BYUSA President—and all the people I worked with
  43. IVF
  44. I CSI
  45. TESI
  46. Rock Band
  47. The Million Dollar Round Table
  48. Mutual Of New York (and the people there)
  49. Garrett Burger, Large Gems, and a Cherry Scotch and Soda
  50. The Bible
  51. The Book of Mormon
  52. My Testimony
  53. My Eternal Marriage
  54. Pistachio Dessert
  55. My Eagle Scout
  56. The Scouting Program
  57. The Chance To Serve
  58. Football
  59. Words Written in my Journal by my Mom When I Was a Kid
  60. Baby Ruth Bars
  61. Broadway Musicals
  62. Cougars, Cowboys, Jazz, Celtics, Yankees, Real Salt Lake
  63. My Letterman Jacket
  64. The Ten Lepers by Jack Christensen
  65. Electricity
  66. Television
  67. Ability to Move My Arms
  68. Atonement
  69. Repentance
  70. Fasting
  71. Prayer
  72. Plan of Salvation
  73. Miracles
  74. My Boys in New Canaan
  75. The YM in Syracuse
  76. Optimism
  77. The Ability to Speak Publically
  78. Disability Insurance
  79. Workmans Comp
  80. The Inspiration to Go to Work on 21 November 1997
  81. Great Nurses
  82. Great Neighbors
  83. My Cousin David
  84. Love of Singing (and how it literally saved my life)
  85. Family History
  86. Great Music
  87. Uplifting Music
  88. Movies
  89. Showers/Shower Chair
  90. Forgiveness
  91. Repentance
  92. Having Kolette at My Side.
  93. Good Parking
  94. Straws
  95. Ramps
  96. Elevators
  97. Family Dinners
  98. Goals
  99. The Fact That I Can Pick My Nose
  100. Lists of Gratitude

I Can Do Anything For 80 Years

October 22, 2009

Hospital Traction 1st Acc._2

I have been taught the importance of being positive from the youngest days of my life.  I don’t remember a time when having a PMA (Positive Mental Attitude) wasn’t a regular part my parents instruction on the proper way to live a life.

Therefore, growing up, I tried to make a positive outlook a part of my life.  I tried to look at the glass half full, tried to see the best in those around me and tried to concentrate on the good and forget the bad.

Then at fifteen and a half, on the 13th of July 1986 my life changed in a second.

I went from a completely healthy young man in the best shape of my life to paralyzed from the chest down with only partial use of my arms and no use of my hands.

As difficult as that transition was, it was the first nights that were the most harrowing.  My lungs filled with mucus to the point where you could barely see any clear part of my lung on the x-ray.  My pulmonologist told me it was the worst case of pneumonia he had ever seen.

You didn’t have to have a medical degree to understand that my life was in the balance.  In those days, I had one wish.  It wasn’t to walk, it wasn’t to be accepted back at home, and it wasn’t to have a normal life-It was to live.

All I wanted was to wake up the next morning.

After a few days when I began to feel, not quite out of the woods, but on my way there, my dad came to the side of my bed and asked me if I felt like I could deal with life as a quadriplegic, I replied, “I can do anything for 80 years.” I was so grateful that I’d kept my life—everything seemed better.  Even paralysis seemed doable.

In the days since then, I’ve almost lost my life at least one other time.  And in those days, good or bad, I’ve tried to recall  that same feeling.  Whenever life gets difficult (as it often does) I try to remember that no matter how bad it gets, I still have my life.

Knowing that I am still breathing makes everything else challenging small in comparison.  It makes a real difference in my effort to live a happy life.  It is difficult to complain about the stumbling blocks when you find a way to remember that you are still around to stumble.

When things get hard, remember to love life.  Be grateful that you are still here.  Be glad that you have a chance to struggle and the negativity will be replaced with that Positive Mental Attitude I was taught so much about in my youth

Jh-


It All Trickles Down

January 7, 2009

chart

During the 80’s there was a lot of news about an innovative way to look at economics. It was called “Trickle Down Economics.” It was a new idea for stimulating the economy and sharing wealth.

The basic tenant was to structure the tax code so the wealthy had more money in their pockets. This wasn’t done solely as a benefit to the wealthy but also conceptually as a benefit to those in lower tax brackets as well. The idea was that the more money those with money had in their pockets the more money everyone would be able to call their own.

For the wealthy would want to use their money to become more wealthy. This would motivate them to take those extra dollars to expand their businesses or invest in others. This expansion or investment would create jobs. More people with more jobs would equal more total revenue and therefore more taxes overall. This idea would allow taxes to be lowered without lowering the total amount of tax the government needed to do its business.

Just like anything in government there are some that agree with the idea and some that don’t. Some believe this is a good way to go about running government and there are some that believe it to be total foolishness and a complete failure. Frankly, for our purposes it doesn’t make any difference which side of the fence you’re on; for the purposes of this argument all that matters is that you understand the concept.

Whether or not you believe it works in economics you need to know the “Trickle Down Effect” does work in attitudes. Every day when you choose to be happy or sad it doesn’t simply affect you, it affects everyone around you. Your attitude “trickles down” to people literally all over the world.

The idea of “Six Degrees of Separation” dictates that you can start anywhere in the world with any person and through six connections find your way to you. In essence, someone they know will know someone, who knows someone, who knows someone, who knows someone, who knows you.

Think about how much that changes your responsibility with reference to the attitude you choose. Your attitude is going to “trickle down” to the people that you know. “ Six Degrees of Separation” later your attitude has  “trickled down” to someone you’ve never met in the middle of Africa. There they are just living their lives, doing the best they can and if you choose to be negative eventually it will “trickle down” to them.

By the same token think about all the people your positive outlook could change. Think about all the people you know and interact with, and all the people they know and interact with, and so on and so forth. Think about all the good your positive attitude can do.

There are days when it can be hard to find anything to be happy about. On those days it is easy to simply selfishly assume that our attitude only affects us. If we have a bad day and act negatively what’s the damage?

Whether or not you accept that your negativity could really “trickle down” all the way to Africa. It’s not hard to accept that it does “trickle down.” It’s not hard to see your attitude affect those around you. The people you love and care about most will have an easier or harder time to look at the good in their lives based on the outlook you choose to have.

When we realize our decision to project positivity or negativity doesn’t just affect us, our responsibility to keep a positive outlook increases. If we ever hope to live in a world filled with peace, we must take care with the attitude we fill our piece of the world with.

It all comes down to economics. The next time you feel a little down and feel inclined to take time to wallow in negativity, remember your choice affects more attitudes than just your own. Work hard to find the best in your life and live with a positive attitude–not just for yourself, but also for those around you. It all “trickles down.”

Jh-


…And Now For Something Completely Different

January 5, 2009

I thought today I’d offer up something different.  I’ve attached a video clip of me doing what I do. This is a clip of me speaking about gratitude. If it sounds familiar it’s because I’ve already posted this story written here. But, reading it and seeing it presented are two different things. Enjoy, and tell me what you think.

Jh-


Every Day A Birthday

December 26, 2008

click image to download pdf of artwork

I know I said I was taking a break till the 29th but I couldn’t resist – today is my birthday. Yep, the day after Christmas. I don’t think I ever remember a time that someone asked me, “When is your birthday?” where my response didn’t bring a look of sorrow to their face. “What a bummer” or “That’s too bad” or some such comment always came in the form of an apology for the date my birthday landed on.

This has always seemed a little odd in that I love my birthday. In fact, I remember a time as a boy when my mom and dad gave me the opportunity to celebrate my birthday on my half birthday allowing me to have my birthday in the middle of the summer far away from Christmas. It never really was something I thought about. My birthday was 26th of  December and that was the day I want to celebrate.

I always wondered why everyone else thought I was getting the short end of the birthday stick and I didn’t. I always wondered why everyone thought I was getting ripped off and I felt like the luckiest kid in the world.

As I look back now I realize it’s because my parents and my family went to great lengths to make sure the my birthday was celebrated on its own. The presents I received were always birthday presents. I never received “Christmas-birthday” presents. We always had a special meal for me on the 26th where the family would get together and celebrate my life.

It was never a Christmas “add-on.” It was never an afterthought to the holiday. It was its own holiday–it was its own day–it was my day.

All of this work and all this effort was put forth to make my day a special day. It paid off. Every single year I look forward to the holidays with a little extra anticipation. For, not only did it mean Christmas but it met my birthday as well. A day I looked forward to as much as any other child look forward to their day.

I often think about what would happen if we put the same work in the same effort into making the days of our lives special and unique. If we took the time to celebrate every day we are given. If we made every day a birthday.

Consider how that would change your outlook on life. Consider how much more excited you would wake up each day. Consider how your willingness to make the most of every opportunity would increase if you could learn to separate each day and celebrate.

Birthdays are special days, celebrating makes them so.  Celebrating each day like a birthday makes each day special. It keeps us from living a life filled with days that simply run together and fill our memories with nothing but a blur. Celebrating allows us to look back with our minds eye on every day and see memories filled with vibrant colors and clear pictures.

So, celebrate today. Take some time to reflect on what makes you special, unique and wonderful. Notice something beautiful and relish it as your own birthday present.  Take a moment to show some love to another so they can be a part of the experience–no one likes to celebrate alone.  Then, do the same tomorrow and th dy after that.  Celebrate every day, and when you do at the end of your life you will look back on a glorious existence filled with thousands of beautiful “birthdays.”

Jh-

If you would like a copy of Kolette’s birthday wish for me, click on image to download it.


Just A Way To Travel Down The Road

December 16, 2008

freeway1

You pick anyone on any street anywhere in the world and you’ll find there are things that they want that they cannot yet acquire. Each of us has wants. Everyone of us has things we wish that we had that we don’t have now. It may be a bigger house, or a nicer car. It might be new clothes or the latest gadget. No matter how old we get each of us could put together a list for Santa. We usually don’t, but it’s not because there aren’t things that we don’t wish for. It’s because we know the total in Santa’s bank account.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting things that we don’t have as long as we don’t allow those wants to get in the way of our happiness today. So often I hear people talk about the things that they want and how they are connected to their ability to be happy. They’ll say things like, “If I just had a bigger house, then I could be happy,” or, “If I just had a nicer car, then I could be happy.” Whether it’s a house or car, a higher income or vacation people seem to qualify their wants with the fact that receiving them would make them happy.

It’s always amazing to me. “Then… I could be happy,” they say. As if the only thing standing in the way between them and a happy life is the acquisition of a want.

Unfortunately, almost without exception when people do finally acquire the bigger house, nicer car, higher income, or vacation the only thing that follows is not happiness but additional wants. If the bigger house becomes theirs then they began to talk about how something else on their list will “then make them happy.”

The reality is that happiness doesn’t come with things. It’s not something you achieve at all. There are people in the world who spend their whole lives chasing those things that they believe will make them happy and end their lives never acquiring the joy they pursued all their days.

I remember when I learned this lesson myself. I was 16 years old and barely home from the hospital after my diving accident. I was working hard to find a way to live my life in a wheelchair. There were so many days when all I thought about was walking. I was sure that if I could walk again, then I could be happy.

As each new morning would come I found myself still paralyzed and in a wheelchair. It was more difficult to be happy always concentrating on this want. One day I made the decision that with all my heart I would hope to walk tomorrow. But as for today I would be happy in a wheelchair.

Twenty-three years later I still hope to walk tomorrow but today, I am happy. Had I not adopted this frame of mind I would have spent the past two decades wishing every day that I could walk–waiting for that day to come to finally be happy.

So too it is with everyone. There’s nothing wrong with wishing. There’s nothing wrong with wanting. The problem comes when those wishes and wants dictate our daily happiness.

Happiness is not so much a place we will ever reach as much as it is a way that we travel through our lives–a highway of experiences and moments. If we think about joy as an interstate for life’s journey we have to watch for the on ramps. Just like trying to get on our local freeway on ramps are the key.

The on ramps in our lives are those things that bring us happiness in the moment. A child’s smile may be an on-ramp. Remembering the kind deed from a friend may be an on-ramp. A little service may be an on-ramp. Each of us has different things that allow us to merge into the traffic of contentment and joy.

But, if we don’t watch for our “on ramps” will never find our way. Each of us must look around our lives and find those things that bring simple happiness and remind us to travel meaningfully through each day.

Joy comes in the journey and happiness is not a destination, it’s just a way to travel down the road.

Jh-

Remember that the DVD contest closes Tuesday, December 16 at 9 PM PST. If you’re interested in winning one of my autograph DVDs follow this link and go to my previous post and leave a comment.

Also, if you’re a blogger check out alphainventions.com to increase your traffic.


The Laughter Lesson

December 9, 2008

weirdal

Directly after I broke my neck everyone around me went into triage. The people who were responsible for my care made sure that I received the most important care first. The EMTs who first arrived on that beach at Lake Powell did only what was needed most to get me to the emergency room. The ER doc’s picked the most crucial areas of my health to concentrate on to prepare me for surgery. The surgeon’s cared only for my most critical needs to get me into the ICU. My ICU doctors worried only about those things that were most eminent to my survival.

My parents follow the same course. They decided to concentrate only on those things they felt were most important to keep my attitude up and my spirits high. Of those few things they picked to concentrate on one of them was to make sure I laughed.

Every day I was required to watch, listen to, read, or have read to me something that was funny. They didn’t care what it was as long as it made me laugh. At my request they left the hospital and went and purchased every “Weird Al” Yankovic or Bill Cosby album, every Don Knotts/Tim Conway or Monty Python video they could find.

No matter how bad the day, no matter how bad I felt, no matter how bad my situation I had to use these “tools” every day. It was made to be as important as any therapy session or surgical procedure. My parents wanted to ensure that laughter was a part of my life even on days when there didn’t seem to be much to laugh about.

The results were amazing. Regardless of how I felt Bill, Al, Don, Tim and the Pythons always made me smile. That smile always turn into a laugh, and that laugh into laughter. As I laughed my problems seem smaller and the day brighter.

Years later I try to use this important lesson in my life. I work hard to make sure that every day I find something to make me smile; to make me laugh. I have found that immersing myself in humor for some part of my day is as important as anything else I do to keep my attitude up.

This dedication to laughter has also allowed me to look at the lighter side of my life. I have found that when trying times come they go much easier when you find the humor in the situation and learn to laugh. Some may think it’s the crazy and at times a little twisted. But, I have found it impossible to smile and frown at the same time. I can’t do it–It is a physical impossibility.

Try it. Find something, anything that makes you laugh and make it a part of your daily regiment.  Make it a habit. Just like you brush your teeth and comb your hair everyday make sure you set aside some time to laugh. No matter how busy your schedule, find a way to fit it in. If you will you’ll find your bad days better, your good days greater, and your great days out of this world.

They key is to simply learn to laugh.

Jh-


The Gift of Home

December 4, 2008

[Christmas 1986]

( Christmas 1986 )

Each year as December begins and our thoughts turn to Christmas I believe everyone has those few Christmases that stand out above the rest. The Christmases that come to the fore of their mind before any else. For me, one of those Christmases is the Christmas of 1986.

In July of that same year, I had been in the diving accident that caused me to become a quadriplegic. After I was life-flighted to the nearest hospital in Grand Junction, Colorado, the doctors diagnosed my injury. The damage was severe and permanent. I had broken my neck and was paralyzed from the chest down. I lost complete control of my legs and partial control of my arms. I could no longer walk or stand, I could barely breathe or speak.

I remember the first night I was in the hospital. I was so scared. I had what seemed to be a thousand doctors and nurses who would come and examine me and then go into the corner and talk about their findings in private. They took X-rays, gave me shots, put me in traction, brought in waivers to be signed, and attempted to explain my injury to me.  All this, while I came in and out of consciousness.

A few days later, while I was getting my daily medication, I pulled my nurse aside. I told her that although I was aware that my injury was going to require a long hospital stay, I needed to know how long; I needed to know when I could go home.

The nurse turned to me solemnly and said, “Well, Jason, if you work hard, maybe you’ll get to go home before Christmas.”

Christmas! I thought. You’ve got to be kidding! That’s six months from now! I can’t stay here for six months! Besides, what’s this maybe stuff? I’ve got to be home for Christmas.

It was then I decided that no matter what the cost, I would be home for Christmas. Little did I know that achieving this goal would mean hours and hours of therapy and days and days of work.

The months that followed were filled with sweat, blood, and tears. I sweat during physical therapy where I spent days trying to lift an ounce and weeks trying to sit up again. I bled when I was given a tracheotomy to help me breathe, and traction to support my neck. And I cried myself to sleep, wondering if I would live through the night. The only thing that made it all worth it was that I was working for something. I was working to go home. All I wanted was to go home, and I knew that the only way to get there was to get well.

There were many times I wanted to give up, days when I just didn’t think I could lift another weight, or even have the strength to push myself back to my room. Frustrated, I would convince myself that the task was too difficult, that I couldn’t work anymore, and that it was impossible anyway. I would think about all of the hours that I had yet to work, and how badly my body ached now. I would be discouraged that the progress seemed slow and the routine repetitious. I looked around me, and it didn’t seem that anyone else was all riled up about getting out, and so I wondered what I was all excited about. But then, I would think of home.

I would think of the smell of my mom’s kitchen, I would think of the family in stitches laughing around the dinner table. I would think of the live nativity my dad would have us put on each Christmas Eve (my sister is the one girl amidst four boys so she had a long run as Mary). I would think about my family kneeling in prayer around the couch downstairs.

This remembering would give me the motivation, strength and power to continue to work, and somehow I would find the fortitude to fight another day in my quest to go home.

Finally, the day came when the nurse let me know that my hard work had paid off and I would be to return home earlier than expected. On October 17, 1986 I was discharged. I would be home for Christmas.

In many ways, that Christmas was like any other Christmas. My little brothers woke up at 4:30 a.m. to see if Santa had come yet. When they found that he had, they waited outside of my parents’ room anticipating the glorious time when Mom and Dad would say it was okay to open the gifts. Finally, the go-ahead was given. The boys scrambled downstairs to the tree. The boys got their action figures, my sister got clothes, and I received the stereo I had hoped for. With the festivities over, my Dad took a moment to gather us all together.

He began to talk about the importance of Christmas while we sat amidst the piles of wrapping paper and boxes. We were more concerned with the spoils of the day than what Dad was talking about, until he asked each child to take a minute to talk about the favorite gift they had received that day.

The frivolity that once filled the room was instantly replaced with a quiet somberness. As Dad went around to my brothers and sister, each of them, who had earlier been so concerned with their physical gifts, answered with the same response. They said, “My favorite present is to have Jason home again.”

With tears in my eyes, I had to agree. It felt great to be home.

As Christmas approaches our thoughts turn to many things. But, whether Yuletide spirit makes you think of Jimmy Stewart in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” or carolers, hot cider, or Christmas trees, Santa, or the Christmas ham, everyone thinks of gifts.

We think of the gifts we’d like to receive. We think of the gifts we like to give. We think of  the crazy “White Elephants” we need to pick up for the office or neighborhood parties. We think of how we’re ever going to be able to help Santa cross off the gifts that found its way onto the letter our children sent him this year.

Through all of that it is easy to forget those gifts that matter most. It’s easy to forget about the value of friendship. It’s easy to forget about the blessings of family. It’s easy to forget how wonderful it is to have a job. It’s easy to forget the magic of love.

Let’s then decide that this holiday will be different. Let’s decide that as the countdown to the 25th begins we won’t just worry, stress, and be frustrated about the gifts we may not be able to provide or receive. Let’s decide to take a different tack and help ourselves and others realize the power of the simple gifts in our lives; the gifts that matter most. The gift of love, the gift of life, and the gift of home.

List a simple gift you want to concentrate on this season.

Jh-


Celebrate Life

November 21, 2008
November 1997

November 1997

At this very moment 11 years ago I was in the intensive care unit at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center fighting for my life. On November 21, 1997 at 10:45 in the morning I was traveling down the interstate thinking of the appointment I had at 11:00 and listening to local sports radio. It was a regular drive on a regular day.

Just then I heard what sounded like a shotgun going off in my left ear. It was my front left tire exploding. My handicap accessible van traveled across the three lanes of traffic heading southbound, went through the median, and into the oncoming traffic. The next thing I knew I was waking up to the voice of an EMT. I was obviously dazed and confused as to why I was looking up at the clear blue sky.

As I looked around I saw my van’s radio antenna. I remember thinking to myself that that was odd being that my antenna was on the passenger side of the car. There I was lying half in and half out of the passenger side of my van. Scared, frightened, and afraid that further neurological damage had been done I came in and out of consciousness while the emergency workers used the “Jaws of Life” to get me on a gurney and into the ambulance.

I was rushed to the ER where Kolette met me. I’ll never forget watching her enter the room unsure of what her response to this possibly fatal injury would be. It was then when I experienced one of the sweetest moments of my life. When Kolette first saw me her face turned white and she looked as though her knees were going to buckle. Then, in vintage Kolette style-she stood up straight and gained her bearings. She walked over to me and put her arms around me as best she could while whispering in my ear, “We’re going to be okay.” It is difficult for me to express in words what that quiet vote of confidence from the mouth of the woman I loved with all my heart meant to me.

After things were stabilized in the emergency room I was rushed off to seven hours of surgery. The weeks that followed were harrowing at best. On one of the very first days the doctors pulled my family aside and told them that if they wanted to say goodbye to me they’d better do it immediately. As my family tried to understand what my odds were really were, the doctors told them I wouldn’t live through the night.

Luckily, doctors aren’t always as smart as they think they are. I made it through that night, and through the nights that followed. My situation was serious enough however, that I was hospitalized for a full 13 months.

When I broke my neck in a diving accident at 15, I was in the hospital for three months. At that time I was convinced I could never do another day in the hospital. Thirteen months seemed an eternity.  But, the damage was that serious and extensive.

I will never forget 12 months later, November 21, 1998. I was still in the hospital and all I could think about on that day was how much my life had changed the year before. It reminded me of July 13, 1986, one year after my diving accident. As that day approached I had to make a decision. I had to decide if I would spend that day wallowing in self-pity, thinking of all the bad that happened, or if I would concentrate on the improvement I had made over the previous 12 months. I had to decide if I would put my energy and time into thinking about how I had become a quadriplegic, or if I would concentrate on the fact that I was still alive.

I chose to celebrate. On July 13, 1987 one year after my diving accident I invited all of my friends over my house and we had a party. We celebrated my “anniversary.” We celebrated life.

Following suit, on the first “anniversary” of my car accident I did the same–I celebrated. Kolette and I had some friends up to my hospital room and we had a party, being joyful about the life I still had to lead, about the gift simple existence was.

In every year that has followed, July 13 at November 21 are days that I celebrate. Every member of my family takes a moment to call me on the phone and congratulate me. Kolette and I always go out and do something special.

So today on my “anniversary” I invite you to join me. I invite you to take a moment and leave a comment telling me of something that is good in your life. I will give away one of my DVD’s to the winner (I’ll even autograph it). It will be your “anniversary” present to me.

Join me in focusing on all the pleasure you get and forgetting the pain.  Join me in realizing the blessing every minute in every day is. Join me and celebrate life.

Jh-

FYI: DVD GIVEAWAY CLOSES AT 9PM PST SUNDAY NOVEMBER 23RD


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