On this Fourth of July people’s minds begin to turn to their freedoms. They begin to think about how grateful they are to live in a country where they can live, act, and worship freely.
I too am grateful for these freedoms. I am grateful for the price paid by so many to allow me to have those freedoms. Often, I think it becomes easy to forget that the freedoms we sometimes so easily take for granted can, if were not careful, be taken away.
On July 13, 1986 I very nearly lost my freedom.
I was involved in a diving accident that caused me to become a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the chest down. So many things were taken from me that day. Many of them were simple and basic freedoms. Like the freedom to feed myself. The freedom to get around without a wheelchair. The freedom to get in and out of bed on my own. The freedom to bathe, shave and dress myself.
Then, on the 21st of November, a car accident took even more freedoms.
But truth be told, through it all, some pretty incredible people have allowed me to keep the freedoms that matter most.
After my diving accident, friends sent me pictures that reminded me of their love and support. Along with the posters they also sent, those photos were plastered all over my room. These good people reminded me that I was free to be a part of their lives, and free to let their support lift me up when I felt down.
During both accidents, and through any other little bump in the road, my family continues to support me all the way. They made it clear that I was free to be a part of a family all my days on the earth. They reminded me that I was free to dream; free to go and do anything my mind believed that I could achieve. They taught me I was free to ignore the negativity that so often others tried to surround me with.
Literally, weeks into meeting Kolette she let me know that I was free to expect the same kind of relationship that able bodied young men did. From the moment we were wed, she showed me that unconditional love was also a freedom I could count on. The moment she stood in that emergency room after the car accident she made it abundantly clear that her dedication was a freedom I could never lose. Throughout my life Kolette has taught me that I’m alway free to love life.
Now, Coleman’s innocent eyes seemed to communicate that I’m free to love and be loved in return. Over and over, he reminds me that I’m free to try and, although things may not always work out the way I’d planned, we are free to figure things out on our own. We may not get things on our first try, and when we do get them, it may not always be pretty, but he allows us the freedom to find our own rhythm and our own path.
I know there are others who aren’t as lucky as I. I know that there are many in my situation who simply go home from the hospital and stay there. I know one young man whose family brought him home from the hospital after his diving accident, built him a large bay window, and every day sat him in front of that window. He ended up spending every day of what ended up to be a very short life literally “watching the world go by.”
So on this day of celebrating freedom, I celebrate mine. As I do so, I celebrate the countless numbers of people who have helped me to fight for the freedom I have, and so I celebrate them as well. I celebrate the freedom my future holds.
I celebrate life.