After breaking my neck, of all the countless things I had to learn to do again keeping my balance was far and away one of the most difficult. From the moment I was off the respirator and healthy enough to be out of the bed my therapists worked every day to help me regain my balance. This may not seem like a difficult thing to acquire, but without the assistance of your abdominal muscles to keep you upright, or the help of the muscles around your trunk to keep you steady, it took hours and hours of work.
From the very first day I was in a wheelchair I had a Velcro strap around my chest to keep me from falling on the ground–and least that’s the idea. At first, I leaned on my strap all the time. But after a while, I only used it from time to time. By the time I left the hospital, I had gotten to the point where I was fairly secure in my balance. Still, the ground looked fairly ominous and wanting to keep my face as far as I could from the concrete, I kept the strap.
Months later, after I had been home for some time, my mom was in my room helping me get ready for church. It felt like just a regular Sunday like any other Sunday. Little did I know that this particular Sunday would be one I would never forget.
Everything was going normal, my mom helped me put on my pants, sat me in my chair, buttoned up my white shirt, tied my tie, and slid my sport coat on. Then, acting as though it was something we did every day, she removed my strap. I proceeded to inform her that that wasn’t going to work. I tried to explain that I needed to strap and that without it I would fall out of my chair, and although some might find it entertaining to watch, the idea horrified me.
She then told me that while we were in the hospital one of the therapists told her that she felt that I could get to the point where I would no longer need the strap to keep my balance. My mom then informed me that I had in fact reach that point (whether I knew it or not.) She told me she believed in me and was sure that I’d be just fine.
I on the other hand was positive that she was wrong. But, the strap was gone and it was obvious that I was going to church sans strap unless I could convince one of my brothers or sister to disobey my mother’s edict, and I was pretty sure that that wasn’t going to happen.
I was furious. How could she do this to me. “Did she want me to fall?” I wondered. But, angry or not, I was loaded in the car and we headed to church. Glaring at my mom during the entire meeting I concentrated on sitting up. As I worked to keep myself upright I silently waited for the moment when my efforts would fail and I would fall. Then, I could prove to my mother that I was right and she was wrong.
However, contrary to my belief I made it through the meetings sitting up the whole time. Now, I was really scared. This was a big problem. For, if I made it home without incident, I would never see my strap again.
As the meeting ended and my mother pushed me out the chapel doors. Heading to the van I knew that it was now or never. I saw a crack in the sidewalk and knew that this was my chance. My front wheels hit the crack and as the chair jostled just a bit, I threw myself out of my chair. My upper body slammed against the concrete pinning my legs underneath my torso. My mother came from behind my chair to help me get off the ground and as she did I repeatedly cried, “See, I was right. I told you I need my strap.”
Once I was safely back in my chair, my mom looked me in the eye, smiled, and said, “You may fall a few times but eventually you’ll get it figured out.” Fuming, I understood that my strap was gone, and that all falling out of my chair was going to get me was a concussion.
In the end, my mother was right. I sit up today in my wheelchair without a cumbersome strap because my mom saw my true potential, and was willing to do whatever it took so that I could see it as well. In my life today I work hard to see past the “straps” in my life that limit my ability to see all that I can become. I try every day to look at my life through the eyes of my loving mother that I might see all that I can be.
Now that I am older, I can only imagine how difficult it was for her to remove my strap and see me fall. It would have been so easy for her to just give me my strap. Had she done so however, I would have been safe in the knowledge that I would never fall, yet always wondering what more I could have been.
Each of us have straps that we allow to stay in our lives and keep us from reaching our full potential. We have to take heart from my mother’s courage and remove the straps that keep us down so that we can find our own balance. Odds are good that we will fall. But those scrapes will heal and in the quest to unlock “The Champion Inside,” our lives will become full of opportunity as we realize and utilize all that we are and all that we can be.
All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel Mother. — Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)