A Grateful Heart + Winner

First, congrats and an autographed DVD to Sue for her winning inspirational thought.  I love her spirit about the “change” cancer has brought to her life.

Six years since my diagnosis of Breast Cancer. It was a hard time for my husband, my boys and my extended family and of course for me.
I consider every day a gift and I don’t like to waste even a minute on hard feelings, mean people (I’m in retail, LOL) or anger. I just don’t have the time!
Cancer did change me but it is all good!

Now Today’s Post:

My Hands

My Hands

With Thanksgiving on it’s way, I wanted this weeks posts to center on gratitude.  I’ll post today and Wednesday and then be off for the weekend.

During my hospital stays, I have never had any real depression.  The closest I ever came was in the middle of the three-month stay after breaking my neck.

When I was in the ICU, I was so ill and so focused on staying alive there wasn’t much time left to think too far into the future.  As I continued to get better I began to wonder what life after the hospital would be like.
Moving from ICU to the Rehabilitation wing brought the thought of “after” permanently to the fore of my mind.  That’s their job there—to get you thinking about living versus just staying alive. It was there I began to understand what it meant to be unable to move my hands.

In rehab, I was working every day to get the most out of the few parts of my body that still worked, trying to sit upright on the mats, increasing my strength with the weights and working to push my chair.

At night in my room, I would watch my hands. I would see them move in my mind, concentrating until it hurt, hoping for them to work; needing them to work. But they didn’t.  Not a single movement.
One night lying in my bed, I struck a deal with God.  I told him that I would live the rest of my life happy without the use of my legs if He’d just give me back my hands. “Keep my legs;” my soul would scream,” Just let me have my hands.”

It didn’t seem like too much to ask.  Most kids at fifteen were worried about what they would wear the next day to school.  I couldn’t feed myself, clothe myself, or get myself into or out of bed.
Day and night I would pray, “Please God, heal my hands, make them move, make them work,” and every time—the same result—nothing.

I knew that having my hands would open up a whole new world for me. I knew it meant that I could push my own chair, put myself in and out of bed, pick something up off the floor, wash my face, brush my teeth, comb my hair—things that would make my life easier a hundred-fold.

I knew that if God were ever to accept my deal, He would have to see me working hard every day. So, I had decided that in daily therapy I would give everything I had. Hour upon hour I exercised— stretching and pulling, doing everything in my power to strengthen the remaining muscles.
The work was tedious and the progress slow, but the tiny daily victories coupled with my hope made it all worth it—until Daniel came.

Dan had been in an accident similar to mine, but had escaped with the total use of his arms and hands and partial use of his legs. Every day the therapist would offer to work with Dan. “Today, let’s concentrate on your upper body.  Today, let’s strengthen your arms and hands.” the therapist would plead, only to hear Dan’s all too familiar response. “No,” he would reply, “Today I want to watch my legs, maybe today they’ll move—maybe today they’ll work.

Frustrated to no end, I thought, “Don’t you see what you have?  Don’t you understand that you have access to blessings and opportunities that I can only dream of, that I can only pray for?  Yet ,you’re so wrapped up in what you don’t have, you can’t even see what you do have.”

Ready to quit I headed back to my room.  On my way there I stopped in the room of a friend, Rich Hullinger.
Rich was also a quadriplegic.  As I spoke to him that day, I noticed that he wore leather braces on his wrists. I had worn similar braces at the beginning of my hospital stay, but as my wrists had become stronger, I was able to function without them.

It seemed odd to me that Rich, who had been in hospital longer than I, would still be wearing them.  Our injuries were similar. We were both quadriplegics at about the same level. But, he had been in the hospital longer than I, and so I began to wonder why would he need the leather braces on his wrists?

Curious, I asked Rich about them. I told him that because of the time that he had been in the hospital, he could remove the braces from his wrists.

It was then Rich had his beautiful young wife come and remove the braces.  I watched his wrists fall.  He explained to me that the break in his neck was one pinhead higher than mine.  He told me that because it was, he was unable to move his wrists up and down or even hold them against the power of gravity.
I returned to my room so ashamed. I had found in myself, all the things I hated in Dan.

That night lying in bed I watched my hands, but this time for a different purpose. Instead of waiting for them to move or work, I watched as my wrists moved up and down.

Over and over I moved my wrists up and down, all the while thinking of lessons Rich had taught me.  I began to think of how blessed I was to be able to move my wrists up and down.  I wondered how many people were praying that night for that one singular blessing.  I wondered what else I had access to that others could only dream about.  Each time I moved my wrists up and down I would think of a blessing that was mine.
I thought about the family who loved and cared about me.  I thought about the friends who cared little whether I was sitting or standing and cared only that I was their friend.  I thought about the fact that I had never wanted for food, clothing, or a place to stay.  I thought about how I had never had to find shelter from the rain. I realized that I lived in a country where I was free to worship as I pleased; where I could get the best medical care.

As I moved my hand up and down I became thankful in my heart for things that I had otherwise forgotten.
I had spent the bulk of my time concentrating on what I did not have when I should have been focusing on what I did. By wishing for different circumstances, I had become totally oblivious to my life’s many blessings.  This oblivion caused my outlook on life to become tarnished.  It affected the way I dealt with others and my zeal for life.  It affected the way I felt about myself. 

With this new realization, I began to feel more blessed.   As I felt more blessed, I became more thankful. As I became more thankful, I developed a sense of worth which brought with it new vigor for life.

Rich’s lesson to us is to take a moment each day to look around our lives and realize our blessings.  There are blessings all around.  Each of us needs only to take a moment and see how blessed we are, no matter how dark the night or difficult the day, no matter what adversity stands in our way. If we will open our eyes and look, we will see that we have blessings that others only think about; blessings that others can only dream of–that we have blessings others can only pray for.



3 Responses to A Grateful Heart + Winner

  1. Lisa D says:

    I couldn’t get through reading this post without wiping the tears first. What a great lesson to learn adn to share. Thank you so much.

  2. Michelle says:

    Jason, I’m so happy you’re blogging. Although I don’t always comment, I read each and every one of your posts. You inspire me so much and are helping me change my view of the life around me. I so enjoy my “time” with you. Just wanted you to know, you (and Kolette!) are loved by people who don’t even know you – yet, in a way, know you very well. I’m thankful for YOU, my friend, this holiday season!

  3. Beautiful…
    Thank you so much for writing this and helping us all focus on what we do have…

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