Sometimes Pain is a Good Thing

March 11, 2010

Out of nowhere, I heard what sounded like a shotgun going off just next to my left ear.  Before I knew it, my 1/2 ton Ford Van went careening across all three lanes of traffic going south, continued through the median, and proceeded to fly into the on-coming traffic.  Then, everything went dark.

I don’t know how long I was out on that November day in late 1997, but the next thing I knew, I awoke to an EMT asking me a barrage of questions, like,

“What’s your name?’
“Where do you live?”
“Do you know your phone number?”
“Are you married?”
“What’s your Social Security Number?”

As I did my best, to answer the questions, I tried to figure out where I was, and what had happened.  The first thing I noticed was that my view was filled with a blue sky dotted by puffy white clouds.

“Wasn’t I just in my car?” I thought to myself.

Then, as I stared to wonder if the whole accident hadn’t simply been a big dream, the pain kicked in.

Now, 100% sure that this was more nightmare than dream, and all too real, I noticed my van’s radio antenna.  This seemed odd, for I knew that was the antenna was on the passenger side of the vehicle.

Then, I realized the enormity of what had happened—I was hanging half in, and half out of the passenger side of the van (which was the opposite side of the van from where I’d started out.)

My face was covered in blood, and as the paramedics on the scene began to employ the Jaws of Life, a whole new fear enveloped me.

Petrified, I wondered, “What if I have broken my neck again?” and “What if that break would take away more movement?”

I was pretty sure that at least one of my wrists were broken, but that was the least of my worries, and so with all the courage I could muster, I started moving my wrists up and down.

Tears streamed down my face.  One of the EMT’s saw the tears and my moving wrists, and told me that it wouldn’t hurt so bad if I would keep my wrists stable,

What he didn’t know, was that the tears weren’t from the pain, instead, they were from an overwhelming sense of joy.  Based on what I knew about my spinal cord injury, I was pretty sure that moving my wrists meant I had not lost any additional movement—that of all the injuries that happened in the wreck, I hadn’t done any more damage to my spinal cord.

That day, pain was a good thing.

The adage has proved itself in the years that have followed.  It is pain that reminds us of our blessings. It is pain that teaches us things like humility, and diligence.  It’s pain that gives us character, and pain that helps us love what we have along with what we’ve had the opportunity to have.  It is pain that often glues us together.

Pain isn’t ever fun, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad.  In fact it is often just the thing that reminds of all that is wonderful.

Yes, I’m quite sure that sometimes pain is a good thing.


“It’s Only a Car.”

July 31, 2009

Jason in Van

In our lives, there are times when we find ourselves in a situation where we’ve done our best to keep up, to do what’s right and despite our most valiant efforts, our best just isn’t good enough. Simply put, something goes wrong, or we wrong another and we have to face the consequences. Mistakes, accidents, lapses in judgement, call them what you will, but they happen to us all, and many times there isn’t anything more we can do than just ask for some forgiveness.

As hard as it is to ask for forgiveness, sometimes I think it’s even more difficult to dole it out. We all want forgiveness and, when we need it, we want it by the pound for the penny. However, when someone comes to ask for forgiveness, and we are asked to give it, the only pound we often think of is the pound of flesh we believe that we deserve.

I learned a great lesson about forgiveness early in my driving career.

I grew up in Boise, Idaho and for reasons that made a lot of sense to me then, but make very little sense to me now, we were able to be licensed to drive when we were 14. On the day I got the little piece of plastic that made it legal for me to drive, our family didn’t have a “third car” or “kids car” so, much of my early driving happened in a big brown GMC van. It was often hard to see everything from every angle in the brown beast. But, ended up being a great learning environment for all of the vans I would have to drive later as a result of my injury.

In my teens, through all the foolishness, I worked hard to respect my parents property and did my best not to make a mistake. But, just like anyone driving a 1/2 ton van, it was often difficult to see everything from every angle.

One Saturday, I was backing my van out of the garage and sweating bullets because, as I looked out my rear view mirror, I saw my dad’s brand-new BMW parked on the opposite side of the driveway. Carefully, slowly and working to anticipate every possible situation, I slowly moved my van through the driveway, and toward the street.

Just as I felt I was home free, I heard the sound nearly every teenager dreads–that horrible steel on steel sound that puts a hole where your stomach once was.  My van had hit his pristine “Beemer” and I feared the worst. I quickly put the van in Park and hustled around to see how much damage had been done.

I was grateful to see that there were no dents, but ruined as I saw the scratch that went across both doors on the drivers side. My first thought was that hopefully I could just buff them out. Regardless which car product I used or how much elbow grease I applied, the scratch just simply wouldn’t go away.

Finally, I knew what I had to do. I went into my dad and told him that I’d hit his car. He asked if I was okay, and I told him that it wasn’t that kind of accident. We walked outside and for what seemed like hours, he quietly circled his “Not Just a Car but a Driving Machine” occasionally looking back at at the Van.

Over and over I kept telling him how sorry I was and how I’d work off every penny. I kept explaining how I’d been so careful, and how I was sure I was far enough away. Finally, he turned to me ready to speak and I prepared myself to never again see another penny and be grounded until I was 24 (basically life in my young eyes). It was then when he taught me a lesson of a lifetime.

He turned to me and said, “It’s only a car, son.” He put his arm around me and with my jaw dragging on the floor, we went back into the house.

I was blown away. Not because I felt like I had somehow gotten off easy. But, because of the words he said. I kept thinking about all the ways he could have handled the situation, all the punishments he could have offered up, and about his words, “It’s only a car, son.”

I know he was upset. I know he was disappointed that his car had been damaged. I know it was going to be an expense he didn’t want to have to pay. There were many lessons he could’ve taught me that day. The value of a dollar, the importance of being a careful driver, the way you have to take responsibility for your actions, etc. But that day, he decided to teach me a lesson about forgiveness.

In my life today, when someone does me wrong I try to remember his message. I try to remember that, for the most part the things we get upset about, are just that, things. And, that what matters most are the people we interact with and the way they feel when our interaction is over.

There are many that will say he was too easy, there are many that will say he was too soft, and that that kind of parenting just doesn’t work.

It wasn’t the way he parented every day, but on that day his choice was the right one. For, the trade-off was worth it. That day, he taught me a lesson I have worked to never forget, one we would all do well to remember. He taught me that even when the stakes are high we can still forgive, we can still be kind, we can still work to be understanding of others.

The next time you are wronged and you begin to exact your pound of flesh remember that things can be replaced and people can’t, Remember that in the end “It’s only a car.”


This summer has been crazy, and I haven’t been blogging as regularly as I should have. I’m coming out with a little Mea Culpa and asking for a little understanding and forgiveness. I’m working to be more regular with my posts in order to keep you interested and coming back more frequently.

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.