On August 26, 1996, I sustained my traumatic brain injury in a car accident. Water and rainbows had always been healing to me but throughout these years on my journey, they’ve been a real comfort. When I was first injured, we lived in an apartment in Atlanta. I couldn’t drive yet but I would often take my little dog, Abu, for a walk to a stream by my apartment to “get away from it all.” Abu played in the water while I sat and relaxed, deep in thought. For me water and rainbows are signs of hope.
Fifteen years ago, Michael and I drove a couple of miles from our apartment to get some frozen yogurt. Michael made a left hand turn onto our street but forgot he was using a standard transmission so he miscalculated. We were hit and both of us were injured, he less so than I. We were taken to two different hospitals where I was put into an induced coma to prevent brain swelling. I don’t even remember the first hospital since after a couple of weeks, I was transferred to another facility which had rehab for brain trauma survivors.
In the beginning, I had planned to go back to full time pastoral ministry. I pronounced endless lists of words until I could learn to speak clearly. I did activities to help my cognitive functions. I even began volunteering at a retirement facility as a chaplain until I was ready to work as a full-time minister again. Slowly but surely, I became aware that I would not be able to work as a full time minister again.
Awareness is part of all survivors’ journeys. Rep. Giffords is on this journey now and it is not an easy one at all. It’s especially difficult because one never knows how much brain function will return. In the beginning, I improved by leaps and bounds and it looked like I’d be able to work again. I began leading devotionals at the center, attending numerous meetings and writing short pieces. The problem was, sometimes my body would completely break down and I’d spend a few days in bed sleeping. I always returned to the same work load which meant more times of rest. Many folks in the brain injury field cautioned me about doing too much but I didn’t understand what they meant.
It became a never ending cycle. I would get depressed when I needed to rest but yet I refused to cut back. It wasn’t until we moved to Asheville, NC in 2004 when I dropped out of everything. I didn’t have any church meetings, no volunteer commitments and no preaching or writing commitments. I spent all my time getting used to a new environment which was enough challenge in itself. After battling my insurance company who thought I could be working, I settled into a calm existence.
Yet I became bored. I needed some challenge, some sort of goal or I would go crazy! Harold Kushner, the author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People helped me here. Genesis says, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. The earth was formless and chaotic, with darkness covering everything.” Kushner continues, “Then God began to work His creative magic on the chaos, sorting things out, imposing order where there had been randomness before. He separated the light from the darkness, the earth from the sky, the dry land from the sea. This is what it means to create: not to make something out of nothing, but to make order out of chaos.” (I added the bold.)
So a little at a time, God is helping me make order out of the chaos of brain injury. I can do a lot but I must be careful about what and how I do it. I can preach, write and do other things but I can’t do them all together as I could before. I’m learning to make choices. I still want to take on too many things so this is a process for me but every year, I get better at it. I’ll never have it completely worked out but that’s okay. One of my favorite passages of scripture is Isaiah 43:19 “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” God creates order out of chaos which means there is a road through this wilderness of life.
If you are a brain injury survivor, do you see order in your chaos? Or are you in the midst of chaos and wonder how you’re going to survive? Many of us who are survivors have been there so please know you are not alone. See above right for commenting instructions. Due to a glitch I’m not able to comment here but I read every one. Hopefully, this will be fixed soon. If you’d rather contact me directly write firstname.lastname@example.org