Aimee Buchanan

Kushner, Uncategorized
Aimee's footprint at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church

Aimee’s footprint at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church

Like the Psalmists before us who screamed, “Why have you forsaken me? Can’t You hear my cries? How long are you going to hide from me?” we are crying out as well. “How can you take a person who has so much yet to offer the world? She wasn’t done yet! What were You thinking?” are some of our questions.

Some folks believe that God is in control of our world and everything happens for a reason. We may not know this reason yet but it will be clear to us later. While I understand this thinking and how it allows us to make sense out of the tragedies of our world, I do not hold this belief.

Why do some folks get cancer, diabetes or heart disease? Why do some folks have to use a wheelchair or a hearing aid? Why did I sustain a traumatic brain injury? There are no answers to these questions and dwelling upon them only makes us feel worse. God has power in our lives but not to make bad things happen so we can learn from them. God takes what has happened and helps us use our experiences to bring the Spirit of Life and Hope to our world.

I am sad that Aimee has died. Her death came way too early and she still had much to do. As is often the case, her death has brought back memories of other deaths and losses in my life. I’ve had to check out of my daily activities for a little while to deal with these losses and it hurts. After much time spent writing and singing – which always seems to help me process my emotions – I’ve come to an understanding.

The picture above is an imprint of Aimee’s feet that is on the wall in the youth room at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church. Every year, the young people dip their feet in paint and then leave their footprints on the wall. I’ve been in the youth room often and every time I’m there, I wonder how they manage to do this. Do they hold one another up long ways so the person may stamp the wall with their feet? Do they sit on a ladder and swing their feet to make a print on the wall? I don’t know.

Seeing her footprint reminded me how much walking Aimee did in her life. She walked in the Sanctuary at Grace Covenant when she led worship. She walked at youth events at Montreat Conference Center and in other places across the country. She walked at Haywood Street Methodist as she led those who don’t have homes in art projects and prayers. She walked all over Asheville leading groups for Asheville Youth Missions.

In worship on the Sunday before Aimee’s death, the choir at Grace Covenant sang an anthem by Brian Tate based on lyrics from traditional spirituals called Hold Me, Rock Me.

Hold me, rock me, calm and easy
Hold me, rock me, deep and wide,
Hold me, rock me, in your arms,
Oh I got a home on the other side. (refrain)

Someday, gonna cross that river, gonna set out on my own,
Don’t know where my journey leads, but I’ll keep on walking’ till I get me home. (refrain)

My life is a runnin’ river, flowin’ from the mountains to the distant sea.
I’ve know many hills and valleys, but when I reach that ocean, I’ll be free. (refrain)

Aimee spent her whole life walking on the peace and justice road. She walked with us on our journey toward wholeness. She encouraged us on our paths as we walked along which helped many of us keep walking. Now she has walked home.

Even though she is no longer here, we can still walk on. We can honor her by continuing to carry out her vision of peace, justice and wholeness to the world. She knew many hills and valleys but she has reached that ocean now and she is free.

Fifteen Years

awareness, creative, Giffords and Kelly, Kushner, rainbow

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