“On Our Way”

Funeral Procession of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, April 9, 1968

Funeral Procession of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, April 9, 1968

Mark Ramsey and Kristy Farber, the two pastors at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church here in Asheville, NC are doing a sermon series on communion, baptisim, funerals and marriages. Last Sunday the day before Dr. Martin Luther King Day, Mark preached about funerals. I couldn’t help thinking, “Now how in the world is he going to preach about Dr. King and funerals in the same sermon?” Somehow, he managed to do so and I must say I was impressed with his thoughts.

Sermons are funny things. Mark preached this neat sermon about Dr. King and funerals and somehow I connected it to my own personal issues. I think this happens a lot which is what is great about sermons and worship services. God speaks to each of us through them often in ways the worship leaders do not even imagine. To hear his sermon, click the following link:
(There’s a real good chance I put this in wrong so in case I did, go to the web side http://www.gcpcusa.org then click on sermons on the right side. Next click on “On Our Way.”)

In it, Mark said that funerals call us to do three things. 1) Tell the truth about our lives 2) Lift up the promises of God 3) Due to this opportunity to look back, we are propelled forward. As I thought about his words, I realized that having a brain injury calls us to do these very same things. In the beginning, I would never share that I had a brain injury. In fact, I was advised by folks to keep it quiet. Since you wouldn’t know I have a TBI by looking at me, this was pretty easy. .

The problem? I was miserable. I didn’t like hiding the fact that I couldn’t remember someone’s name or I got lost all the time. I hated having to find a place by myself where I could “rest my brain” by putting in my ear plugs for a few minutes and closing my eyes. I do know that our world is set up for us to hide our true selves in order to “make it” and be successful. I’m fortunate that I receive disability benefits so I don’t have to fake it and boy did I ever fake it. I so wanted to be like everyone else by earning my own way in this world.

However, now that I’ve stopped “faking it,” I’m much happier. I recently had an expereince when I was talking to a man about his wife. I know both of them fairly well but I couldn’t remember her name and had to ask him what it was. Five years ago I would have faked it but then I just blurted out “Tell me your wife’s name?” He looked at me a little funny but I suspect he figured out it was an example of my TBI challenges.

I’ve also had many opportunites to tell folks what God has done in my life. Oh I may not do so directly but it is clear that God has been with me all throughout this journey and God is not going to leave me now! When I look back and see what God has done in my life, I am driven to serve God in the future.

Along with the picture printed above in the bulletin was a quote from one of Dr. King’s prayers. “O God, we thank thee for this golden privilege to worship thee. We come to thee today, grateful that thou hast kept us through the long night of the past and ushered us into the challenge of the present and the bright hope of the future. We thank thee for thy Church founded upon thy Word, that challenges us to do more than sing and pray, but go out and work as though the very answer to our prayers depended on us and not upon thee. Then, finally, help us to realize that we were created to shine like stars. Keep us, we pray, in perfect peace, help us to walk together, pray together, sing together, and live together until that day whan all God’s children, Black, White, Red and Yellow will rejoice in one common band of humanity in the kingdom of our Lord and our God, we pray, Amen.”

God has called those of us who have brain injuries to walk together and work so that others will not have to experience this same trauma. And if we meet someone who is a survivor, we are called to walk together with them for this is not an easy journey. However they,nor are we, ever alone.

What do you think about Mark’s three things we do in funerals? Telling the truth about our lives, lifting up the promises of God and being propelled forward? Can you relate to any of these in your life? I think this applies specifically to folks who have a disability or other challenges but it could also apply to anyone.

Survivor/Witness

I do not like the term “brain injury victim.” Yes, I have a traumatic brain injury but no, I am not a victim. The word “victim” sounds weak and not in control of the situation. The truth is, I am a survivor. I’ve survived using another word if I’m unable to find the word I want to use. I’ve survived my over stimulation and have learned how to leave a room and put my ear plugs in when the noise in the room becomes to much for me. Many brain injury survivors have learned how to live with various aches and pains. Other survivors have learned how to live with vision problems. Some survivors have learned how to express themselves when they are unable to use their voices.

I’ve been reading a book by Arthur Frank called The Wounded Storyteller: Body, Illness, and Ethics. He suggests “witness” rather than “survivor.” He writes that he has no quarrel with this term but “becoming a witness assumes a responsibility for telling what happened. The witness offers testimony to a truth that is generally unrecognized or suppressed. People who tell stories of illness are witnesses, turning illness into moral responsibility.” While I do not consider TBI an illness (see 2/16/11), this statement applies to me and all TBI survivors.

He writes about a woman named Gail who has chronic pain. She comments “and all these people in pain…all these people with aches and all these people suffering. We walk in different dimensions. We have access to different experiences, different knowledges. And there are so many of us too. What would happen if we all knew what it really meant and we all lived as if it really mattered, which it does.” Frank goes on , “Gail claims different knowledges, but what would her answer be if she were called to account for such knowledge? What if a group of professionals were to examine her and ask, what exactly do you have to teach?”

I ask Brain injury Survivors, “What do we have to teach?” I’ll have to think about this some since I do get frustrated with all the things I cannot do that I sometimes don’t see what this
TBI has given me. I have often heard “survivors” or “witnesses” says they are glad they have a TBI for they have learned so much. I’m not glad I have a TBI but I have learned quite a bit and God has been with me all along this journey. I would have preferred to learn things a different way but sometimes this life throws us curve balls and we have to run for them!

If you have a brain injury, what do you have to teach? See above right for commenting instructions or contact me directly at puffer61@gmail.com Since I changed email addresses, I can’t figure out how to respond to your comments on this blog so untill I get this bug worked out, know that I’ve read them!