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  • Unpredictable

    Recently I attended a play staged by students from a Middle School in Hood River. The play was titled, Unpredictable. Their teacher had lost a child within weeks of birth during the past year. So, she thought it would help her and be an excellent activity for her reading students to get outside of themselves and think of the plight of others.

    She presented them with the premise for an activity that would focus on the life of someone who had encountered misfortune. For reasons still unknown to me, they chose my son, Noah. He had been paralyzed in a car accident two and a half years previously. Evidently, his story still percolated in the consciousness of our small community.

    Ultimately, the play was more about these kids than it was about my son. Their collective effort to stage a drama sympathetic to the struggles of another, raise money for someone they had never met, and present it publicly for family and friends was an amazing success for 11 and 12 year olds. And, they got it right: the distress, the frustration, and the hope. The play, a culmination of several months' effort, was to be the last day of work for their teacher. She was pregnant again and following the performance, left for the remainder of the school year on maternity leave. So in some respects, this is about her as well. More than just self-esteem was to be born with a relation to this project.

    Which brings me back to the apt title of the play, Unpredictable. What, if anything, is more unpredictable than the journey parents embark upon when they have a child? We invite them into the world by choosing conception. They are stuck with us and our destiny and we with them and theirs. Together, we must navigate all the mythical passages of life. We are the sextant through which they chart their course. And they are the measure we can take of our own position between heaven and earth. We have dreams for them and they have dreams for themselves. They go forth innocently and stretch the borders of safety in order to arrive at their own destinations. We like to think we know where we are going, but it is more about faith than it is purpose. Such is life. It all seems so straightforward; yet surprises are revealed beyond the horizons of each choice.

    Watching the play was an emotional experience for me. I managed myself well with the exception of the Interpol song, NYC. That music is Noah's from the time of the accident. I had not heard it before that night. As it played and I suddenly comprehended, "Oh, that is the song," I was glad the lights were low. Which is how it should be. I did not want to detract from the student's performance. Still, I can't deny there occur moments when I feel rudderless from the "what ifs".

    I did wonder, as the play unfolded and I observed the crowd of proud parents, would I give up the joy I took in their tribute to Noah, in exchange for his accident never occurring? Would I forego the wonderful friendships that have come my way since my family began this voyage into the Bermuda Triangle of paralysis? What about denying these children the enrichment they derived from their exploration of empathy? Or the allies we have made or the unexpected gifts of love and the generosity of strangers? And, what about the moments of profound self-realization? My life now sometimes seems so full of the grace of others it would not surprise me if tomorrow I were to levitate.

    The answer to all these questions is an unequivocal yes. I would give it all back and cherish the ignorance. No sane parent wants his or her child to be the spiritual messenger sacrificed on the altar of deliverance. The agony of watching the day to day difficulties of paralysis is not worth even enlightenment. Furthermore, that is really Noah's question to ask and answer, not mine. But the fact that I found myself musing at all was...well, it was unpredictable.

    *****

    25 years ago, when Noah was born, I cut the cord that joined him to my wife. That ritual, however, did more to entwine our lives than it did to separate them. Whatever uncertainties lay ahead became ours to share. In that instant of bonding I crossed over a bar I had not realized existed. His bright blueberry eyes, untainted by hardship or disappointment, full of innocent wonder, roved the confines of the delivery room.

    Implicit in those wandering eyes were all the questions he could not yet articulate. "Where am I? Who am I? What am I doing here?" I was witness to a brand new consciousness. And I was moved by the trust in his gaze. I like to think that trust was for us: my wife and I, his brother yet to be conceived or born, each of you who reads this, and all the strangers who do not. I want to believe we all need each other. I want to believe it is life's misfortunes, which deliver that message in a bottle to our tiny islands of self-centeredness.

    I am trying so hard to understand if there is a because to all the whys that have come into my life since my son was injured. I am trying to make sense of the erratic course we now travel. That teacher had looked to her students for a way to cope with her loss. In turn, she gave to them a way to deal with their own trials yet to come.

    The lesson she unwittingly gave to me is that compassion is empowering. It connects us to the potential for divinity in our own lives. That is true whether you give it selflessly or receive it unexpectedly. Your life will be changed. For compassion is the sail that captures the very breath of God, regardless of your faith. It propels you forward to the next unpredictable horizon full of that of which you have been deprived: Hope.

    On April 28, 2005, that teacher gave birth to a baby girl, Annika. Both Mom and baby are healthy and happy. Together, along with the students of her reading class, they are ready to enjoy a well-deserved summer break from school.

    John

    "Hope is like a road in the country; there was never a road, but when many people walk on it, the road comes into existence." Lin Yutang
    Last edited by john smith; 07-02-2006, 10:12 PM.
    "Hope is like a road in the country; there was never a road, but when many people walk on it, the road comes into existence." Lin Yutang

  • #2
    John,

    Your post is absolutely incredible. Did you write it for publication? If not, it SHOULD be. It's excellent.

    lol.......levitating! You are right in that we have also met many compassionate and kind people since Karen's accident, and many wonderful things have happened to Karen since her accident. I have also wondered if I would change her having the accident if I could, fully knowing that I cannot. I also absolutely would change the outcome of her accident in the blink of an eye.

    Karen, on the other hand, strongly believes that her accident has happened for a reason, something beyond her control and comprehension. She doesn't really know "why", but she knows she has some higher purpose to fulfill. No, we are not religious. She continues to make speeches about her accident and about people with spinal cord injuries, and the perseverance it takes to "come back" from this injury. She also works and volunteers for the search for a "cure". She thinks perhaps this is her new "job" in life .......to show that disabled people are still valuable, knowledgeable, and worthy people.

    I admire Noah and you and your whole family for your dedication to living with SCI, recovering as much function as you can, the search for a cure, and pushing for the appropriate legislation to allow for that.

    Thanks John.

    Darlene
    www.karenbrain.ca
    PS - let me know if you start levitating! [img]/forum/images/smilies/biggrin.gif[/img]

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    • #3
      John,

      Incredible, as always. You really ought to publish this and many of your other prose. Do you mind if I copy this and send it on to my parents and others?

      Sue

      www.unite2fightparalysis.org

      "Either you decide to stay in the shallow end of the pool or you go out in the ocean." C. Reeve
      Please submit your photo and story of hope:

      http://bridges2hope.unite2fightparalysis.org/


      http://unite2fightparalysis.org/

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      • #4
        John-

        Amazing writing, of course.

        I remember when I had Jake, he was big and I wound up doing the fetal distress/emergency c-section routine. I remember a few things so well...they took him away and I told Steve to follow him, make sure he was fine. I remember not knowing what love was before-parental love is so fierce, it's not like anything else.

        Having never been a worrier, I remember being slam-dunked with the realization that I had just enrolled in a lifetime of anxiety.

        I hate sci so much but I'll always be grateful for the breeze that blew the Smith's my way. If Jake turns out to be half the kid Noah is I'll consider it a job well done.

        "...I mean the wheelchair would be a thing in the past
        And us quads can talk about the past and laugh"-Professirx
        http://unite2fightparalysis.org/
        Blog:
        Does This Wheelchair Make My Ass Look Fat?

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        • #5
          Thank you ladies!

          Darlene;
          Your family is an inspiration to us also and would be one of the amazing connections I would reluctantly well..., you know what I mean.

          Beth and Sue, two of the you know what! Sue, don't think twice, it's alright to copy and share. Beth, when we eventually meet we will have to share baby delivery stories. Ours are quite the tales.

          Peace,

          John

          "Hope is like a road in the country; there was never a road, but when many people walk on it, the road comes into existence." Lin Yutang
          "Hope is like a road in the country; there was never a road, but when many people walk on it, the road comes into existence." Lin Yutang

          Comment


          • #6
            I am stunned. Speechless. Your words are amazing. Thank you so much for writing this, sharing this.

            Ami, wife of Chad, 17 years post (c4), together 1.5 years
            Wife of Chad (C4/5 since 1988), mom of a great teenager

            Comment


            • #7
              Powerfully and beautifully written words, John.
              I'm going to pass this along to my mum to read.

              Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts.

              www.warpedtour.com

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              • #8
                Thanks for sharing your thoughts here John. I'm sending the link for this to my mother and father.

                As always, your words were spoken with class and elegance.

                "Your love is just the antidote when nothing else will cure me" ~Sarah McLachlan
                "Your love is just the antidote when nothing else will cure me" ~Sarah McLachlan

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                • #9
                  Thank you John. I always find something for myself in your written thoughts. [img]/forum/images/smilies/smile.gif[/img]

                  ~~~Honesty is the best policy~~~Treat others as you would like to be treated~~~Play hard, but play fairly~~~
                  "I just want you to know, it was the best time ever." J.F.F.

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                  • #10
                    Thanks John for the story it was really good and i love your message my family was really moved by it we have been through a lot the past three years thank you

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                    • #11
                      You are a wonderful writer.
                      And love to hear when kids go in the right direction..and are loved.

                      "A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned to walk foreward." FDR
                      Life isn't about getting thru the storm but learning to dance in the rain.

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                      • #12
                        You know John I just feel blessed every time I read anything you post .... I don't always respond but you do give me pause for thought nearly every time. It was in the stars for Noah to have you for his Dad .... and for him to be your Son ... no doubt!!

                        Obieone
                        ~ Be the change you wish to see in the world ~ Mahatma Gandi


                        " calling all Angels ...... calling all Angels ....walk me through this one .. don't leave me alone .... calling all Angels .... calling all Angels .... we're tryin' and we're hopin' cause we're not sure how ....... this .... goes ..."
                        Jane Siberry

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                        • #13
                          Noah is now back in Oregon for the summer in order to attend the University of Oregon's summer sessions. On Friday, June 10th, Noah surprised the sixth grade reading class which staged the play inspired by his struggle with SCI, Unpredictable.

                          The students were delighted that he would appear unannounced. The substitute teacher was in on the surprise visit and invited the regular teacher who had initiated the performance. She brought her new baby Annika.

                          He handed out Cure Paralysis bracelets from the Miami Project and Cure SCI bracelets from sciwalker.com. He then did Q and A for an hour and departed. I look forward to hearing from the teachers about the experience.

                          John

                          "Hope is like a road in the country; there was never a road, but when many people walk on it, the road comes into existence." Lin Yutang
                          "Hope is like a road in the country; there was never a road, but when many people walk on it, the road comes into existence." Lin Yutang

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by john smith:

                            Noah is now back in Oregon for the summer in order to attend the University of Oregon's summer sessions. On Friday, June 10th, Noah surprised the sixth grade reading class which staged the play inspired by his struggle with SCI, Unpredictable.

                            The students were delighted that he would appear unannounced. The substitute teacher was in on the surprise visit and invited the regular teacher who had initiated the performance. She brought her new baby Annika.

                            He handed out Cure Paralysis bracelets from the Miami Project and Cure SCI bracelets from sciwalker.com. He then did Q and A for an hour and departed. I look forward to hearing from the teachers about the experience.

                            John

                            "Hope is like a road in the country; there was never a road, but when many people walk on it, the road comes into existence." Lin Yutang
                            Welcome home, Noah. I'm sure you've been missed.

                            You and your family are quite the treasure.

                            Rick
                            Rick

                            GO FORWARD! 2 FIGHT! PARALYSIS!

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Very thoughtful and insightful. My parents are in their 70' and 80's,and they ask everytime they see me why did this have to happen to me. And I tell them its in the cards of my life,no one can change what happened. Though that does not mean I have to accept the outcome as final,but the start of very long road to travel,and its my ambition to have as many people travel it with me.I certainly hope your Noah travels with many a friend on his unpredictable road. God bless your family.

                              Make it your ambition to lead by example,to work with your hands,so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders,and so that you will not be dependent on anybody..Motley Fool

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