One year ago today I awoke to find I could not walk. I would spend the next 2-3 weeks going from my bed to my couch and no further. I watched more Perry Mason, Laramie or Gunsmoke than I thought possible. I was miserable. I confess to wanting someone to put a bullet into my brain and end the onslaught of pain.
And thus it was that I celebrated Christmas, and my 50th birthday on New Year’s Day, lying on my side with a pillow between my knees because it was the only position that allowed relief from endless spasms and for my tears to cease.
A trip to the doctor’s yielded no results, but did get me a prescription that finally allowed me to get some sleep. I was unable to have an MRI because I could not lie flat for more than 90 seconds and the long, thin tube required my stillness for 30 minutes. My wife bought me two crutches which enabled me to hobble about somewhat. Two weeks in physical therapy prescribed by my doctor did a little, but not much in the end. I did have “dry needling” or acupuncture twice, and it yielded positive results but did not last.
I continued to want that bullet in my head.
I finally went to a chiropractor that had an office near my home. My oldest son had a bad spinal and neck injury from junior high football and two years of chiro had enabled him to function and breathe normally again, complete his high school baseball career and serve as a US Marine. His chiropractor’s office was 30 minutes away and closed for three weeks due to the birth of the chiropractor’s baby. Researching a handful of chiropractors resulted in my deciding to go to the one I did nearby, because of the similarity in techniques and philosophy with my son’s. Hindsight revealed that I had ignored ten months of slow warning signals being sent from my body regarding my back and on Dec. 18, 2017, it manifested itself with the most intense sciatic pain knifing through my left thigh and down into my knee. Seriously…a bullet would have been merciful. I wouldn’t wish that pain on even my worse enemy.
And so, after a flurry of initial treatment several times per week gradually slowing to the once per week I still go today, and as the man who claimed to have been turned into a newt said when confronted with the fact that he was in fact a man said in Monty Python and the Holy Grail:
What a year.
I haven’t blogged in 367 days. I’ve thought about what to say if…or when…I decided to post once again. Would it be a farewell? Would it be as if no time had passed? What would I say? Do I even have anything to say anymore?
I don’t have the answers yet. This may, in fact, be the last thing I write here. I just don’t know.
The last twelve months have been a blur, full of challenges and some triumphs. My oldest son returned from his second deployment safely in the spring, and was discharged honorably in October. He has begun the next phase of his life and currently resides with us. I’ve had to say goodbye to some dear friends my own age who didn’t get the luxury of mulling over such vanities because when the time came for them the next breath was suddenly and unexpectedly their last. Sobering events indeed.
I’ve learned, and re-learned, the power of prayer and faith. For it was my faith as a practicing Catholic that helped guide me through the dark year that was 2017, it’s painful ending, and the challenges faced in 2018. I recently made a three-plus day silent Ignatian retreat that renewed and refreshed me. One of the exercises was to review the events of our last twelve months and to journal
- What have I learned?
- What have I accomplished?
- What role did faith, hope or love play?
- What might I have done differently?
- Why might I have done things differently?
- What significant events occurred that were very special to me?
- What brought fun into my life?
- What were sources of joy?
- What difficult things have I faced?
- How am I different now? How did I grow?
- What area(s) still need growth?
- For whom or to what am I most grateful?
To pray with this exercise I used, among other verses,
- Isaiah 42:6-7
- I have been called. I have been taken and kept. I have been given.
- Luke 18: 35-43
- “What do you want me to do for you?”
- Isaiah 55
- What is it I hunger and thirst for?
Also for consideration: Colossians 3:9-10, Psalm 46:1-10 and Psalm 103.
So until I can decide whether to continue to write, or to write again, I invite you to do the same exercise to close out your year. To begin all you need to do is to look at your past 12 months (or 6, or 3, etc.) and ask God to help you to understand your story as it involved a good and gracious God. Also ask yourself “How can I grow in understanding how God reveals Himself to all of us and in particular, uniquely to me?” And finally, ask “How do I use the blessing that is me and my life in the service to God and others?”
I’ll end here and keep it at 900 words. No sense in exhausting us all after a year off. One year after being effectively paralyzed in one leg I was able to stand on my deck this morning with our beagle and watch the sunrise. A year ago I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to do so again.