My life was in tatters, my depression was suffocating, my pain was beyond self-medication, and I was ambivalent about it all – including living.
So 4 years ago, on May 27th, 2012 , I woke at 5 a.m. with the plan of going to the Buffalo River to somehow ‘restart’ or ‘energize’ myself by re-baptizing in those crystal clear waters.
Everything was strong that morning – the coffee, the cigarettes, the pot, and the Yamaha FZ600. Sufficiently numb, the sun was barely rising when I reached Elkins. All worries and troubles fade away casually cruising into the curves and heading into the sunrise. Joining a group of BMW sport riders in Red Star, we proceeded down Hwy. 21 in triple digits, but I humbly backed away, having had enough extreme speed riding.
The elk were bugling and waiting for me at Ponca Valley, and the field was filled with deer and 50 campers at Steele Creek that holiday weekend. A peace came over me as I slipped past the kayakers and hikers suspended in the trees in their hammock tents – for the bluffs were rising above me, and the healing waters glistened greenish-blue.
On my knees, begging for help from God, cupping the water over my head – my plea was for change in my life. A new start. A real hope. A miracle to transform me.
That came outside the Elkins 1st Baptist Church when the driver a city block in front of me didn’t turn right into the parking lot per his indicator – instead letting other church goers turn in front of him on Hwy. 16. A vehicle goes a long way at 40 mph in just 2 seconds, and as I spent that time gazing at the church thinking I might stop in, there was no way to react.
“So this is how my life ends?” were my last thoughts as I plowed headfirst into the Jeep Cherokee. My bike’s frame was broke in half, and my neck was literally imploded from C4 – C7, leaving me paralyzed from the chin down.
I was floating in a calming bright light, free from worry or pain – at complete peace for the first time in my life. As a hand reached out for me to bring me closer, I felt enveloped in love, and was overjoyed to join Christ there at a table set out for us. I didn’t want to go back, for I knew what was waiting for me back there lying on top of the Yamaha.
A hand was indeed reaching for me, and I asked “Are you Jesus?”, and he said “No, I’m an EMT 1st responder here to keep you stable, still, and alive until the ambulance arrives – please stay with me and keep talking.” That was God right there in my most broken, protecting me from dying from the slightest wrong move that would have ruptured the blood clot 4 inches from my brain.
And there were angels there, as the entire church assembly stood beside the accident scene. I could feel their prayers in my soul, words overflowed through my spirit for me to survive, to heal, and to perservere through all that lie ahead.
I was talking away, giving out phone numbers of family and friends, making sure they would tell my wife and son how much I loved them, and recounting the trip and river experience. The last words I thought I would ever hear were “How much morphine should I give him?”
God was changing me – by breaking me down, humbling me, and creating in me the real trust in Him that I had never had for anyone before.
In the hospital we were told I would be paralyzed for life, bound to a special wheelchair, needing feeding tubes and specialized nursing home type care. There was complete terror in my mind that even Dilaudid couldn’t soothe. What kind of life was this going to be? How could God allow this and how could he use me like this? Why didn’t I die instead of putting my family through this?
Miraculously, a surgeon was there to teach a new procedure for implanting titanium trees and bone fusion treatments into patients with traumatic neck injuries. Again, God had provided for me in ways behind human intervention – and after a procedure to relieve the blood clot, my fingers and toes starting coming to life the next day.
I knew that my marriage was ruined by this, but by God’s grace and mercy, she agreed to care for me (I can never thank her enough) until I was able to make it on my own. The therapy was intense and progress slow, the drug overdoses were horrifying, and pain treatment made me brain dead and miserable and unable to think or pray, but the support and prayers of my family and friends and the laying on of hands by Dr. Bo and numerous pastors gave me healing and strength.
I now play golf (poorly and infrequently), garden (rabbits seem to enjoy it), and work out (not as much as I should) and each day the stairs seem a little easier, the losses aren’t as overwhelming, and the nerve pain seems to dissipate.
Losing everything brought me to the point of trusting completely in God. Being in depression, drug addiction and agony gave me empathy for those I seek to minister to. Living in resiliency made me see that there’s always hope for change for any of us, and somehow dying showed me the preciousness of every moment and the importance of every choice.
I’m not perfect, I’m no saint, I’m not a prophet back from the dead, I’ve got issues, aches and pains, and make poor choices (welcome to real life!)- but God has showered me with blessings and showed me that His love and grace are all that matter.
With hope and trust, we can move forward knowing that His will for us is to live as His precious children – completely cared for by Him, totally reliant on His strength, given meaning and purpose in loving Him and others, and assured of everlasting Hope in His arms.