Many of my friends are in wheelchairs. Through association with the Utah Wheelchair Rugby team, as well as my connection with several motivational speakers, I have come to understand much about disabilities, handicaps and the loss of limbs and body function. Having assisted many beginning speakers who have overcome the emotional setbacks of a paralyzing accident or illness, I have learned many of the stages of acceptance that a person must go through when they become a paraplegic or quadreplegic. It hasn't been my life journey . . . but in a very real sense I understand losing extentions of yourself and the way it can paralyze your life if you let it.
A newly injured person has to come to a place of acceptance - a place where they understand the tools that will now assist them; a wheelchair, a walker, a cathetar . . and appreciate the value of the freedom these tools offer as opposed to resenting them and viewing them as prisons or punishments.
A newly injured person must at some point come to terms with their new circumstances and even rise to a place of gratitude for the life they still have . . . acknowledging that each moment is truly a gift and is endowed with a purpose and passion for which they were created and sent into this world.
A newly injured person must come to such a place of spiritual awareness as to be able to see photographs of themselves, photographs and images taken prior to the tragedy, prior to the loss, to see themselves with their limbs, standing, able bodied . . . and have them same level of gratitude and peace as they feel when they look in the mirror today.
If not, or until they can, the newly injured person will be angry, blame God, resent life, and act out with displaced hatred and depression . . . phantom pain. The pain of longing for a life that can produce no movement, no growth, no positive momentum.
There is a difference between grieving a loss . . . and coming to a sense of personal clarity for one's life and purpose . . . versus longing without fruition. Phantom pain.
Because I have watched some of THE most successful people - Paul Berg and Art, Clay Egan, Chad Hymas, Ken Reid, Briana Walker - not only face tragedy courageously, but wrap their hearts and mind around their new circumstances, and embrace it as a mission and a launching pad for higher thinking - because I knew that kind of resilience was possible . . . a year ago I prayed this prayer . . .
"God, I've seen other people rise from pain and allow it to awaken them. I've seen amazing individuals, Paul, Clay, Art and Chad and others take their pain and allow it to recreate them, build them, empower them to live life more fully. Please help me move from phantom pain, from longing, from resentment into a place of wholeness, a place of gratitude, a place of acceptance for my new life. Help me not resent my new circumstances but allow YOU to grow me . . . on purpose."
A year ago I knew I was destined to self-destruct in pain and longing if I did not follow their examples. Change is inevidable. Self-medicating is an option. Self-destruction is an option. Success and courage are possible. There is a difference between "longing" and "grieving" and the difference is phantom pain versus healing.
Thank God I had some of the most powerful real-life flesh and blood walk the talk examples of how to succeed after loss and paralysis. Because of those examples, those people, that prayer . . . I have a vision today for my life that incorporates great loss and great love. It is beautiful.
Paul never wanted his death to destroy anyone - he wanted his memory to make people laugh, live better and pray deeper. He wanted his death, if it had to happen, to wake people up to the love of God. And it did.
To Paul, to Art, to Clay, to Chad, to Ken, to Briana . . . your loss and courage and creativing after that loss has given me wings. God bless you.