Thursday, January 29, 2015
It happened on his 21st birthday-- that's what his sister told me. On his way home after a night of hard partying he hit a concrete post head on-- never to walk again.
I will always remember the first time I met him--- lying on his bed, legs contorted and rail thin, fingers wrapped around a cigarette, angry look on his face.
"You can sit there"
Not a bad looking, kid-- he was 23 years old by that time, had spent a few years in a rehab hospital. Curly brown hair, muscular but slender build, rugged appearance.
The first month was awful. He lay there with his face to the wall not wanting to talk as I bandaged his leg every day.
NASCAR was his favorite, a big Dale Earnhardt fan to the core. He was a guys' guy--- and guys' guys don't show any emotion or pain.
Winter, Spring, half a year went by. He was healing well physically but couldn't seem to face his new "life".
Coming into his house one day, I bumped into the nurse's aide--she was crying
"What's wrong? What happened?"
"He says he hates Summer worst of all because everyone is out having fun and he is stuck here. I think he is giving up".
So she was feeling it too. The deep sadness and feeling of helplessness I had been experiencing. We were grieving with him.
And she was right. I had noticed it. He seemed to be sinking further and further away, isolating himself from family and friends.
One day, while changing his bandage, I noticed it-- small circles in the shape of burn marks-- on his stomach.
"What is this?" Instinctively I knew what it was---something desperate, self inflicted, a way to ease the hurting inside and make it come out.
"What do you mean?'
He didn't have me fooled. "I don't ever want to see anything like this again and I mean it!"
"You can ask my mom, I bumped myself". But his protests were half-hearted and we both knew.
More time went by. Someone had to get through to him
"*Jeremy, don't you see-- if you give up what are we supposed to do? All the people who care about you--- your mom, sisters, friends, me and Joan".
I guess he thought about it for a while because over the next few months he started to slowly come alive-- talking a little more, asking friends over, working on an old pickup truck he bought. He got a used four wheeler from somewhere and would go riding for hours and hours loving the feeling of freedom. It was almost visible, his sheer strength and determination, willing himself out of that dark hole. Eventually he started to go out with friends again --to festivals, playing cards, meeting girls!
One afternoon, my phone rang
"Hey, it's Jeremy. Well, me and some girl are going out today so I won't be home for our appointment"
I wasn't surprised really. He had made the decision to live again and nothing was going to stop him.
"What happened to you?" with small bruises and scrapes on his face and hands he must have fallen off of his four wheeler.
"Oh, I got in a bar fight"
You got in a bar fight. "You got in a bar fight?" I didn't know whether to lecture him or give him a high five?! But he was fine. In fact, I think he was secretly proud of those bumps and bruises.
Time went by. He got a new truck and rigged it up so he could drive anywhere. He started doing things he once loved -- fishing in summer, snowmobiling, going to auto races. Before long, he no longer needed my services.
Last I heard of him, he had a nice apartment in a nearby town, and was living with a friend, running around-- back to his old feisty self.
Strength, Courage, Perseverence in Adversity, that's what heroes are made of
Sometimes we find HEROES in the most unusual places
*Any names and confidential information has been altered to protect privacy