Twenty four years ago

I didn’t write this on January 6, 1994 because I was sick with pneumonia but it was a memorable day. Twenty four ago started as an ordinary day but it ended with me in a ditch, bleeding and unconscious. Nothing has been the same ever since. A car struck me while walking my two dogs after work. My two dogs waited for me to get up and continue their walk. One of them licked the blood oozing from a gash to my face. The ICU admitted me in critical condition. One note said I was “semi-conscious with very limited mobility.” Two weeks later I transferred to a rehab center. By the end of January, I read at the 3rd grade level. My brain was as stale as three day old fruit salad, even though I once read classics, devoured books and read the New York Times every day. My interest in reading had all but vanished. I was afraid I’d be like this forever. Losing part of my mobility was an initial blow because I’d been an active jogger and biker. I ran in dozens of road races, including three marathons. I biked in the Rocky Mountains and hiked in state parks. Initially I had trouble accepting my disability but visits to a group home changed that. I met people who were much worse off than me. Considering I spent time around people who were incapable of feeding themselves it was time to get off the pity pot. I had adjustments to make, lots of them. My brain doesn’t function as well as before. For example, my thoughts and words don’t always mesh. I may not remember your name or how I know you. By evening, I’m not sure what I did that morning. The loss of employment dropped me into near poverty. I’ve scrounged through the trash for aluminum cans to redeem for cash. I water down dish soap to make it last longer and most of my clothing comes from thrift shops. But like the name of the late Maya Angelou’s poem, still I rise. Others live on the edge just like me. There’s no shame in being poor. I found new life through volunteer work. I loved each one of the roles I’ve served in. Maybe there will be more. If it wasn’t for the accident I never would’ve found the time to volunteer as a pet therapist for Gabriel’s Angels, answer the phones in former Gov. Janet Napolitano’s office, helped teach English as a second language to new immigrants, provided comfort to homeless pets, greeted passengers at the airport and so much more. Each of these assignments enriched me in many ways. In 2013 I met a new friend, Diba from Afghanistan, and she introduced me to Islam. Qamar from Somalia guided me too. Two years later, I finally said my Shahada, or declaration of faith. If Allah grants me another day to live, and I hope he does, I am at peace as a Muslim. I am blessed with much more than others although I have so little. All friends, Muslim and non-Muslim, make it so worthwhile. Maybe it took a horrific accident to figure this out. I’m really not sure. I am thankful for the past 24 years. I treasure the community surrounding me, the sisters in our Quran group and for so much more. And I am glad I met Diba and Qamar at the airport. I was always like the aimless wanderer, never knowing quite where to go, but always looking for a place to fit in. I finally found that place and I hope I never lose it. Tomorrow isn’t granted to me or anyone else so I make the best of each day, never knowing when it’s all going to end.

 

 

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