By Ed Thompson
If you were to ask me if this was the worst year of my life, I would honestly tell you, “Absolutely not.”
For some of you, the following is old news. For the rest, it’s something which… “must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate.”
The day after last Christmas, I fell from my roof, broke my back and became paralyzed from the hips down. On the outset, one might think that to be a tragedy. They would be wrong. The tragedy was averted because I fell exactly the way that I did. Had I fallen to the left or gone to the right, my head would have hit an obstruction, and I would have been killed. I am a faithful man and lying where I landed, I screamed for help and help came.
It’s been coming ever since.
I cried a prayer. I asked God to give me the strength to do whatever it was that He needed me to do. I know. Weird. You’d think it’d be something like, “God if you get me out of this, I’ll do whatever You want.” Yet, I prayed no foxhole prayer and as a result, my prayer has been answered. So I want to say thanks for all the blessing that I have received from that day after last Christmas through every day to this Christmas.
Thanks to Amy, my beloved wife, who was the first to aid me after the fall and every day since. She has been my nurse, my cheerleader, my chauffer, and more. When others could have easily walked away, my Amy has been beside me through it all, doing more than fulfilling her vow of, “In sickness and in health.”
Thanks to a long list of medical professionals who have done nothing but their very best in using all of their skills and all of their powers to heal my body including Dr. William Thorell at University of Nebraska Medical Center who repaired my spine and laid the foundation for all the healing that has followed, and Dr. Kip Burkman and the rehabilitation specialists of Immanuel Hospital who immediately set to work in teaching me how to live without the use of my legs.
Thanks to Kristin Wolford at Alegent Physical Therapy, who has just one goal, to get me on my feet. With the exception of a few weeks of her maternity leave, we have worked together three days every week to that end.
Thanks to my mother, Patricia, who came to stay with us in February and March, shuttling her grandchildren to school, taking me to appointments plus, cooking and cleaning and nursing so that my wife could go back to work.
Thanks to David and Bob Edwards of Lake Manawa Nissan, Edwards Subaru/Hyundai, and Classic Chevrolet who replaced our clanking and clattering vehicles with one reliable van to carry me and my wheelchair.
Thanks to my neighbors Bill & Missy, Mike & Karla, Jeremy & Melanie, and Jean who shoveled snow, mowed my lawn, mopped our floors and built a ramp to my house.
Thanks to my father, Merlyn, who helped us with home repairs including installing a new furnace so that my family can stay warm in the coming winter.
Thanks to the members of Community of Christ Church whose prayers and gifts of food have strengthened us. I’m telling you, there ain’t nothin’ like church ladies’ casseroles.
Thanks to my in-laws, especially my sister-in-law Colleen Brabec and my brother-in-law Lee Gillespie who just happen to own a medical supply business which has provided all of the specialty equipment and supplies I have or will ever need.
A special thank you to my mom-in-law, Marge for her constant prayer and support in every single thing she does. Without her help shuttling kids to and from school and everything else she pulls together, I’m not sure how we’d do what we do.
Thanks to my workmates at NRG Media in Omaha, including General Manager Rhonda Gerrard and Production Director Terry Thompson, who took a collection amongst themselves and brought more food than I ever thought my house could hold while I was on medical leave, and then made whatever accommodations were necessary to bring a big man in a wheelchair back to work and allow me the time off needed for doctors visits and therapy sessions. Radio is a tough business, especially in these times, and I work with some of the best in the business.
Also, thank you to Youth Emergency Services, where my wife is employed. While she was not laid up in the hospital, the flexibility they’ve allowed her has made it possible for Amy to get me to where I need to be.
This year could easily have been the worst year of my life. Instead, it has been most enlightening, revealing, and humbling. While I was hospitalized, I met several people who had it much worse, like a man whose neck was broken in a car accident. He was far from home and far from his family. He was also dealing with his wife divorcing him while he was hospitalized. Or there is the elderly woman from Middle-of-Nowhere, Nebraska who suffered a stroke and bore a look of constant terror in her face despite the best efforts of the professionals who worked tirelessly to try and ease her fear.
Several people I know have lost their jobs over the last year. Some have found new work. Others have not.
I know still others who have children serving in Iraq and Afganistan and live every day with an unspoken dread, and yet they remain proud of their son’s or daughter’s service. I pray all of them return home safely because other parent’s sons and daughters have not.
Beyond all measure I know, I have been strengthened and blessed more than at any time in my life. When my doctor tells me that I am healing better than anyone my age should and uses adjectives like amazing, incredible, or unbelievable, I know I’m dialed in to something bigger than me. I have had moments of despair where I didn’t think I could go any farther only to have my spirits lifted with each new accomplishment like pulling up, zipping and buckling my own pants, turning over in bed or driving to work.
As of this writing, I am learning how to walk with forearm crutches. I am gaining more and more feeling every day, and during my last physical therapy session, I walked 400 feet with those crutches. The annual New Year’s Eve dance with my wife seems a better bet every day.
This Christmas, I hope that you might find your life filled with love, gratitude and most of all, grace. That is my prayer for you. As for me, I ask for no presents. Why would I? I’ve been receiving gifts every day since last Christmas.
God bless you and keep you. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.