Kierk Gaard said, “Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forward”.
Like a baby, I was sensitive to people’s emotions during my convalescence at the hospital. Those who came with tears filled eyes made me feel I was worse than I felt, while those with long faces made me silently wish I were dead.
On my third day in the ward, I demanded for a mirror because I thought they had lied to me about my face and head. But when I looked in the mirror there was no scratch.
Nevertheless, there was one countenance I couldn’t understand, the faraway gaze of some elderly visitors. They seemed to be staring at my face but they weren’t; and sometimes they would be gaping so long into some spot above my head. It was disturbing. I couldn’t fathom their unspoken words then. Now, I do.
What I couldn’t see then or didn’t want to see, they could perceive. They weren’t thinking about my present agony because they knew it would pass. They were taking a peek into my future, a life filled with disappointments, solitude, hardship, despair, resentment, and misery. All I had lost forever, all I would lose and the acceptance of the uncanny truth that life would never be the same again.
The day I left the hospital after four months was the biggest day of my life. I had yearned to see my home again. I longed to be in my bed after several nights in the hospital. I was finally getting a break from the choking routines. However, on my first night home, I wanted to run back to the hospital. My bed was too soft. There were no rails on the sides to grip onto for support. There was no chain to grasp to get up. It was frustrating, I couldn’t get up by myself. I didn’t know it was easier because of the gadgets attached to the beds at the hospital.
I should have known it was not over when on our way home I couldn’t open my eyes. I was gripping the car seats like a lifeline. I screamed when a truck took a turn ahead, almost facing our car. My mother held my hand and kept telling me it would be fine, we would soon be home. But I was not fine, not for a very long time. And I never made it home. I was frozen in time on the street that sunny day where my journey began. It was then I understood the distant stares of my elderly visitors.
Since then, every day is a new day for me. Each day a different way of living it, of doing things, a brand new experience. So I learnt not to live them before they arrive because they fill me with dread and anxious of what else life has in stock for me. I found new ways of doing old things. I found strength and pride in my yesterday accomplishments. They gave me the courage and determination to face tomorrow, to never give up, and to never stop believing.
My journey so far have taught me to look back once in a while to see how far I have come. If you are always looking ahead like an athlete, you only see how far you have to go and all you need to overcome. But a glance backward once in a while buoys the spirit, ignites the heart and reminds you why you are on that road in the first place, not how you get to the end of the road. It fills you with pride of all you have accomplished and reminds you why you can’t give up. Most importantly it fills your heart with praises for all you have, all you had and to look forward to all you can have.
After my accident, I had nothing to look forward to. The future was cloaked in a fog of vagueness, terror and uncertainty. All I could see was pain, sleepless nights, pity and sympathy. A future that has no relationship with my past, where my past is severed from my present. Where I would always have to compensate for my lost, make up for it, explain and defend it. It was scary and infuriating.
All I had was the present, where I could trip and fall, where I could barely move unaided, endless therapy, shamelessly depending on others, something totally different from who I used to be. I didn’t want to peek or think. I started with the present, taking it one step at a time, not thinking about the future; one day after the other.
From it, I built a new past, recording my recoveries and progresses. And each time I got to a point of despair, I would picture how far I had come and what a waste it would be to throw it away. I would remind myself how I didn’t give up when my wounds were fresh, when I couldn’t sit, when I couldn’t walk. All the times I fell, got up and kept going.
Looking forward demands more prayers for the will, the strength and courage to keep moving. Looking back is appreciating the Lord for His goodness. It opens doors for more blessings and gives meaning to life. It fuels and propels the spirit to harbour; looking forward keeps living the life.
Thinking back fills my heart with praises and gratitude; I am not where I was yesterday, and if I am here today, I would be somewhere farther tomorrow. I am looking back with gratitude, and moving forward with grace.