Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 27, 2003
Editor forced into time of dependence
By GLEN ARGAN
I was out with my wife and girls for a fine afternoon of tobogganing at Edmonton's Gallagher Park Jan. 5. The girls had just made their first rides down the steep, long hill and I climbed onto the last toboggan to follow them down.
As soon as I took off, the sled veered off to the left. I felt confident about being able to steer it back on course by using the brake pedals. But this time it didn't work.
I went faster and more and more off course. Within seconds, I slammed into some hay bales next to a fence and came to an abrupt stop.
I lay in the snow, my leg broken in two places. My life was about to be transformed, albeit temporarily, for the next several weeks.
A young man built a splint for my leg and I was off to the hospital. The next day - Monday - I was operated on and my leg reset.
During the following three days in the U of A Hospital, I couldn't sleep or eat and felt almost constantly nauseous. I depended on the fine nursing care for any semblance of comfort.
"Dependent," in fact, was to become the key word for me in all this. I am an independent person, coming and going pretty much as I willed within the context of many commitments. I valued that independence very much and I took it for granted.
Now, I would find myself in a position of dependence - one that is experienced by so many people, either elderly or infirm. I couldn't perform the simplest tasks without assistance. If I wanted to carry a small object, I would either have to put it in my backpack or have someone carry it for me. I couldn't have a simple shower without much to-do.
Driving was out of the question, at least for now.
When you get married, you sign on "for better or for worse." My wife Nora was now getting some of the "for worse" part. For it was on her that I was most dependent. And she already had her hands full with four girls under 11. Fortunately, she has found the inner resources to always be there when I need her.
Naturally, I ask myself what God is saying to me through this freak accident. "Be dependent," he seems to be saying. "Don't be the lone wolf, trying to do everything for yourself.
"By your dependence on others, you can become more dependent on me. Trust in me. I will lead you where you need to go and I will give you the help you need to get there.
"Slow down. You don't need to do so much. You act like you are in charge, when it is really I. Let me do my part and you do yours."
I haven't had an overnight personality change. I yearn to be free of these crutches and this cast and to get moving again.
For me, it will come. But for thousands of others with limited mobility, it won't. Their disability is permanent and they have been conscripted into lives not of their choosing.
What am I to say about that? That they are somehow less valuable than I am when I am fully mobile? That I should try to make a concrete contribution to society for them, as well as myself - implying that they make no contribution and that I am bound to do the work of two or three or even more people?
No, none of that. I have been given many blessings, including good health, a good mind and a good job. But dependence is an important witness too. It witnesses to our everyday dependence on each other in a complex society. It witnesses to our ultimate dependence on God - and to the fact that this life is a short one and our life, face to face with God, is for all eternity.
I would never choose to break my leg. But having had it broken, I can do the only thing that's reasonable for a person of faith - see it, not so much as a temporary setback, but as God's gift, a positive opportunity to grow in my relationship with the Creator.
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