Twenty years ago today the weather in East Texas was balmy, the streets were wet and the skies were gray on Thanksgiving Day, 1990. I was alone but was scheduled to rendezvous with my wife and young children in Lufkin, Texas, where I was going to leave my truck and join them on the drive to Little Rock, Arkansas, to give thanks with my wife’s family. We never made it.
I awakened in an ambulance following a horrific, one-car accident where I flipped my vehicle multiple times and sustained head injuries, a broken back and neck, and multiple organ injuries. When my eyes opened I was being transported from a local hospital to a regional major care center because in their words, “we are not staffed to handle such complex injuries.”
My eyes could move, but nothing else could. Partially paralyzed, I could hear the EMT’s talking as they worked on me, I could see my hands being moved by their hands, but I could feel nothing. I heard them speak of the terrible traffic accident I had been involved in, but I could not respond.
So I prayed. I prayed to die so my wife and children would not have the burden of carrying for a paralytic for thirty years. As deep, mind-bending pain began to settle in on me, I felt panic rising in my mind, so I began to sing, in my mind, the words of an old spiritual song, “Peace, peace, wonderful peace…” I sang it over and over on the ninety-mile drive trying to calm my reeling spirit. As we were arriving at the hospital in Tyler, Texas, the nerves in my head and neck began reconnecting following the trauma and my first words were heard…the words to that song. The EMT working on me leaned over and heard my words and repeated them questioningly, “Piece, piece?” and then he nodded, “Oh, yeah, you are in one piece.”
Weeks of rehab and months of recuperation began that day along with the seed of the greatest paradigm shift in my life. I began asking myself the question, “If I would have died in this wreck, is this how I wanted to live my life?” and from that probing question I started on the path that I now walk.
For the last twenty years Thanksgiving Day means something different to me than it did the first thirty years of my life.