Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Chrissy

I want to preface my post today by saying it is written out of love and respect. Earlier this year I received an e-mail from one of my blog followers and she told me about another blog she enjoyed reading that's written by a fellow quadriplegic. She thought I might enjoy it, too. I was very grateful to have this blog address passed on to me because I really do enjoy reading the blogs of other paralyzed people to see what their lives are like and how their lives are either similar or different than mine.

I immediately went to this new blog Life; Paralyzed (written by Chrissy*) and I got "sucked in." (Sometimes I stumble upon various blogs and I'm immediately intrigued, so then I want to read everything they've ever written so that I can learn more about them.) I spent several hours reading Chrissy's blog that evening and I very much enjoyed reading her posts because they were very well-written and I could relate to her feelings and experiences on so many levels.

*Chrissy is a few years older than I am, but was injured a few years after I was. I think her accident was in 2005 and she was around the age of 25. Don't quote me on those numbers, though, because they aren't exact. 


I didn't have to read long, however, before I noticed that we DID differ in one very big and important way. Chrissy is self-admittedly a very bitter and angry person. Her long blog posts are filled with anguish as she candidly writes in-depth about the anger, frustration, depression and utter desperation  she feels as she faces the challenges of living as a disabled life. She asks questions like, "Why me?" Is there a God, and if there is, then why did He let this happen to me?! I was a good person! Why won't God cure my paralysis? I didn't deserve this. How much longer will I have to suffer? I don't think I believe in God, but what if He is real? What will happen to my soul? Is there an afterlife?"

My heart broke for Chrissy because I could feel her desperation as I read her words. I decided to leave a comment on Chrissy's blog since I know how much I enjoy getting comments from my readers. I basically just introduced myself, told her about my car accident and how I came to be paralyzed. I went on to tell her a little bit about my day-to-day life and how my life has been impacted since becoming disabled. I also assured Chrissy that there is most definitely a God and that He loves her. I said something like, "You may not know, but I  know." I couldn't really find the right words to convey the point I was trying to get across, but I was trying to say, "You're asking questions that I  know the answers to! I want to share my knowledge with you because my knowledge of God and His son, Jesus Christ is priceless to me and makes all of the struggles and pain and discouragement and heartbreak and disappointment worth it!" *I can't imagine not knowing with a surety that this life is not "the-end-all and be-all." Life goes on after ANY life altering accident, loss, trauma, etc. It goes on both here on earth AND into the eternities.

Chrissy would also write extensively about wanting the legal right to end her own life if she chose to. She was always advocating for disabled people, like us, and how we should have the legal right to make that decision for ourselves. The Lord has blessed me with a gift of joy which I am incredibly grateful for, because without it there's a good chance that I might be viewing life the way Chrissy does.

Chrissy was truly suffering mind, body and spirit. I have to give her high praise for doing as well as she did with what she had to work with..She was always in so much pain as she suffered with things that commonly plague paralyzed, like autonomic dysreflexia, for example. Never having experienced AD myself, I don't know how it personally feels or how it manifests in her daily life, but I DO know enough about it to know that Chrissy was in a tremendous amount of physical pain. EVERY DAY. If you've ever been sick then you know how hard it is to be cheerful and positive when you are hurting.

In order to make a very long story a bit shorter, I'll try to summarize the rest of the story. I always felt so badly for Chrissy and I wished that there was something I could do to help her. All I could realistically do for her was pray for her, so I did. God's given me a gift of joy, and if it weren't for that, who knows, there's a good chance that I might have Chrissy's attitude. I would've gladly parted with a little of MY joy, so that she could feel just a small part of my joy because it's truly what fills me, gives my life meaning and keeps me going when I experience disappointment and discouragement.

I started following Chrissy's blog from that first day I heard about it and I really enjoyed reading her posts. One day I was a little surprised to see a blog post she had written entitled Paralyzed Without Joy My immediate thought was, "Uh-oh, this can't be good!" So of course I immediately went and read her post. I was stunned to find that I was heavily referenced in Chrissy's blog post, and let's just say that they weren't glowing remarks! ;) The gist of what happened is that she basically saw the comment I'd initially left on her blog that first night. Chrissy basically blew my comment off and chalked it up to me being some sort of "religious fanatic." That's fine, I AM religious (and proud of it!), although I definitely wouldn't qualify myself as a fanatic! Chrissy went on to ridicule me and said how I must be insane for actually having a blog entitled "Paralyzed with Joy!", etc., etc. At first I was so taken aback that someone that didn't know me would have the audacity to judge me so harshly and unfairly (and inaccurately, I might add), but those feelings dissipated after several minutes and I was just filled with compassion and empathy. All I could do was feel even more sorry for Chrissy than ever!

I experienced many emotions in the next few minutes after I read that post and I knew I had several options. I could retaliate right away and leave a nasty comment on her blog. The thought never crossed my mind, though, because Chrissy has enough injury without me adding insult to it by rubbing salt in her wounds! My next choice was to do nothing, but I didn't want to take this approach, either. I could always make a nasty post about her on my blog, but that's not my style and I definitely didn't want to start a war of words, especially over something so trivial as the way two different paralyzed women cope with life. So, after weighing my options for a little while I decided to make a comment that truly came from my heart. After all, in her blog post she even went as far as to admit that she was actually envious of me for being able to live joyfully since it was something she desperately strove for, but was unable to achieve.

I decided to leave this comment: "Chrissy, I read your post and enjoyed hearing your thoughts about the similarities and differences we share. No two accidents/injuries are alike, as you know, so I'm glad there are "different strokes for different folks" if you know what I mean.

"Sometimes it's interesting to think about why things happen, and how one person can break their neck and walk away from the accident, while someone else breaks her neck and is paralyzed for life. Or how someone else can feel content with their situation while someone else is completely miserable. I agree with you that people need to be open-minded of other people's situations since we don't know with their life is like. Hopefully you can respect my acceptance of my paralysis, just like I validate your feelings and would accept your decision to end your life if/when you chose to.

"I'm glad you wrote this post because I know it will give "food for thought" to other people, just like it did me. I always wonder what the lives of other paralyzed people are like, what they think about, experience and how they feel, so reading this post was insightful."

After leaving my comment I felt good about it, so I know I made the right choice. More summarizing to save time… a few people commented that they thought Chrissy was out of line for calling me out on her blog. It probably was in poor taste, but I didn't fault her for it because I knew it stemmed from her own personal battles/inner demons and that she wasn't intending to be malicious. I truly think that she was just incredulous and bewildered that someone in her situation (actually, I'm more paralyzed than she is because I'm paralyzed from the neck down, and she has partial use of her arms) could actually be not only happy, but filled with joy. She made a follow-up comment after mine saying that she really appreciated my gracious response, so that made me happy. There were no hard feelings.

The reason I'm finally writing about all of this is because two days ago I found out that Chrissy died on December 1. I don't really know many of the details, but I think she started refusing her medications two months ago, as well as food and she'd drink very low volumes of water. I was saddened by the news of her passing, and my heart goes out to Chrissy's family and friends, but I'm happy that Chrissy finally was able to die since it's what she had been wanting for so long.

The thing that really saddened me about Chrissy and her situation was that she put so much energy into being angry and bitter and trying to find ways to legally end her life without involving other people. I just can't help but think what she could've accomplished in her life, whether she was paralyzed or not! She was extremely talented, a great writer and a wonderful artist.. She could've touched so many more lives in more profound and positive way, if she would've harnessed that energy and let it fuel some sort of passion and drive. Sadly, I think it was a missed opportunity on her part, although I'm not trying to judge. It was ultimately her decision, and I DO respect it, just like I said I would in that comment I left on her blog.

Chrissy, go with God, you are now at peace. I'm sure we will meet in the hereafter and use our perfected bodies to embrace. Rest in peace.

14 comments:

jamie @ [kreyv] said...

It is so interesting to see people's perspective on life. You can either be a victim or have a good attitude. You have such a good attitude--the right attitude. It is truly sad that this person has such a sad life. Thanks for your post!

Kendra said...

Heather, I discovered your blog through Chrissy's. I noticed that she hadn't posted for some months and worried. I am extremely saddened by this news. Like you, I hope she has found some peace.

Anonymous said...

Hi Heather,

I have been following your Blog for about 6 months, and I enjoy it very much. I don’t really remember how I found it, but I’m sure glad I did. Your outlook is an inspiration for life, and certainly helps keep my attitude in line when I’m feeling down about something going on in my life.

I had also been following Chrissies Blog. I found it at the same time I found you. I’m a 59 year old man, but the news of Chrissies passing brought tears. Thank you for posting the sad news.

I’m very sure the good Lord has a special place for her in his heart.

May God bless you always, and I hope you and your wonderful family have a Merry Christmas.

Your cyber friend,

Don

jamie @ [kreyv] said...

Wow. That is such a sad story. Every comment and response you made to her and about her was just perfect. You are such an inspiration!

Colleen said...

Heather, thanks for sharing...makes me realize yet once again how precious life is.

Erin said...

Hi Heather,

My name is Erin and I've commented on your blog before and even emailed you with some questions. I'm Christina's (you all know her as Chrissy) best friend of 23 years. We grew up together and were like sisters more than anything else.

I wanted to thank you for your very polite and caring post. I was wondering if you were going to write anything about her passing and was a little apprehensive, although I know I shouldn't have been because you were so gracious after that post she wrote in reference to her blog (I called her out on it, by the way. I thought she was totally out of line, but I know she didn't mean to be offensive.).

As you mentioned, Christina had been doing research since sometime in early 2010 about her rights to refuse treatment and/or food and water. This was not a decision she made lightly, and it was one she was open and honest about with her family and close friends. I can't say we all agreed with it, but we did respect it. She stopped eating/drinking and taking medications (aside from pain meds) on October 1st. She suffered very much over the past two months, but finally passed peacefully on December 1st.

I miss her very much, more than I can put into words, and I wish she would not have chosen this. However, I am also relieved that her suffering is over. I have to admit, I used to get very angry that she couldn't be more like you and see the positives in her life, but I realize everyone is different and there were many factors which led her to make the decision that she did.

I pray that she finds peace and that people don't judge her harshly for her choice.

Erin

Laura said...

Heather, once again your capacity for compassion and kindness astounds me. I can understand Chrissy's frustration, depression, and anger. I imagine I would feel much like her were I in your position. I can understand her decision to end her life, and I respect that even though it makes me sad.

I'm so grateful that God HAS given you this gift of joy. I'm grateful that you continue to be so positive and happy (and yes, infectious!). You are such a positive influence in my life. Thank you for showing me day after day that you can choose to be happy regardless of your circumstances. I couldn't ask for a better sister.

Carol said...

Dear Heather, You are such a beacon of light to others. What a great example you are to others no matter where they are on this path called life. It is evident that the gospel in your life has given you the strength to go forward with that incredible joy that you express in so many ways. Thank you for opening your heart and life to us. May you continue to be blessed in your unique calling here upon the earth.

Tina said...

Heather,

I am so grateful for you and your optimism! When life is difficult, it is wonderful to know that it is only temporary. You and I both know that you will walk again and use your arms. You can give your dad and other loved ones a big hug.

Love Your Utah Friend,

Tina

Kate said...

My Dear Heather,

I know you it makes you very uncomfortable when people say you are amazing! But the truth is...you are! I can't even pretend to know what your life is like, but I am constantly amazed about how you live your life. I think we've both learned how to deal with trials in life, as different as they may be. It's not about what the trial is, it's about how you handle it that counts. Happiness is definitely a choice. And you show as this time and time again throughout your blog.

Thanks for the light and perspective you bring! I can't wait to see you at Christmas! Love you!

Kate :)

Cindy said...

I have been following your blog for quite some time. You are a beautiful person inside and out and I am in awe of your family bond! I also am a c2 c3 quadriplegic who uses a diaphragmatic pacer. I have been a quadriplegic since 1992 and spent years being depressed. In 2000 I wanted to end my life and did much research on physician assistd suicide and the hemlock society. I'm so glad to have found the "want" to focus on the plusses and not the minuses. I cherish my life and those in it.

Jen@Because I can said...

Heather,
Just wanted to say I am grateful I have the privilege of knowing you. You are such an incredibly caring person. Thank you for your example!
Love ya,
Jen

Emily Martinez said...

I was saddened to read of Chrissy’s passing. I hope she found the peace, solace, and perfection that she so longed for. I also hope that her beloved Jimmy was by her side in the end. I’m sure he was. I had a hard time reading her blog after her Paralyzed with Joy post. I was embarrassed that I had ever pointed you in that direction…I guess I was hoping that a positive connection might help to change her perspective. I always wanted to send her a cheerful message, but felt inadequate. I regret that now.
Thank you for being so graceful. I found your blog early in 2010 right after my baby was born. Throughout the past 22 months, we have spent plenty of time in different Children’s Hospitals so I have had plenty of time to read.
Take care, and Merry Christmas to your family!

Itche said...

Hi, I just found your blog off a comment you left on Chrissy's blog. I think you are both truly inspirational people.
I also agree with what you said. You have a gift of joy and positive thinking. But the flip side to that is that Chrissy did not have that gift. God chose not to give it to her. So nobody can blame her for trying her hardest to make it through and choosing not to continue. I am stunned by the pain you have both been through, and I can't make sense of it. But I am a pessimist like she was. I simply don't understand how you can be so thankful, happy, and full of joy. I am unhappy and clinically depressed- and I'm healthy, thank God. I question and doubt and cry and self-pity and can't get myself up in the morning. I don't know why I'm telling you all this. I think I just want to defend Chrissy and people like me (not that you were really attacking her). I really feel that people are either optimistic, or pessimistic, and that determines their satisfaction for the rest of their lives.

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