That That Won't Kill You Can Only Make You Stronger

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
This is an inspirational story that I wrote. It kind of just flowed out through my hands and onto my computer. It just suddenly popped in my head and bam!
It is about my Uncle Jay and his struggle with becoming paralyzed from the waist down at just fifteen years old.

Submitted: December 13, 2007

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Submitted: December 13, 2007

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I sit in the car, the air condition gently blowing my air in the stifling summer air. I lean down to turn up the volume on the radio. An inspirational quote flows out the speakers. “That that won’t kill me can only make me stronger.” As the pulsating beat envelopes me I drift back into a daydream of some sort. The meaning of this powerful quote brings me back to my Uncle Jay. It probably was a sunny day. I wouldn’t know since I wasn’t there but I can feel the sunshine on my skin as I think of that fateful day. The air was filled with happiness and cheerfulness with children’s gleeful shouts. The smell of water, that would soon be much feared, much resented. No one knew what would happen that day, that fateful summer day that was supposed to be a vacation. Children were out of school, no teachers, no homework, just smooth sailing until the school year began again, but for one person this wouldn’t happen. They probably didn’t know this and they probably would have laughed if you told them that they would never return to school, that they would never be the same again. My Uncle Jay was playing with all the other children and teenagers at the lake. He went to dive in and that’s when his life changed. No he hadn’t broken a world record diving height, he had broken his neck. Paralyzed from the waist down he sank to the bottom of the lake. His friends thought he was playing a joke but soon they realized it was no prank. They called nine one one and an ambulance came. Who knows if those paramedics knew they could restore his ability to walk or whether they looked at this fifteen year old boy and knew how much his life would be changed, maybe even ruined. After they arrived at the hospital the grim news arrived. Jay would never be able to walk again. He would never have a normal life. He would be an outcast from society. People would avoid him, stare at him like he was the plague for the rest of his life. This was in the time when people thought that people in wheel chairs could spread their paralysis like a sickness. They didn’t have handicap accessible buildings or cars. Being paralyzed was like a death sentence. Most people just gave up their will to live and died soon after becoming paralyzed. People born paralyzed were prisoners of society. They wouldn’t come out keeping themselves confined to their homes where they were safe from prying eyes and ridicule. Jay would have none of this, he was someone who didn’t want to live like that, he wanted to move on. When he went out in public with his newly acquired disability, people stared, pointed, and avoided him. His mother was forced to stay at home and take care of him while he adapted to his new way of living. Who knows what it feels like to suddenly not even be able to put your own shoes on, to dress yourself. I will never know if Jay felt sad, maybe even ashamed or inspired. Maybe he enjoyed coming up with new methods to playing football. Jay’s parents struggled to make ends meet after two failed operations to fix his spinal cord, both surgeries only hindered Jay even more. Making his hands curl up into fists. His family eventually filed for bankruptcy and were forced to sell many things that they owned, including the vacation house where Jay broke his neck. When they went to rent a house to live in the landlord refused to let them rent it out because of Jay and his paralysis. They were scared of him, they thought they could catch “it”. After fighting in court they eventually were allowed to rent out the house, but now with the landlord being rude to them. Through all these things Jay got his GED and graduated from the University of New Orleans. Yet, without the help of his sister, Kay, he might have never had the opportunity to go to college. Kay pushed him around campus and went to college with him. She helped him go to class and eventually graduated herself. Jay broke down societal barriers when he got a job and bought, with the help of his family, a specially equipped car. His sister Kay taught him how to drive and he received his driver’s license. Eventually driving himself to work. One day while making a U turn by a canal Jay’s car hit the curb and went down an embankment, falling into the canal as his mother watched in horror. Fortunately, the water wasn’t very high and firemen were able to get him out unscathed. Jay was a prankster often joking around with his family and friends. On the outside he may have not been the same as he was before he broke his neck, but he was still the same on the inside. He was still that boy, that jokester, that “normal” person. Jay changed the definition of what was normal in that era, when people with disabilities were commonly avoided and discarded, treated like an unwanted, broken human. Something that no one should ever be thought of or treated like, something that would never be thought of in today’s modern society. Maybe Jay helped shape the way society thinks of people with disabilities now. I’ll never know. In 1992 Jay’s mother was hospitalized, a few months later he was too. Being paralyzed hinders your ability to get rid of your body’s waste. When Jay’s mother was hospitalized he had to have a caretaker, as most of his siblings and close family now had a family of their own. Unfortunately, Jay didn’t allow the caretaker to take proper care of him because he only felt comfortable with his mother. This led to many complications. Jay eventually caught phenomena and with his body in a weak state and his paralysis preventing proper treatment he died. Jay didn’t just die though, he didn’t just become another gravestone, he left his mark on the world forever when he passed. As my vision becomes clearer and my surroundings become crisper the first thing I hear is “And even when your hope is gone, move along, move along just to make it through” and all I can do is smile.


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