Until Next Summer

“Man’s extremity is God’s opportunity!”

It was 6:29 a.m. and we brushed our teeth to get rid of the signs of morning breath.  By 6:30 we were upstairs.  Time to pull back the covers and serve the warm water.  A few pills pulled out of the bottom drawer.  Between wake-up yawns and the morning sounds of birds singing in the near by woods we began to stretch his spastic limbs.  “One. Two. Three.  Four…….Ten”.  Out loud we counted.  Next exercise.  Often the spasms were so tense that we just had to wait for them to pass.  “Satu. Dua. Tiga.  Empat……..Sepulu.”  Indonesia pervades most everything we do and think.  Soon exercises are over, and he is much more limber and ready to face another day in his wheelchair.  Darron dresses him while I go and clean equipment.   We make small talk and serious talk while getting his day going.  It has been 24 years.  24 years since going from able bodied to quadriplegic.  I NEVER here him complain or get upset.

This has been a hard summer on Mike (Darron’s brother).  His amazing caregiver, serving for over three years, needed to move.  James was like family.  Finding his replacement has been slow and frustrating.  Darron and his sisters and mom have all had to fill in the gap.  Which we are all committed to doing.

In between camp meeting talks, and a week at the beach, and time in Chattanooga at an Airbnb we have been privy to help with Mike.  There are many things that we love about furlough:  spending time with family and friends, amazing comfort food from our Mom’s, encouraging words from so many people, shopping, and more.  But I knew that summer, would not be complete without a certain activity.

We do it most summers.  It’s part of the rhythm and a place where Mike loves to be.  It’s on the water, in a kayak.  Jacob and Nathaniel are now big enough to transfer Mike and haul all the kayaks about.  So, after church and another great home cooked meal, we headed out.  Special gloves and grips make it possible for Michael to be completely independent in that kayak as an able-bodied person.  In that boat, he feels just like you and me.  The water resets Mike.  As it did the rest of us.  The turtles, the great blue herons soaring off, the brown thrashers singing their summer song, the breeze.  All of it, therapy to the soul.  The truth is, we all needed it as much as Michael and it was a delight to be part of this journey once again.

 

So, to your lists of Do-it-yourself-projects waiting to get done,

To your need for great, compassionate, available caregivers,

For your dreams that sometimes seem larger than life itself,

To the hope that keeps you going,

For the joy and peace you carry despite huge physical challenges,

To the daily grind and the things that must be harder than we can imagine…

Mike you are an inspiration to many.  May the Lord continue to provide for you in ways that exceed your expectations.

Until next summer when we can kayak together again.  Courage!  May the gentle breeze blow on your face.

 

 

 

Many of you would like to know more about Michael’s story.  Below you can read his story that he wrote in 2007.  He is an extremely gifted writer.  I hope to one day see his story in print.  If you agree mention it in the comments.

MOUNTAIN HEIR – On a Roll

By Michael Boyd

Slowly my feet and legs came out from under the covers soon after I became conscious of a new day.  It was time to rise.  Once my feet were on the floor I moved deliberately and quietly so I would not awaken my wife as I dressed.  After leaving the bedroom I stepped outside onto the porch to inhale deeply the warm, humid summer air before getting involved in quiet time with God and then breakfast.  It was Wednesday, July 13, 1994, another opportunity to go to work doing what I loved to do, building houses.

After eating a hearty breakfast, re-charging my spiritual batteries by reading from the Bible and prayer, I jumped into my Ford tool van.  As I started the engine I whispered a prayer that God would grant me safety on the road and at work today.  After a 30-minute drive I arrived at the construction site near Livingston, Tennessee a few minutes before 8:00.

Robert, the laborer, and I began to carry necessary tools into the house.  We would continue roofing today.  A platform above the ground at the eave line was constructed by leaning two extension ladders against the eave.  A “ladder jack” was then hung from the rungs on each ladder.  The horizontal arm of each “jack” extended away from the eave at right angles to the rungs on which they hung.  On these arms a sturdy wooden plank was placed, providing a level resting point for the upper end of a conveyor, which spanned an upward angle from the ground.  I climbed up one ladder and began nailing shingles onto the roof deck.  By using the conveyor, Robert supplied me with shingles from the ground.

After consuming three-quarters of a gallon of water each and completing one section of the roof, except for the cap-shingles, we stopped at noon to escape some of the heat, climbed down the ladders, headed for shade and ate lunch.

Revived by the nourishment and shade, Robert and I took advantage of additional time in the cooler temperatures of the basement and cut a sufficient quantity of cap-shingles to nail to the ridge once we returned to the hot roof.  Because the cap-shingles tended to fall through the cracks of the conveyor, we chose to pass them hand to hand.  I climbed one ladder of our scaffolding and took a position above Robert.  From his stance on the ladder he handed shingles up to me where I reached down from the plank on which I knelt, high above the ground.

What happened during the next few moments is obscured from my memory and I only repeat what I have cobbled together by what I have been told and what I saw.

The time, 1:30 pm.  Suddenly, one of the ladders on which the plank rested sank into the soil, slipped below the eave and shifted toward the house, causing me to fall 18 headfirst feet to the ground.  Memory only recalls hearing a snap.  Almost ready to over-extend its reach, the conveyor was barely hanging and about to drop from the plank, now directly above me.  Robert’s face came into my stunned vision as he leaned over me.  With a tinge of desperation in his voice he asked me what he should do.  My response, “Stabilize the conveyor so it doesn’t drop on top of me, then call 911;” not a task he considered would be a part of his construction laborer job description.  Robert executed both exceptionally fast.

Lying on the ground waiting for the 911 response, I began to evaluate my condition.  The pain in my neck was excruciating.  A hot, tingling sensation from my chest down into my lower extremities was an uncomfortable numb “unfeeling”.  Hours later, X-rays, CT scan and doctor evaluations confirmed my conclusion that the loud pop I heard was the bones breaking in my neck.  When my mind began to focus, and with it my vision, I realized I was paralyzed and would probably be in a wheelchair the rest of my life.

The change of learning to live paralyzed came about as gentle as a drink from a fire hydrant.  The teamwork required for my existence was culture shock to my independent pride and desire to care for myself.  It would test the tensile of all relationships, including my marriage.  Only my parents, grandmother, brother, his family, two sisters and their families never wavered.  My marriage disintegrated with the trauma of adjustment.

Most of my time the first few months after my accident was spent learning how to function with a spinal cord injury.  During more reflective moments my thoughts drifted to seasonal employment experiences in the western wilderness areas and national forests of California, Oregon and Washington.  I wrestled with the reality that my feet would never again tread those trails, some of which I’d helped build or maintain.  The tranquility of scenic trails that wander mile after primitive mile, a loaded backpack and campfires in the mountains I was so passionate about would only remain a vivid memory.

Not until after being discharged from the rehab hospital, returning to my parents’ home and experiencing the emotions that came with the abruptness of change, did I find time to consider where life for me would go from here.

I drew comfort from Bible promises such as “Our light affliction…is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,” and “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the LORD delivers him out of them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17; Psalms 34:19).  Discovering that “[God] will bring forth descendants from Jacob, and from Judah an heir of My mountains…” (Isaiah 65:9) was a spiritual lift off for me.  I got excited thinking of again being surrounded by the grandness of mountains, but this time being wired to leap (Isaiah 35:6) on pathways of inherited mountains.  And so Mountain Heir Ministries was born because I considered myself part of the crowd commanded to “go” (Mark 16:15).

By the grace of God my medical bills, medical supplies and our living expenses were very adequately covered.  Along with the steady stream of bills came a steady stream of funds from very generous friends, family, some medical services written off and eventually insurance.  One fund-raiser at the Bowman Hills Seventh-day Adventist Church in Cleveland, Tennessee raised $4,000 in one evening.  I still use the wheelchair today that was purchased as a result of that fund-raiser.

My desire became progressively stronger to become better acquainted with my neighbors while sharing with them the Jesus I was having to depend upon more than ever before.  But how could I get to their houses without placing greater time demands on already full agendas of family and friends?  I spent hours dreaming of an assortment of mobility methods that would give me neighbor-visiting freedom.

Because disability income is the scenic route to independent wealth, even the most modest mobility dream of which I could conceive had the potential of taking years to achieve.  “Man’s extremity is God’s opportunity” was a frequent flyer quotation for me (Acts of the Apostles, p. 145).  The more I thought about my independence and mobility the more it looked like a God-sized opportunity.

I prayed.  My prayer: “Lord, please make possible a way for me to independently find my way into the presence of my neighbors.”  I started praying about a year after my accident.  Weeks melted into months and months into years as I continued to pray this prayer with varying degrees of intensity.

By October 2, 2000, a Monday, I was experiencing an overwhelming feeling of anxiety.  Contentment for me is best achieved when active under an open sky.  The wheels of my chair just did not offer enough options.  I had plenty to do indoors but that is not where I wanted to be.  I felt closed in without a place of escape.  Frustrated, I desperately pushed away from my desk, escaping to the sidewalk that extends 160 blessed feet into the woods.  I shared my challenge with God, begging for His help.  With a request for contentment to accept where I was in all its limitations, I amended my five-year “independence” prayer.  Peace and contentment came by the following day.  Unknown to me a new level of freedom was a few short days away.

Sabbath, October 7, my family and I went to Knoxville, Tennessee, to the Little Creek Academy homecoming.  At the conclusion of Sabbath school an announcement was made to all in the auditorium about the fundraiser that had taken place.

Fundraiser?  Why did I not know?  Jon was calling it the “Alumni Assistance Fund” for alumni that had been involved with catastrophic circumstances.  He asked that I come to the front.  Compliantly, I rolled forward thinking Jon needed an icon for a catastrophic circumstance.  He shared some brief details about my accident that caused my paralysis then switched to describing dreams I hoped to see fulfilled eventually.

Following the dream description of my wheelchair accessible tree house, he began to describe every detail about a handcycle on which I could achieve brisk exercise. He then announced that the alumni were giving me the opportunity to purchase the handcycle of my choice.

Wow!  It was now clear to me why I’d heard nothing until now about this fundraiser.  They’d wanted it to be a surprise gift.

My prayer was beginning to unfurl itself through the bold-faced generosity of friends.  Glowing with gratitude, I said, “Thank you,” and started rolling back to my aft position in the auditorium.  But Jon wasn’t finished so he called me back to say that when I exited the chapel my brand-new customized Dodge 2000 Grand Caravan sat just outside the doors.  This gift included the first year of full coverage auto insurance and a rack for carrying the handcycle on the back of the van.

Accepting these gifts came with the condition that I agree to purchase and maintain each year a personalized license plate with the letters declaring M-T-N-H-E-I-R.

As Dia, a fellow classmate, pushed the remote, tears of joy fell from my smiling face while I watched the door open, van “kneel” and ramp open out.  An answer to prayer had been fulfilled greater than I could ask or think.

Since being gifted with greater mobility, I am experiencing more independent opportunities to establish deeper relationships with neighbors and friends.  I am youth leader, a Bible worker and one of the elders at the church I attend.  Through the financial help of Tennessee tax dollars and rehabilitation services I am able to attend school five days a week, studying architectural, civil and mechanical drafting.  My dream of re-entering the job market is becoming more attainable.

After completing my drafting classes I plan to seek employment where I can apply my newly acquired drafting skills.  I even dream of some day having my own construction business again by combining my experience of construction with the newly acquired drafting skills God is gifting me.

Today I feel honored to share my Jesus from these wheels as I find myself involved with people.  I can keep a smile on my face because I have a promise from the Author of Creation, also the Author of my salvation, that I will be given another opportunity to rise again and walk:

       “Then the lame shall leap like a deer,

And the tongue of the dumb sing.

For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness,

And streams in the desert” (Isaiah 35:6).

Until then, I am on a roll for Jesus.

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2 thoughts on “Until Next Summer

  1. Michael’s story is beautiful, and yes… others need to read it! So inspiring!

    Like

    1. I agree. He is an inspiration to many.

      Like

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