Wednesday, October 29, 2014

An emotional farewell to my wheelchair

I shared with you in recent weeks that I was moved into a new office at the college and a couple of weeks ago was the recipient of new office furniture. Two weeks ago I was told that I needed to get rid of some of the furniture that had been part of my ‘space” for several years. This included a bookshelf, file cabinet, and the most difficult to part with….my motorized wheelchair.  That chair, once my mode of transportation around the college, has been a part of my life for several years, and although I have not had to use it to get around in about 2 ½ years, it served as a powerful, visual reminder of the life I left behind….and a life that could possibly be mine again……IF….I don’t make a daily choice to continue to be faithful to a healthy lifestyle. 

For the past couple of years, that chair sat in the corner of my office with a sign that proclaimed, “Theresa Doesn’t Live Here Anymore!”  Those words have become my mantra; are comprised in the title of my blog and website; and very likely will be the title of ONE of the books I will write in the future; likely my autobiography. The chair motivated me on a daily basis and I used it to motivate students as well. When a student would come to my office lamenting the struggles of math class and wanting to drop out of college “because it is too hard; I just don’t think I can do it; it seems impossible; you just don’t understand, Theresa” and other similar conversations, I would often point out the chair and remind them that “YES….you can do it….YES….I know it is hard and it seems impossible, but hard work pays off” and so forth.  That chair reminded me of pain and struggle; heartbreak and despair; and victory and joy, all at the same time.  My heart sunk when I was told last week that I could not keep the chair in my office any more.

When I thought about the chair being gone, my first thoughts revolved around fear.  “What if I need it again….after all, I still have RA and even though I don’t need it now, I might in the future because RA doesn’t go away and even average size people with RA need mobility devices?”  “What will motivate me now to “keep on keeping on”; what will I use to motivate students?”  “What will remind me of the grace of God and the victory that He won for me?” So many other similar thoughts and emotions began to flood my mind.

 Although the chair was part of my life for a very long time, it physically belongs to a relative of a coworker who loaned me the chair many years ago. This means that I couldn’t just take the chair home and store it in the garage….in case I need it….physically or emotionally.  It means that it needed to be returned to the original owner…..or….passed on to someone who really needs it; someone who would be as blessed and happy to have it as I was; someone who would use it on a daily basis to ease his/her pain.  The thought that someone else would be able to use it gave me comfort, but I secretly hoped that somehow I could keep the chair, even though that was unlikely. I do, however, still have my cane, wheeled walker, and wheelchair as those things are mine; they just are not visible to me on a daily basis. I decided that when the chair was removed, I would hang a photo of the chair in my office: That surely would serve as the reminder of my old life and someone else would have use of the chair – a Win-Win situation or all!

On Monday afternoon, the co-worker who gave me the chair, Connie, came to my office to get it. It was a bitter-sweet moment for me as she removed the “Theresa doesn’t live here anymore sign” and drove the chair out of my office. I admit I had a lump in my throat and fought back tears, but I realized that it was time to let it go. After all I don’t need it anymore to get around. I can walk freely and most of the time, without pain. “Thank you, Lord, Thank you, Lord; you have set me free. Thank you, Lord, Thank you Lord for this victory,” I prayed as she drove it away.

Connie told me that another co-worker, a wonderful friend and member of this group, Norma, was going to be using the chair. My heart smiled at this news because Norma is a beautiful soul and on a daily basis I watch her struggle to take a few steps at a time. She is in constant pain, uses a cane, and basically is where I was physically a few years ago. The thought that she would be able to get around with ease filled me with joy (and knowing that the chair was still in the building….just in case…. also provided me with comfort and security in a weird “Theresa” kind of way.”  That chair will become a blessing to Norma in much the same way as it is/was to me!  Still….it will take a bit of time to process the emotion I’m feeling.  As soon as the chair was out of my sight, I texted my dear friend, Chuck, seeking comfort and wisdom. As usual, he said just what I needed to hear: He told me that it was just like a tightrope walker who was confident enough to walk the rope without a net. And he assured that he would be there to catch me if I fall and would fly with me as I soar. What a blessing he is to me! YES, I can walk; YES, I have been set free: YES, I am a walking-talking miracle…and YES, God is good!

When I entered the college yesterday morning, I saw Norma. She was using the chair to get from the entrance to the college to her office. Although I wasn’t quite ready (had that familiar lump in my throat) to talk to her at that time, I felt my heart smile. She WAS going to use that chair; it would have the freedom to go anywhere at the college now; and her pain would be eased for a short time. I silently thanked God for my miracle and I prayed for her in her struggles, as I WALKED….in my high heels….to my office.  Yes, “Theresa doesn’t live THERE anymore!  Theresa LIVES….on a bicycle…..on a wooded trail at Tippy Dam or Hartwick Pines…..on the top of the Sleeping Bear Dunes…..on her hands and knees in the garden….on the floor playing with her nieces and nephews……on the cover of magazines and in front of a crowd sharing her story!!!!!”  I suddenly wanted to sing “Amazing Grace.”   And so begins the next phase of my life…….without that chair.

My friends, today I ask you:  “Where do you LIVE….physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually?”  “Where do you want to LIVE a year from now?”  “What do you need to do to relocate?”  Are you ready to put a “for sale” sign on your current reality?  Are you ready to move into a new life?   Anyone who has actually moved from one residence to another or tried to sell a house knows that the literal process of getting ready to sell or move, packing up and getting rid of things one doesn’t need anymore, finding another place to live, moving and settling into a new place…etc…(you get the drift)….will attest that it takes a lot of work to relocate physically and there is a lot of emotion involved in leaving a place that was once “home” behind and becoming comfortable and secure in another…..but it often is wonderful and the new place is often even better.  The same is true for moving into a new, healthier lifestyle. It will take a lot of work; it will take a lot of time; it will come with a lot of emotion…..but IT WILL BE worth it!  I encourage you today….if you are not happy with the reality of your life….take the first step today to begin to change it.  I want you to be know the joy of proclaiming that “You don’t live THERE anymore either….wherever/whatever THERE means to you.”