Nearly every moment in our lives is a crossroads. If you are looking to inspire and demand the very best version of yourself, and what you are doing (or who you are doing it with) is falling short, you are faced with a decision: stay put or walk away. Many of us will manufacture obstacles we can hide behind in order to justify our inaction. Then we complain that our lives are not turning out the way we had hoped. Everyone is guilty of this from time to time. I hope that my sister’s story helps you overcome some of your hurdles.
My dear sister Rose Marie passed away a few years back. She was born with a severe case of Cerebral Palsy. She lived most of her life confined to a wheelchair or hospital bed, dependent on round-the-clock care. She couldn’t walk, talk or do anything on her own.
Her higher cognitive function was no different than yours or mine. Tests revealed that she was at or above average intelligence and had the capacity to comprehend advanced intellectual concepts.
While complications at birth may have caused the loss of nearly all of her willful motor control, it did nothing to diminish her mind.
Rosie heaved and shook violently and needed to be strapped into her wheelchair at all times. Her wrists and elbows were tied down to keep her from hurting herself or others. She could make sounds, but could not form words.
Inside Rosie there beamed a bright light. She may not have been able to talk, but she could laugh and smile. Her smile would light up a room and her laugh would tickle your heart. She understood everything that was going on around her. She would laugh at my jokes (or shake her head when they were not funny). She would make a sound if someone was blocking the TV. She would kick you if you walked in front of her just so you wouldn’t forget she was there.
As Rosie got older, my mother was no longer able to care for her full time (my two sisters and I were a handful on our own). She was moved to a skilled nursing facility a few miles away from our house. My mom would visit her every day and Rosie would come home every weekend.
The 45 years she lived far exceeded the abbreviated lifetime her doctors predicted. In the final years of her life, she battled countless complications from her condition. An unrelenting case of pneumonia brought on by aspirating anything she drank or ate meant that she needed a feeding tube. Strapped to a bed for her last years, she suffered from excruciating bed sores.
At the hospital, in the waning hours of her life, she clung to what little was left. Even under a veil of morphine, a spark of light still shone through- she wanted to live. A lifetime of unimaginable suffering was unable to extinguish the fire that still burned within.
Upon her passing, I was struck with a profound sense of what it means to be alive and free. Unlike any time before in my life, I was keenly aware that I had the choice to stand up and go anywhere and do anything with anyone I pleased. I was responsible for my choices. I was accountable for my own happiness.
The life I had created – my friends, my job, my surroundings – were not a fixed reality.
And beyond the choices we make, life is for living. The joy of travel, a limitless buffet of flavor, artistic expression, speaking your mind….I had to wonder, how much of it was I living?
In moments of disappointment or boredom, my thoughts turn to Rosie. If given the chance to take over my body, what would she do with that opportunity?
You have the power to take control over your life…What will YOU do with this opportunity?