Finding Solace after Brain Injury

Birth is a beginning and life slowly unfolds to a future we can imagine but not foresee. We make important choices along the way, but the tenor of our lives is set by circumstances beyond our control. Life’s vicissitudes are inescapable, as when you sustain a brain injury. Your path veers off as if a “reset” switch in your brain was flipped, re-born into a new, very different body and mind. Although we think of our ‘self’ as immutable, human beings are never static. We are malleable. We learn. We adjust. It’s incredibly hard, but possible.

Personally, I accept the reality of living with brain injury but still struggle to accept what it’s done to me. (does that make sense?) My mind had always been so sharp and now is often foggy, confused. I had been so strong, able to help others but now am vulnerable, needing others’ support. I have to remind myself that brain injury is just one part of my life, perhaps the most challenging I have faced so far, but it won’t be the last. It’s not really the end of the world or even the end of my world.

I find solace among those on the same path knowing we face the unknown together. And I turn to this prayer* as a touchstone that offers me hope and reassurance. It is a reminder that pain is part of being alive, and that victory is measured not by how high you climb but simply by having made the ‘pilgrimage.’ In a way, that gives me permission to be proud of each day as it propels me forward on the journey that is the rest of my life.

Birth is a beginning
And death a destination.
And life is a journey;
From innocence to awareness
And ignorance to knowing;
From foolishness to discretion
            And then, perhaps, to wisdom;
From weakness to strength
Or strength to weakness—
            And, often, back again;
From health to sickness
And back, we pray, to health again;
From offense to forgiveness,
From loneliness to love,
From joy to gratitude,
From pain to compassion,
And grief to understanding—
From fear to faith;
From defeat to defeat to defeat—
Until, looking backward or ahead,
We see that victory lies
Not at some high place along the way,
But in having made the journey
            stage by stage,
A sacred pilgrimage.
Birth is a beginning
And death a destination,
And life is a journey,
A sacred pilgrimage—
To life everlasting.

This prayer also brings to mind an extraordinary moment between Anderson Cooper and Stephen Colbert on CNN’s AC360 (watch the interview here, on twitter). 

AC: You told the interviewer that you have learned, in your own words, to “love the thing that I most wish hadn’t happened.” Do you really believe that?
SC: Yes. It’s a gift to exist, and with existence comes suffering. There’s no escaping that.

—Laurie


* Central Conference of American Rabbis (1996), Gates of Repentance: The New Union Prayerbook for the Days of Awe. p. 283. 

7 thoughts on “Finding Solace after Brain Injury

  1. maryellencurley August 28, 2019 / 9:34 pm

    Thanks for the wisdom, Laurie. There are lessons here for everyone! All the best!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Julia Fernandez August 28, 2019 / 12:03 pm

    Dear Laurie,

    Thank you for your post.

    As usual, your moving words have brought tears to my eyes.

    It’s so true what you say about how we make choices in our lives, but that there are things totally beyond our control.

    And yes, it does make sense to me what you say about accepting the reality of living with brain injury while, at the same time, contradictory as it may sound, struggling to accept what has been done to you.

    I don’t think I will ever come to terms with the new person that I am, especially when it comes to my feelings and emotions. I can accept much more easily my physical or cognition problems.

    Thank you so much for sharing that beautiful poem. Hope and reassurance is something I very much need.

    And the promise of a life everlasting, one where my body, mind and spirit will be made whole again, is the most important thing to keep me going on my sacred pilgrimage until the day I finally attain that everlasting life.

    God bless you always.

    Julia Maria

    Liked by 1 person

    • laurienyc August 28, 2019 / 1:30 pm

      You are an amazing woman, Julia Maria. And thank you so much for your heartfelt response.
      If it is of any comfort, I’m sure you are not alone in finding it more difficult to come to terms with your feelings and emotions than your physical or cognitive problems. Although they are both so intertwined. Keep your head high and be proud of how hard you work every single day.

      Like

  3. Shelly L August 26, 2019 / 8:00 pm

    This piece is among your very best! I am humbled to participate in and witness this community, which has had more impact for me than might be guessed, even by myself sometimes. Looking forward to reading more.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Silvina C August 26, 2019 / 7:08 am

    What a great piece, Laurie:). The clarity with which you express yourself gives me guidance on many levels, particularly with the most difficult one for me: perspective of each:)!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Jill Schreier August 26, 2019 / 6:54 am

    i am not pray.

    Like

    • laurienyc August 26, 2019 / 7:55 am

      For me it is not just prayer. It is poetry

      Like

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