catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 9, Num 24 :: 2010.12.31 — 2011.01.13


A wild ride

It is so supremely strange to think that it has been a year since my old ten-speed and I got roughed up on the road. My emotions about the whole thing have lately gotten in the habit of running beyond my reach, and between memories and flashbacks I’ve found myself quite spooked on spokes during the month leading up to the anniversary. I reckon it has nothing to do with the recent Halloween season. O, how the leg bone is connected to the mind bone…and I recognize right now that I’d be a bonehead to not take this time to declare, highlight, star and underscore the gratitude that wells in my heart, and the responding tears in my eyes. I am overwhelmed by it — all of it.

It’s been a trip since that fall, and in a lot of ways I feel stronger though I am weak in the knee. Sure, I was probably physically stronger before; in fact, I was quite a compact tank. My family called me “Little Muscles” and I likened my own self to a pack mule much of the time — an eXtreme hauler of stuff. I used to enjoy a daily run of three to five miles, an activity that now not only looks ridiculous, but hurts like an effer. I do miss running and apologize for muttering my accidental granny grunts in the discomfort brought about from crouching and kneeling. My body feels and responds differently than it used to, but smaller potatoes know I not when I stop to consider the “what-could-have-beens.” Ah, and stop did I ever. The whole experience was a huge halt in my life.

The confrontation I approached at that intersection served to arrest my fast-paced lifestyle, braking me to a mileage of zero, in utter stillness. Some people say that they see their lives flash before their eyes in such experiences. I didn’t. Maybe I sensed that God had more in store, or maybe I couldn’t manage to discern the flash, given the rapid autopilot speed I felt my mind was traveling. It did, however, seem apparent to me that what was about to happen was going to suck.

My most immediate thought before all else was concern for how my folks would be affected. Growing up, my parents went to unnecessary measures to manage a thick moat between me and perceived danger — I’m talking pillows around corners of furniture and orders to never climb trees. As always, however, their support caught me when I was knocked off my bike, and they had my back when the leg broke.

Grace has been my sustenance in addressing my biggest fears: immobility and all things medical-related. I’m up there among the queasiest people of all time and there I was, redressing my eight-inch, 22-stitch incision and shooting up Lovenox in the belly daily for a month. While there have undoubtedly been times of intense frustration, paired with periods of “why-the-hell” asking, the Lord’s protection and company throughout it all was undeniable. Knowing that I’d be able to walk again and that my suffering was by and large temporary certainly served to enhance my gratitude as I considered those who’ve known a different outcome. I’m thankful that the two wheels I’ve now returned to are not attached to a chair.

It was during my recovery that I came to know a wonderful man by the name of Don Rightnour, the father of my sister’s roommate. Though having taken remarkably good care of himself and having never smoked a day in his life, he contracted a rare form of very aggressive lung cancer, which had spread to his brain and liver. He underwent chemo and experimental treatments this past winter, traveling the Pennsylvania highways with his family back and forth between Altoona to Pittsburgh, in desperate search for hope and solution. My family’s household was a stop for them in their journey. We spent time bonding at the kitchen table, recalling our recent hospital experiences and affirming that Moser hospitality is quite the upgrade and refuge from a hospital stay.  

The Rightnours stayed with us a couple of times while I was home on disability, and each time they came, while I was evidencing rapid physical improvement, it became clear to me that Don’s health was in decline. Don’s family fought like a pack of relentless tigers, but the new year was unwilling to forego the hardships of passing.

By late January, I had returned to my job and was back on my feet. Don and his family continued to travel to and from Pittsburgh for treatments and I was thankful to be able to share some of this time with this remarkable union. The evening before Don’s passing, my pastor BJ and my friend Eric came to pray with Don. I believe in so doing, as we joined together with the love of his family, we carried Don Rightnour right up to Jesus. His death was a peaceful release from a wicked battle. He didn’t live to see spring, but he exited this world in brighter warmth than the sun has ever offered.

It’s been strange to reconcile these concurrent realities — I am burdened and I am thankful. I am amazed and I am confused. I am seeing how, and I am asking why. I am filled with sorrow for so much and yet am thankful for so much. I recognize that, for now, I see through a glass darkly, knowing only in part.

Not a moment passes that I don’t think about the way my own world was rocked and my body wrecked. It was such a strange thing to be immediately absent from my work, social life and regular activities, and I probably learned more than I wanted to about solitude. In spite of my absence from the road, there were plentiful bumps and potholes during my time on that recliner. Pain remains in the persistent gimp’n’grind, serving as a reminder to be thankful. I could go on for ages of pages in attempt to outline the smatterings of grace. The enormity of my gratitude is beyond what I can contain, far outweighing the burden of this quasi-bum leg. I can’t get over it, and I wouldn’t want to anyway.

Among the blessings are some of the folks I’ve met from within the Pittsburgh cycling community. I’ve also become a better driver and have learned to ask for help, as there remain times here and there for which I have physical need. This lesson of asking for assistance continues to instruct me as I reflect upon the beauty of community. I’ve gained a healthier understanding of rest, and a hefty craving for it. I’ve gained a better perspective on the things that matter most and feel spoiled for just how good the Lord has been to me. At this slower pace I find greater appreciation for the beauty of my surroundings. Though I certainly wouldn’t get a kick out of going through the experience again, I don’t think I’d change what happened, and I can often even manage to find a level of humor in my manmade “strut.”

Winter showcases beauty within death, and I recognize that spring came again for me, not long after my own fall. I’ve celebrated an elongated Thanksgiving this year.

Unless the LORD had given me help, I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death. When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love, LORD, supported me.  When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.  (Psalm 94: 17-19)

It’s been a weird, wild, and wonderful year. Thanks and praise be to the Shield of my life, the Lifter of my head who has dealt with me gently since my slip on that pavement.

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