Dear Congresswoman Giffords:
One year ago today I suffered a mild traumatic brain injury, and as a doctor told me, “there ain’t nothin’ mild about it.” Not quite five months later, on January 8, I watched the news coverage reporting that you had been shot.
My heart immediately went out to you, for I was still recovering myself, and realized your injury was much more severe.
I knew that depending on the parts of your brain that were affected, your life was about to change dramatically.
I knew this would drastically limit your ability to do your job.
To be with people.
To move and think at the fast pace Washington requires.
I knew a little about your job having worked for former congressman Charlie Stenholm in Washington, and former Texas state senator Teel Bivins. I knew that if your injury was anything like mine, it would affect your ability to communicate.
At least for the moment.
That was the hardest part of this journey for me. Not being able to communicate as I always had before. It was a constant struggle and source of pain because so much of who I believe I am is tied up in my ability to express myself. So when I couldn’t, it felt like I had lost a huge part of myself.
If it was that much of a struggle for me, and my injury was far less invasive – I could only imagine what it was going to be for you.
No one has been more thrilled than I to learn of the progress you’re making in your recovery. To hear stories of your determination – of your hopeful spirit. That’s what makes all the difference in this journey.
And yet I know how difficult every day is – how discouraging it can be from moment to moment, day to day, when you long for the life you knew and you wonder if you will ever again be the person you were.
You can be more than you ever imagined. Maybe you won’t be exactly the same. Maybe you’ll be better.
I took a lot of things for granted before. Little things, like
Being able to carry on a conversation in a crowded restaurant.
Remembering how to carry on a conversation.
Simply being able to speak.
Going to the grocery store and remembering not just what you came for, but what you’re actually supposed to do there.
Listening to music.
Making any kind of decision.
Saying precisely what I want to say, when I want to say it.
Having a mental thesaurus at my constant disposal, enabling me to choose exactly the right word to express what I think, what I feel at any given moment.
Processing and retaining information, from grocery store lists, to podcasts, to friends just wanting to talk to me.
Listening to someone who’s hurting, and being able to respond appropriately.
Being able to touch my scalp. To hold my head back to rinse the shampoo from my hair in the shower.
Driving a car.
This list doesn’t even begin to touch the surface of what I’ve learned to be grateful for over the last year. I can say with immense gratitude that I believe in a God who has restored my ability to do all those things that I believed made me “me.” But the greatest lesson I learned is that who I am is not limited by what I can or can’t do.
And I’m loved not for what I can do.
For he provided for me when I could do nothing on my own.
My prayer for you is for total restoration, because this world needs more Gabrielle Giffords.
May you have everything I had and more….
A friend who calls you every day, multiple times a day, to remind you of who you are.
A village of people around you, friends who take you for walks when you can, and sit in silence with you when you can’t.
Friends who play Scrabble with you.
Friends who come and get you in the middle of the night to take you back to the hospital.
Friends who buy your groceries and fix you potato soup.
Friends who text you and send you cards.
Friends who want to just be with you, no matter what state you’re in.
Friends who pray for you when you can’t pray.
Gabby, I don’t know you, but I’ll be one of those friends who’s praying for you.
And if I lived in Arizona, I’d vote for you when you run again in 2012.