Monday, April 9, 2012

Not Dead Yet

“Not Dead Yet”

Kevin Bruce Parent, All rights reserved.

The large number of people who say that they couldn’t imagine living life with a disability is not surprising. When I broke my neck at 22, I couldn’t imagine not living. Until you are faced by this reality yourself or are around someone with a disability who shows you that life is worth living, you may not understand the human will to live. For people with disabilities, for the majority of the people that I've known, that will to live is usually fairly strong. Many have already faced the alternative, and have come back feeling very grateful to be alive. People with disabilities are capable of living a quality life!

Now that I’m older, and have worked around people with disabilities, I’m saddened by the startling number of people that I have known throughout the years, who have passed away. Many had fought relentlessly for the right to life, inclusion, and for disability rights. I am personally thankful for their efforts. Usually, life expectancy is decreased for people with disabilities, and secondary conditions associated with a disability can very quickly become critical. I've had 3 blood clots, and have been hospitalized with a kidney infection. Taking care of oneself is of vital importance. Anyone who has experienced any medical condition that is life threatening is aware of the possibility of death. Live your life to its fullest, and do not be afraid to live.

Depression is not uncommon for People living with a disability. It's a lot for any individual to deal with, especially if it comes about as a young adult as mine did. In fact, I was told that after a Spinal Cord Injury, 97% of marriages ended in divorce. I was no exception. Not everyone wheels or walks away with a Joni Erickson type of attitude. (I do admire her work and ministry.) Not many appreciate being God’s chosen one. Many are angry at God, or are later angered by their past work associates that don’t help them get back into the job market. Many find blending back into the work environment as uncomfortable, and often discriminatory. You learn who your real friends are very quickly. Many, including myself, may feel that they will possibly choke the next person who tells them that God only gives them what they can handle. (Enough already!) Of course there are those who continue to pray for your recovery, and many of those were also the same ones who opposed the necessary research that halted any chance of my own recovery. For those who believe, keep praying, but keep supporting the research that may lead to an eventual cure.

In the garden, the life and death of plants is a constant. When friends ask to see my garden, I tell them that it is evolving. It may not always look pretty. I am constantly tending my garden, taking care of plant disease and pests. I personally cannot stand watching the new garden shows that compete to build a garden in two days. Not everything worth having is created instantly. I wish they would go back and show these “instant gardens” after a year or two. A garden takes time and patience to develop. Gardens require care. A Landscape Contractor can easily enough be hired, but you have to manage your garden. Whether you hire out or do the maintenance yourself, there is always work to be done. Like any gardener, I have killed my share of plants. I will water what appears to be dead until something finally emerges from the ground. Sometimes, I have to except the reality that my plant didn’t make it. My tropicals are usually my biggest mystery. Always the last to reappear. I live in a zone that occasionally gets freezing temperatures.

When I see a plant that is not thriving, unlike the big home improvement garden centers, I do not discard them. I make every effort to revive or save them. I see value in them. I am not a “plant murderer!” I have seen gardens created by individuals who have utilized nothing but discarded plants. Landscapers tend to go for the instant effect. Gardeners try to work with what they have, and usually try to save what can be saved. A garden requires patience and nurturing. Many plants reseed year after year. These are my favorite because you never know where they are going to end up. The plants in my garden that thrive are also wonderful to share with friends.

I have heard friends comment that they prefer a low or no maintenance garden. I do think that this is somewhat, but not entirely possible. The mow, blow and go landscapers do not keep the Virginia Creeper from making its way over into my yard. All plants require food and water. Weeding is a constant task. It helps to choose disease resistant varieties of plants, and plants adapted for your zone.

In my garden, I see my past mistakes. I see the effects of improper pruning, improper planting depths, and when I've planted in the wrong location. I’ve learned from these mistakes. I have also seen the effects of mistakes done by others. I have sadly watched trees die because of these careless acts, and bees die from products dispersed by lawn companies. I have rushed my dog to the Emergency Vet because of a neighbor’s unsafe dispersal of rat poisoning. I watched my cat eat ant bait, and have had to single handedly pour hydrogen peroxide down her throat to induce vomiting. Experiences that I will never forget.

My garden isn’t perfect, nor will it ever be. When I focus my camera in on a plant, I look for its beauty. When I have one rosebush that isn’t flourishing, I take care of it. I do not discard it. As with all living things, sometimes certain plants require a little extra care.

This blog is dedicated to two past friends with disabilities, who are both now deceased, and who each had a direct impact on my life. Rick Douglas who once chaired the President’s Committee on the Employment of People with Disabilities, worked for the Department of Labor and was the first person with a disability to show me his hand controls in his Mercedes, and the possibility of living life independently. Harriet McBryde Johnson who because of her endless efforts showed the world that people with disabilities live lives worth living, and that she and many others were grateful for the choice their parents made. She also openly protested the Jerry Lewis Telethon yearly for its pity based tactics.


  1. Well said Brenda. Your patience and
    persistence no doubt are crucial to your evolving gardens. Wish I could have met the two people you dedicated your blog to. We never realize how important our mentors are until we look back and see with our 20/20 vision.

  2. I remember using a hand splint until Charlie, another incomplete quad, showed me how to balance a spoon on my hand. Most of the tips and tricks I've learned, I learned from other people with disabilities.

  3. Great job, mamma.