There have been numerous studies which have pointed to the fact that brain chemistry changes after trauma. In the case of my father, I have seen, firsthand, that this is true. And, in his case, the changes were not all negative.
I remember my mother telling me many years ago about how she was talking to a group of friends about my father; 10 years prior, he fell out of a tree, and became paralayzed from the knees down. Through self discipline, lots of weight training and physical therapy, he regained feeling down to his knees, yet he still needed crutches to walk.
The financial and emotional devastation of all of it (my father was very athletic, and had been a Texas Trooper for 10 years) was beyond comprehension, to be sure.
Yet, on the day my mother was talking to her friends, she wasn’t speaking of the difficulty of it – the sleepless nights, the sound of my father’s cries of pain; she spoke of his art, and their quiet, peaceful lives at that point. My father, five years after the accident, began pastel and oil painting. He gained quite a reputation throughout South Texas, painting portraits and Western paintings of cowboys playing poker, cutting a plug of chaw, and sipping coffee in the predawn hours.
In addition to traveling with Dad’s art, they also raised Angus cattle together, and my father ran a rural mail route every morning from 6:30-noon.
I’m quite certain that his artistic nature wouldn’t have surfaced with such force had not the essence of his physical self been ripped away from under him. The right brain, which is where grieving occurs, kicked in and brought forth this latent talent he had. No longer able to physically run, or even walk without aid, his brain seemed to “fill in the gap”, for lack of a better term.
So on the morning of my mother’s coffee klatsch with her friends, it was of these positives my mother spoke. One woman, who admittedly, never was much deeper than a dime, said to my mother, “Well. . . I guess you’re just too close to see it. . .” And, she let the “it” hang at the end of her sentence, letting it infect the air like a noxious odor.
The rest of the women tended to agree with this woman, and my mother was so puzzled by this. I’ve never met two more contented people than my parents, and those days of traveling to art shows (my mother did all of the framing, and much of the “front man” work) were enjoyable to both of them. The interesting thing is, that my father’s accident happened three months before I was born; I never knew him any other way accept the way the accident left him. I truly doubt they could possibly have been happier in the pre-accident years (my brother, who was 11 when my father fell, says I’m right about that).
One of the secrets, I’m absolutely sure, of a contented life is learning to embrace pain, and the new opportunities it brings. Doing so isn’t a denial of reality, it’s an acceptance of it, and the ensuing joy and peace, as illogical as it may seem, cannot compare with previous ease.