Joel was paralyzed from the neck down in a December 2009 car accident that separated his spine from his head, broke his jaw and robbed him of his ability to speak. He has been undergoing physical therapy at Brooks Rehabilitation's Neuro Recovery Center in Jacksonville, FL since July 2015.
Nearly six years ago my husband's family was told that "his quality of life would be..." You can probably fill in the blank with any negative word you could imagine and it would suit the atmosphere of those days. However, all the while the naysayers and the faithless stood on their soap box to tell us their plans for Joel's life, God sat on His throne with not a worry in the world. He sat whispering the great plans He had for Joel into the ears and soul of his comatose body so that one day when Joel heard those words spoken over someone else in pain, he could tell them, "God's not done with you yet!"
Today was unexpected. It was one of those days that we were going through the motions. We were preparing for a typical day of therapy with Staci, one of Joel's physical therapists. However, God had something else in mind. He wrote His plans on Staci's heart when she woke this morning with little extra pep and determination today, with a can-do attitude to push Joel a little outside his comfort zone. In physical therapy Joel has been working to sit up and support his own weight and pin point what makes him vulnerable to dizzy spells. They worked him super hard last week and he was in for a day of just working his muscles and nothing new.
When we finished his routine "bike" ride Staci told Joel he was going to get out of his chair today. His therapists have been trying to push him to work outside of his chair since July. He was pretty much set on staying in it. But not today. He wasn't. Today she told him she would transfer him to the mat table, not using a lift (which we use at home for easy transfers- basically a human engine hoist). And typically he tells them "no" with a single eye gesture. And, they understand him like we do, his personality and stubbornness too. But he humored her while she searched for the appropriate harness to suit him up to the zero gravity machine and allow him to sit up on a table by himself.
I am always ready with my phone to capture something new. As two students, Whitney and *another kind soul whose name I cannot remember at the moment* gathered around to observe I received a text from my sister. I was distracted for a moment, meanwhile my biggest fear was realized. I turned and Joel was up on two feet. For the longest time I have been concerned that Joel would pass out when he finally made it to his feet. But he went from sitting to standing. And he was fine. I was in shock. I was so glad Staci hadn't told me days in advance, because it would have taken away from the excitement of the moment (I must note that this is something that has been prepared for months in advance with tests and proper procedures, we were just waiting on Joel). And he gave her the go ahead.
If I were a crier, this is where I would have been a hot mess. I was just in awe. It was one of those moments that took my breath away. And then I handed my phone to Whitney asking her to take control of the video and photos. I'll let them speak for themselves.
I couldn't stop saying, "Goodness you are sooooo tall!" I forgot how tall he was after all these years.
I don't know if you're like me, but I have photographed (and now videoed) tons of brides and grooms during their first dance. I always wondered what they giggled and smiled about, what the conversation was about. Still to this day I find myself wondering what sweet words they are sharing in the that moment, but today, I got to relive that moment again with my groom. We shared our FIRST DANCE again this time on our feet!
When people say you can't, it's because they don't understand God CAN! Joel's quality of life might be different than what they would want for themselves, but I'm convinced it's more rich and joyous than they could imagine. It is the little triumphs that our giant steps for us. And for the little things, I am grateful.
We are thankful for our therapists Sarah, Staci, and Bob who push us and strive to make the most of our life. We are thankful for Brooks Rehab in Jacksonville for being the place we share so many firsts again!
And we are thankful to each of you who have paved the way and been a stepping stone in our path whether by your time, your passion, your commitment, your purchase from our Etsy store, and your love to push us forward in our life together. This is the payment we give you in return!
This post originally appeared on The Voyage Blog.