The 18th anniversary of the car accident that altered my life forever was this past Sunday, October 22nd, 2023. Ironically falling on Health and Healing Sunday, the Pastor from my church (North United Methodist Church at 38th and Meridian St. in Indianapolis) bravely asked if I would speak about my experiences and God as the Healer. Normally I prefer to spend this personal day in contemplative isolation...sharing the time with only the woman who calls me "husband". Our Pastor was not immediately aware that it was the same date as my accident...he was ministering to a different congregation eighteen years ago...but as soon as he asked, I knew that I would begin the day with not just one, but two public appearances to speak at the first and second worship services.
As my experiences have developed and framed my spiritual views, I now identify as a Methodist Christeo-Pagan Jedi, as I feel this evokes the best image of my personal spiritual journey and how I perceive the divine at work in our world. (We were an order of one until Irena married into it...the best part is the bath robes). I believe our congregation at North Church is largely unaware of my adapted spiritual identity. I call my Pastor brave, because he knows that whenever he asks me to speak, there's a chance that I'm going to say something that needs some interpretation.
Doubling down on that bravery, he also recognizes how easy it is for us to blame what we commonly perceive as a supernatural divine entity for the most traumatic experiences in our lives, rather than acknowledging the real-world natural causes of the trauma and relying on the divine nature of creation to provide healing in whatever form we require. He was banking on my ability to see the healing over the trauma, but despite our many conversations over the years, he was only vaguely aware of what had brought me to that perspective. Without discussing what I would say in my testimonial, he planned a beautiful service, inspired by what he knew of my spiritual, mental, and physical journey. (Video of my testimonial is below, but if you would like to watch the entire service, it can be viewed on the North Church Indy YouTube channel).
The Sanctuary in our church is in the style of the gothic cathedrals, with a vaulted ceiling, stained glass, an elevated pulpit that grows out of a marble dais with a choir loft behind the velvet lined Pastor's seating. There are marble steps that wrap up to the pulpit from the dais, with a solid brass handrail, but the steps progressively narrow on the wall side as you near the top, to a point where your entire foot won't land on the step properly. Many years and two pairs of legs ago, when I was first asked if I could get to the pulpit to lead the liturgy portion of the service, I was told that I would have to use the stairs outside the sanctuary and come down to the pulpit through the choir loft. It meant about three times as many steps, and several chairs would need to be removed from the choir loft to make the pathway "accessible" for me, but that stairwell had standard steps (in regard to height & width) and walls with railings on both sides. Everyone felt safer with this approach over the marble steps...
This "hero moment" almost didn't happen. The bone spur that I mention in the video has been causing a great deal of pain in my new socket. So much so that after 11 days of rest, I was able to wear and use both legs effectively for a presentation at Purdue University the Thursday prior, but that Friday I could not bear weight to see if the advanced stair ascent mode on my new legs would allow me to use the marble steps. When I awoke on Sunday morning, I fully intended to give my testimonial from a wheelchair on the inaccessible lower dais. The bone spur didn't hurt, so I put on my legs, just in case.
I arrived just in time to see if I could go up the steps before the 8:30am worship service began, as opposed to climbing the steps during the service as seen above. There were several members of the choir sitting in the front pews. The music had not started. The moment I put my hand on the brass rail, three of the women from the choir looked as if they were going to vault over the front pew to stop me!
"You're not going up those steps!" they cried out in concern.
"Don't you want to go up the back steps to the choir loft?" asked one of the Tenors simultaneously with the distraught altos and sopranos.
I smiled rakishly over my left shoulder as I put my right foot up on the first step, my leg at a 90(ish) degree angle. "It's way more steps." I replied while pulling my knee back and lifting myself up onto the first step. "Let's see what my new legs can do..." All the while hoping that one motion would not set the bone spur at the distal end of my right leg and the skin graft over it to a searing pain. Easy as pie, I felt no pain, and my right leg recognized the motion of mounting the first step to trigger the stair ascent mode. Allowing the harmonic motor in my knee to articulate my lower leg so that my foot would clear the riser of each step in-front of me and lift consistently as I climbed to the top, I amazed everyone present including the Pastor and myself!
As I never script what I'm going to say, but only think about the themes that I want to cover in advance, the first worship service and the second worship service received similar messages with different deliveries. If you watched the recording of the second service, above, then you may have noticed that I mentioned a great grief, when I first awoke on this path, but not knowing where that grief was coming from, as I didn't yet know about the amputations of my legs. I alluded to this but left out that I came to realize the grief was over the loss of universal knowledge as I returned to this plane of existence...leaving me with only the impressions that I was able to impart this past Sunday. Looking back on these past 18 years, I would not change the past if I had that power. I cherish the healing that I have received and have been able to provide for others.