I listened intently as John Ulsh shared events from a reality that I could not imagine owning.
I was supposed to be conducting an interview about faith through hardship, but instead of asking John deep spiritual questions, all I could do for the first 37 minutes of our conversation was listen … and repeatedly recapture my stolen breath.
As John described details about the car accident that thrust his family of four into a new normal, I willed away images of rubber-scorched asphalt, splintered glass and metal strewn twisted and flattened. I gulped down a gasp when he mentioned that first responders found his little girl leaning over his body pleading, “Daddy, don’t die.” I ached at just the thought of such devastation.
John next recounted his extensive injuries, which included a ruptured spleen and diaphragm, a collapsed lung, a shattered pelvis, four fractured vertebrae, a broken foot, 12 broken ribs, and heart damage. He explained that the doctors had only given him a three-percent chance of survival and that for more than a month his family did not know whether he was going to live or die.
I remained silent when John talked about his inspiring progress. Tears blurred my vision as he mentioned how his loving wife faced each uncertain day with the type of strength that comes only from the kiss of God’s grace. I think I may have released a few audible sighs of amazement when he told me about how he started to build his body strength in order to combat the chronic pain that continually beats against him. I finally found my voice after John spoke about devoting two hours of his day to studying God’s word as he experiences a routine treatment for blood clots (a result of the accident).
“What propelled you to keep going, John?”
I asked the question but did not allow him to answer until I finished a ramble that went something like this:
“I mean I know the obvious. I know you saw God’s hand at work … I know you wanted to live and fight for your family … for your wife and for your precious children … but what motivated you to not only survive but to thrive … four years ago your body was significantly broken, you were paralyzed and given little chance for survival and today you bench press 300 pounds and play golf and soccer with your kids … how?”
“I chose to do it,” John replied. “Actually, I choose to do it. Each day I accept God’s grace as a gift and I understand that each day is part of an ongoing process. When I first woke up from the accident, I wanted to know if my wife and kids were OK. When I knew that they were, I gained a whole new perspective on life. I then knew that I had everything I really needed and that made me focus on being the best husband and father I could be no matter what I faced physically.”
Those three live at the center of every comeback … the small daily comebacks moving forward after a professional blunder … the bigger comebacks like repairing a friendship or touching your toes to the floor the morning after a break-up … the really big comebacks that accompany seemingly insurmountable loss or destruction.
A comeback is entirely opposite of a go back. A comeback does not always mean complete restoration … a comeback does not erase pain or scars … a comeback does not even guarantee an easier future.
The unbridled beauty of a comeback lies first in God’s grace; second, in the decision to accept that daily dose of grace; and third, in the gain of a clear perspective that keeps you steady in Jesus’ palm.
Angela Nazworth writes about the joy of believing that you are womb woven and wonderfully made. You can find her new blog at www.angelanazworth.com. She and John Ulsh attended the same high school in central Pennsylvania.
John Ulsh is a husband, father, accident survivor and optimist. His blog details his struggles and triumphs as he learns to live with his life as a “new me”. You can read more about John and his family on his blog, My Recovery – My Motivation