"Miracles are never wrought without prayer, felt need, and faith...they are the natural result of the Messiah's presence among men."
Bible Dictionary

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Broken Things

I'm just a few days away from the six year mark of the onset of my paralysis. I'm not much of a poet, but I thought I'd try to express some of the unique emotions and difficulties I go through.

Broken Things

If I wasn't broken, I wouldn't sit when others stood.
If others ran and jumped and played, I'd join them in the fray.

If I wasn't broken, I'd be strong and tall and sleek.
My muscles wouldn't atrophy, I wouldn't be so weak.

If I wasn't broken, I'd do things on my own.
I wouldn't need another's hands, or Siri on my phone.

If I wasn't broken, I wouldn't shiver in the spring.
The summer wouldn't burn me up; the winter wouldn't sting.

If I wasn't broken, my body wouldn't jerk.
Pain wouldn't keep me up at night, nor interrupt my work.

If I wasn't broken, I wouldn't be depressed.
When all my peers go do the things that give life that special zest.

Metal bars around a lion, a bird with crumpled wings.
There's a certain savage sadness to a soul that cannot spring.

Of all the other people, are there any quite like me?
Their lives are free and fun and real, while mine much burdened be.

But though their lives seem easy, I know that underneath,
lie pains and hurts and nasty things that they would like to sheath.

For are we all not broken? We've wandered far from home.
Through times of trial, pain and sin, often do we roam.

But broken things can mend themselves, and learn to live again.
Resilient courage is ours to claim, as broken, mortal men.

And since we all are broken, each can sing their song.
Different parts that harmonize, in heaven's eternal throng.
(Credit: Elder Holland)

My life is tough to say the least, but somehow things work out.
Miracles have buoyed me up, and wiped away my doubt.

Christ my Savior ransoms me, when it's more than I can bear.
For trials can be overcome with fervent, humble prayer.

And though I'm pretty broken, there's wheat among my tares.
I've every blessing that I need...plus a wheelchair.

I love this picture. Not only because the paralyzed man is me, but because of the incredible faith he's showing by attempting to reach the Savior. The man can't move, but he embarks on a risky and dangerous undertaking, trusting that Christ will help him succeed. If there was no miracle at the end of his descent, he would have been stuck on the ground, unable to move and surrounded by strangers. Furthermore, being raised back up on the litter would likely be an unstable contest against the unforgiving jaws of gravity. What an example of faith in the Savior amidst fear and trials! 

There are no days off of paralysis. For the past six years I've been trapped in a body that is not only unable to do things that life necessitates, but is barely able to move at all. But as the years have passed, I've gotten used to it. I've figured out how to get by with the little function I have, and carved out a small place in the world that I know I can be successful in. Most of the time, I'm content with that. Happy even. But sometimes, when it seems like the sun is shining for everyone but me, the weight of what I've lost comes crashing down. It can be a disparaging, crippling burden. My life is not glamorous. It can be frustrating. Humiliating. Disappointing. But it's still my life, and I'm still me. My trials are numerous, and the forecast says they're going to be around for awhile yet. But I know how cope with them and find peace and happiness in the small things of life.

I've heard some people say that they've accepted their injuries and disabilities to the point that they wouldn't go back and change themselves if they could. That's not me. I'll probably never get to that point. Honestly all the trials of my particular injury are just too severe. But that doesn't mean I'm giving up. I'll be graduating soon with a Masters degree in an exciting field (for me at least!) with exciting career prospects. There's still plenty for me to achieve in life! I know there will be more difficult times ahead for me but in some ways, that's just life and I'm not so different from everyone else (even though I am). When those times come, I'll do what I've always done. Rely on my Savior, Jesus Christ. For although it often seems like no one understands the unique pains I experience, he does. Through the Atonement, Christ experienced all the afflictions and brutality of mortal life and can therefore alleviate my pain and make my burdens lighter. I know this is true. I've seen blessings and miracles in my life that can be explained in no other way.

I'll making a significant transition soon, from student to full-time employee. I'm not sure exactly how I'll be able to make things work and have the help I need to be successful, but I have confidence it will work out. I've made it this far! And whether it be one more year of paralysis, another six, or the rest of mortality, I know it will be okay. My Savior has a plan for me, and if I continue to trust in him, he won't let me fail.


  1. This is Brother Crow from Arizona. Thank you for sharing this. You give many others courage and strength to face their challenges. A masters degree is quite a laudable accomplishment! Say hello to your family for us!

  2. Congratulations on graduating Stephen! I was glad to run into you in the elevator in the Wilk after 6 years. Remember that there are many people out there rooting for you!

  3. Thank you for writing and congratulations on your graduation.

  4. I am inspired and moved by your courage and faith. Sometimes it almost seems like faith and courage are very much related things. But, either quality without the other is fruitless and/or pointless. You have shared a piece of yourself in your writing and you certainly have both faith and also courage. May God continue to guide your path and may He also have blessings to brighten your path along the way.

    1. I just read an article about you in the online BYU mag. I love this poem!! I suffered from a decade of a chronic illness that left me fairly incapacitated. The pain of being on the sidelines was very difficult. I've been blessed that my physical health has improved but new heartaches have entered my life. Your poem was a good reminder of the blessings we enjoy. In the midst of challenges. One of my best blessings during my darkest days was my quadrapelic hometeacher, whose friendship, love and priesthood blessings helped me during my tough times. Best of luck with the exciting new opportunities that await you!

  5. Stephen- I just read the article about you in the online BYU magazine. You may not remember us, but you and your mom joined us for dinner in Riverton back in 2012, shortly before the rest of your family moved up. I met you when you attended our ward and invited you to join us. We enjoyed meeting you and your mom and were impressed with your faith in the face of such a difficult trial. It's wonderful that you are sharing your story and faith on your blog. Thank you for sharing your light; you have much to offer. Oddly, since we met you, my wife's health has declined significantly. She had been in a biking accident years earlier, but the degeneration was slow. In 2015, her disks in her neck had deteriorated to the point that her c4 to c5 and c5 to c6 were rubbing bone on bone. She had fusion surgery which was structurally successful but she is still in severe pain 24/7. She is only able to be up and moving around the house 2-4 hours per day and must lie down on ice the rest of the time. She has had to learn to deal with the physical pain and pain of being on the sidelines like you have written about. While her trials are not nearly as severe as yours, there are some similarities. I have forwarded her the article about you in the byu magazine and now your blog. I believe your willingness to share your feelings and experiences and faith will be a blessing to her and many others. Thank you for sharing and my thoughts and prayers are with you.

  6. Stephen, thank you - I was touched by your poem, and that you have shared what you are truly going through. I don't think any of us readers would know what to do if we were in your situation - thank you for sharing your struggles and your faith.

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