Thankful for What I Have
How does a person cope when tragedy strikes and leaves him incapacitated? Does a strong faith in God and his promises make a difference? How will the family react? Is it possible for all to maintain a positive outlook? The following is the story of one family’s struggle to cope.
JUNE 1, 1957, was the last “normal” day of my life. It had begun like any other day: I arose early and went to my work as a lumberjack in Deer Lake, Newfoundland. All seemed well.
Suddenly, the large tree I had just cut, and which was on its way down, was caught by a crosswind that unexpectedly shifted the direction of its fall! It was too late for me to move out of the way. The tree crashed down on my shoulders, knocking me to the ground and leaving me unconscious. Later, when I came to, I could not move!
I was taken to the hospital in Corner Brook. Extensive tests revealed that my spinal cord was partially severed, requiring the removal of three vertebrae. I was left paralyzed from the neck down!
Love Overcomes Helplessness
It is hard to imagine the utter helplessness and frustration that such a calamity can bring. I could not even comb my hair or feed myself. In fact, I could not even tell when I was hungry!
I had been a large man, strong and energetic. Now I was reduced to a helpless cripple. So many adjustments were needed to be able to cope with life. How much could a person take? I was to find out in the many years to follow.
Never would I have made it without the loving care of my wife Hilda. The Bible, at Proverbs 18:22, asks: “Has one found a good wife?” If so, it says that “one has found a good thing.” Truly my wife was a blessing to me and our family of seven children.
The youngest of our children was 18 months old at the time of my accident, so until then most of Hilda’s time had been spent taking care of them. Then I became as one of them, and even more so, since I could not be put down to run around and play after I was bathed and dressed. No, I had to be tucked into bed.
Still, there were times when we found things to chuckle over. For example, my wife would often take me out in my wheelchair. One time I kept falling over to one side of the wheelchair. She would set me up straight, but it seemed that I was not to be straightened that day. Hilda finally said: “Lindsay, what’s the matter?” We found out when we got home. When she took me out of my chair, there on the seat where I had been sitting was a large can of powder! Since feeling was gone from me, I was totally unaware of it. So with my weight unbalanced, I kept tilting to one side.
In spite of my difficult situation, Jehovah God’s love has sustained me. Proverbs 3:5, 6 advises us to ‘trust in Jehovah with all our heart, and he will make our paths straight.’ What a blessing that is, for if it were not for Jehovah’s love and the truth of the Bible, I would not have been able to endure. But I had not always trusted in Jehovah. In fact, there was a time when I did not even know him.
I was born in 1911 in a place called Little Catalina, Trinity Bay, Newfoundland. Brought up by religious parents, I had respect for the Bible and read it occasionally. As I did so, questions came to my mind, such as: Would man actually live on earth forever, as Psalm 37:29 says? To find out, I went to my clergyman and asked him. His reply was: “You’ll have to wait until you ‘cross the Jordan’ to find out.” More questions from me seemed to disturb him. So he said to me: “Your problem, Lindsay, is that you ask too many questions.”
I was not to get answers until 1948 when we moved to the community of Cormack. There I met Gus Barnes and Jack Keats, who were Jehovah’s Witnesses. How glad I was when these men showed me answers from the Bible! So satisfied was I that the next year I was baptized in symbol of my dedication to Jehovah.
That same year we moved once again, this time up north to Goose Bay, Labrador, where I was to work with heavy equipment. It wasn’t long before my employer found out that I was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Within two months I was fired and told to move out of town. This I refused to do. In those days people were afraid to give ear to something new, even though this message was much older than they were.
My children did not go unnoticed either. They were given a rough time at school until the police went to the school authorities and reminded them that Jehovah’s Witnesses had fought and won the most outstanding court cases in Canada over freedom of religion. The result was that my children, and the children of other religions, were assured of their religious freedom.
Things are different in that area today. In 1985 a quickly built Kingdom Hall was erected for a thriving congregation of Jehovah’s people that includes one of my daughters.
Help in Overcoming Loss
In 1951 we moved to the town where we still live, Deer Lake. Endurance was necessary over those difficult years. But things were to happen that would call for even greater endurance.
My dear lifelong companion, Hilda, who had a heart problem, died from a seizure in 1963. On a cold winter day, as I watched from my wheelchair, she was lowered into the ground. The loneliness I felt seemed unbearable! What was I to do now? I was absolutely unable to care for myself, let alone care for my family.
But Jehovah is faithful, and he always makes a way out for us if we rely on him. (1 Corinthians 10:13) His servants, my Christian brothers and sisters, gave me much comfort, which strengthened me to carry on. My daughter Yvonne took on the task of caring for me. What a blessing she has proved to be!
Although Yvonne has a family of her own to care for, she still has seen to my needs. The nearest hospital is 30 miles (50 km) away. Many times my daughter has had to take me there for treatment. When my health problems become serious, I make a trip by plane to the hospital in St. John’s, about 400 miles (640 km) away. Yvonne always accompanies me.
Because of the inability of my body to function as it should, serious illnesses have sometimes overtaken me. I have had kidney stones removed; infections often required surgery; pressure sores have kept me in the hospital for months and in bed at home months more, some of these sores requiring skin grafts; bowel problems led to a colostomy; and diabetes also came into the picture.
Issues over blood transfusions arose often. But finally the doctors agreed to operate on me without blood. Because of their skill and concern, I came along fine without blood transfusions.—Acts 15:29.
My daughter and her husband and family have seen me through all my difficulties, getting up at night to look after me, feeding me, bathing me, changing my dressings, taking me to Christian meetings and assemblies, where I am further strengthened spiritually. At times I even have a part on an assembly program. Loving children surely are a rich blessing from Jehovah!—Psalm 127:3.
So Much to Be Thankful For
Yes, I have much to be thankful for. While my physical body is inactive, my brain is alert, and I can talk. I have used this ability to make known Jehovah’s name and purposes to those in the hospitals who would listen—doctors, nurses, patients, clergy visiting the hospitals, and friends who came to see me.
In addition, I have graduated to a wheelchair run by two 12-volt batteries, which I operate from a switch on the armrest. At times while out in my chair, I meet friends and neighbors and have further opportunity to talk to them about God’s purposes. I am thankful that I am able to do this.
Several of my children have dedicated their lives to Jehovah, and they in turn are training their children to serve God. That brings me much joy. My wife was a baptized worshiper of Jehovah, and my mother, who was baptized at the age of 75, served Jehovah until her death.
I now look forward to the day when ‘God himself will be with his people and will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and when death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore,’ and when “the lame one will climb up just as a stag does.”—Revelation 21:3, 4; Isaiah 35:5, 6.
At that time total peace will cover the earth, and those who submit to God’s rule will reap the benefits. The Bible promises: “The meek ones themselves will possess the earth, and they will indeed find their exquisite delight in the abundance of peace.” For how long? “The righteous themselves will possess the earth, and they will reside forever upon it.”—Psalm 37:11, 29; 72:7.
Those are marvelous things to look forward to. And my joy will be complete when, in Jehovah’s new system, even ‘those dead in the memorial tombs will come out.’—John 5:28, 29.
As I lie here day by day, I have opportunity to review my life and see if I have benefited in any way. I can say without any hesitation that I have benefited a lot. My spirituality has greatly increased. I have learned to depend on Jehovah so much. Instead of complaining about my lot in life or what I might lack, I have learned to appreciate what I have. And my appreciation for my loving family has really grown.
So I am truly thankful for what I have now, and I look forward to the fulfillment of the marvelous hope ahead—life in God’s new system. Then I will have perfect health. What a happy day that will be!—As told by Lindsay Stead.
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The death of my dear wife called for even greater endurance
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Loving children surely are a blessing from Jehovah