Una Wan
Una's Story:

On January 7, 1996 my life changed dramatically. It was a Sunday morning. My husband, David and my 3 children were driving on a major highways just outside Lexington Kentucky on our way home from a holiday In Florida. Unfortunately, we encountered a freak snowstorm. Since snow is such a rare occurrence in Kentucky they have no snow removal equipment so the roads were snow packed with patches of ice. We felt relatively safe as there was a constant stream of traffic moving very slowly. It was 11 o’clock in the morning. The snow had stopped and the sun was shining. My husband was driving and my son Michael, 13 at the time, was sitting beside him. David was instructing our son on how to drive in the snow.

We came to a bridge and all of a sudden our van went into a spin.  A transport truck was right behind us. Our van raised enough snow that the truck driver didn’t see us and hit us head on. My husband was killed instantly. His seat came down on top of me breaking my back and leaving me paralysed. Thankfully, the children had minor scratches and bruises.

Right after the accident there was a sense of unreality. My first thought was that this was a nightmare and I would wake up. Even to this day, there are times when I feel surreal about the accident and think I will wake up and find out this is just an awful nightmare. I don’t remember a lot about the first days. I was taken to a hospital in Lexington where the doctors performed emergency back surgery and within a week I was airlifted to the Victoria Hospital in London.

In the first few weeks after this traumatic event I wondered if there was really a future for me. I couldn’t imagine life without David and without the use of my legs. I spent hours wishing I had died. If It hadn’t been for the encouragement and prayers of family and friends I may not have made it. Three weeks after the accident I suffered a major setback. I lost the use of my upper body, arms and hands. As I lay in the intensive care unit surrounded by machines and not knowing if I was going to live I realized that I DID want to live. I bargained with God that if I lived I would never complain again.

Although I don’t think I have kept my part of the bargain 100 percent, I do feel that I have a purpose. That is to remind others every opportunity I get about how wonderful and precious life is and not to take it for granted. Especially not to take our loved ones for granted. On that fateful Sunday I had no idea that I was having the last conversation with my husband. Without wanting to sound too morbid you never know when your last conversation with someone is going to be. If we kept that in mind wouldn’t we want every conversations to be special?  What could be so important that it would be worth fighting over?

Many of us complain about having a poor memory. We forget where we put things, we forget names, special dates and so on.  Remember the expression, “I would forget my head if it wasn’t attached.” I have a suggestion, why don’t we apply our poor memory to our past grudges, injustices, resentments and make an extra effort to remember names, faces, important dates and moments we felt loved.

I have always tried to teach my children it doesn’t matter what happens to you, it only matters how you react to it. That each one of us is responsible for how our lives turn out. After the accident I got a chance to test out his theory. For the first few months I felt useless, powerless and inadequate. I spent many hours crying and feeling sorry for myself. I felt that my wheelchair was a prison and that I was a victim destined to live a life of misery.

Whenever I felt discouraged I remembered how in the Old Testament people of faith suffered and yet never lost their faith in God.  Joseph had faith yet he was sold by his brother into slavery. Moses suffered (Cont'd at Right...)

many afflictions, Job lost his health, family and friends yet remained faithful. We follow God not because he makes life easier, but because he makes sense out of life. After the accident I cried out to God, “Why me!”  Now I realize that no one is immune to suffering. We all have a cross to bear, so why not me?

My new task in life remains how to cope with suffering. There is no way to avoid grief and sadness. I can however stay in touch with God’s love and my own mental health. I would remind myself daily that I only have to do one thing at a time. Instead of looking into the future I tried to stay in the moment. I found that I paid a lot of attention to my self-talk. Whenever I found myself thinking despairing thoughts I would remind myself that anyone who had been through what I had been through would feel depressed. I couldn’t make these thoughts leave but I knew that I needed to be quiet and not make any decisions. It was like being in a storm at sea. All I could do was wait for the storm to wane. As a result the depression would lift.

When asked to share my story first with my pastor, congregation and now here, my initial reaction was that I am not coping well and still have a long way to go. What I have realized, however, is that looking over the last few years, I have gone from having bad weeks, to bad days, to bad half-days to bad hours. While I don’t think I will ever fully recover from this trauma in my life I will wait out the storms, find a level of acceptance, calmness, compassion and love.

Most of all my tragic experience has taught me to see each day as a gift from God and to value my family and friends. I make having a warm feeling a priority and so have implemented what I call the 5 minute rule. If after 5 minutes I don’t feel warmer or closer to the person I am conversing with I end the conversation before something hurtful is said. I take up the conversation later when the other person and I have our wisdom restored. It is amazing how different a problem looks when in a healthy state of mind and how quickly we find a solution.

Finally I would like to once again remind you and myself that we never know when our last conversation with someone will be so live each day as if it were the last. The tragedy of my accident and the loss of David will not be in vain if it can be a reminder to each one of us that life is fragile and so daily and even several times a day, tell the people in your family that you love them. How important they are to you.

These words from Laughter Yoga Sessions I have been attending say it all, “Life Is Amazing, You Are Amazing, I Am Amazing & I LOVE Myself! Very Good, Very Good Yah!!!!

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