Thursday, October 22, 2009


Four Years Gone

Today marks the fourth anniversary of the accident. This is always a difficult day for me, but I can honestly say that with each passing year it gets a little easier. Ignoring it would probably make it easiest, but I can't hear the date without remembering what happened on October 22nd of 2005. It's just one of those dates that I will never forget, like a birthday.

In many ways it is a new birthday for me. The day that one life ended and another began. It took a long time for me to realize that. This past year has been a lot about fully embracing my new life, and I can honestly say that it has taken me places I never expected to go. If you take a look at last years post "Three Years Gone" I talked about looking forward to an uncertain future and saying loudly "I AM NOT AFRAID!" Apparently I was really tempting fate, but I've had an eventful year and I wouldn't trade any of it for a second! (Unless Chrysler would have faced me in court.) :)

When I woke up this morning I found myself thinking about the road so far. From waking up delirious in a hospital bed and imagining things that weren't there to where I am today. Each year has been vastly different than the one before it. This was not the case in my pre-accident life. Almost every day (post college graduation) I awoke and went to work and dealt with the same issues over and over again. Sure, the people changed from time to time, and I moved around the country a bit, but my daily activities were always pretty similar from year to year. I certainly can't say that now.

Year one was all about recovery, physical therapy, exercises, more surgery, prosthetic training, driver training, and a gradual return to independence. Year two was about returning to my old life/old career, and the struggle between the person I was and the new person who had been forged in the Jeep fire. Prosthetic training and the quest for independence continued in year two as well. Year three was about accepting that who I had been no longer mattered as much as who I was becoming. It was about releasing that person, his dreams, his frustrations, his career, and the future he had planned so that I could truly embrace my new life. Year three also included more surgery. Year four has been about learning who this new Jeremy Warriner is without the burden of the past. My hope is that I have brought the best aspects of who I was and have built upon them to become a better person, while leaving the negative aspects of my past self behind. I have never felt more free to be me than I have this past year.

Whether I'm speaking to a group of children, or testifying before a Congressional subcommittee, the only person I have to worry about representing is me. That's huge. So, I don't have a job in the conventional sense, but the work I do is far more rewarding (emotionally) than working for someone else's profit was. My vision for the future is no longer guided by goals and measurements that someone in an office 100 miles away decided were important. My vision for the future is now set by me alone and whether I succeed or fail is up to me, and when I do fail I learn a lesson, as opposed to receiving a punishment. (If you've ever been given a written warning because you made a mistake, or you allowed someone who reports to you to make a mistake, then you understand what I'm talking about.)

As I found myself thinking about what brought me here I also found myself wondering why it's taken me so long to become who I am today? Did I really need to return to work after the accident, or was that just a waste of time? Did I have to go through all of the suffering and infections? Did I really have to lose my legs in a horrible fire? The answer to that question is clearly yes, or else I would not have had the experiences that have brought me to this point in time. I would still be worrying about whether all the towels were hanging evenly in the hotel rooms, whether all of the staff would show for work tomorrow, and numerous other things that, in the grand scheme of things, don't really make life better for any of us. And because the answer to that question is yes, the answer to all the other questions is yes as well. It truly is the journey that counts.

My journey has turned me into a person who lives in service to others. My life before the accident was spent in service to others as well but, as mentioned above, my service was for someone else's profit, and I don't mean profit for the people I was trying to serve. This past weekend I attended an Adult Burn Survivor retreat at Bradford Woods. Part of the retreat included several team building activities that were great fun, but also educational. What I learned was that, due to the way my prosthetics work, I could not complete all of the activities, but I could make certain that the rest of the group was able to succeed. There was a time when I would have been very frustrated by the fact that I couldn't do everything myself. What astounded me was that when I realized I couldn't do certain activities myself, but could help the group reach the goal, I wasn't frustrated in the least. Somewhere along the way I have learned to be happy with what I can do, and not let the things I can't do prevent me from enjoying myself.

A perfect example is how I'm choosing to recognize the anniversary this year. The first year we had a family dinner. The second year I think I just stayed home. The third year I had a party. This year I will take part in a two mile walk/fund raiser for Easter Seals Crossroads. I won't be able to physically walk the full two miles, but I was able to get others to walk and donate funds that will ensure several important programs for people with disabilities will be able to continue this year!

What will happen in year five? I have no idea. Will good things happen in year five? Absolutely. Will anything bad happen in year five? Most likely. Will I allow the bad things that happen in year five to hold me back and turn me negative? Absolutely not! Yes, it is the journey that counts, but more importantly, it is our perception of those events that make us who we are. Come on Year Five!

For once in my life, I'm speechless. So much love and gratitude and respect in my heart for you. I'm just blessed in so many ways Jeremy. I'm sooooooo...well, enough said. LOVE YA LIKE A BROTHER, ALWAYS are truly an angel that God has so many plans for...

This is a powerful message beautifully written.... truely inspiring. Hope you and the Jedi had a successful day and achieved your goals.

Harry and Lilla
Jeremy...what a gift you are to all of us who know you. Your perspective crashes in on who we all are and bombards us with new ways of thinking. Keep up the reflections. They are worthy words to guide all who read them.
See you around. Love you much.
The other posters have made such wonderful comments -- what more is there to add? Except that I love you, cousin! And I'm so thankful that you're still here with us to love!

Your reflection reminds me of one of my favorite scenes from my favorite movie, "Dances with Wolves." It's the scene where Kicking Bird tells Dances with Wolves that he is on the path of a man living a life that's true and that it is good to see. You are on that path, Jeremy, and it's good to see. Thank you for showing us how it's done.

Jeremy, We enjoyed walking with you on the Easter Seals event. Your message is very well written and inspirational. You have really become a good writer, maybe you should write a book. Keep up all the good work you are doing. It truly is so much more important than the career you had before. I know that good things are in your future.
Carolyn and Bruce
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