Updated: Mar 24, 2022
"So, when is your book coming out?" someone asked after I spoke about my art exhibit and the realities of emerging from coma at a local Rotary Club meeting. "Oh, I don't know." I said. I could not yet discern how to talk or write about my mystical experience during coma so that others could read without skepticism, and a memoir without a description of that would be incomplete. Beyond ordinary understanding or standard definition lay my experience. So, in 2010, I limited the topic of that talk to my art exhibit, rehabilitation, and return to this reality; I did not address the liminal, my time in the coma.
Then, one day in winter 2014, I decided to mark the decade since my accident by writing what I had held in my heart. I had a structure for focus-- my art and several journals written in the hospital and throughout physical therapy. Patiently, I reread journals from the earliest days when I struggled to hold a pencil. Journal entries resembled scribbles with an occasional decipherable word. These pages showed me a mind and a body searching for presence in this world. At times my writing became clearer so that I applied the pressure needed to mark on the page; then I saw fading ink that descended into slanted scrawls. My penmanship revealed that my effort to establish a presence in this world exhausted and overwhelmed me. When, as part of my therapy, I was asked to keep a journal of daily activities, I was suspicious. My paranoia resulted in resentment and mistrust. My therapists were turning something private into a way to monitor my activities. I couldn't imagine why, but I assumed the worst--they were just nosy. But it wasn't the content that interested them as much as the development of a consistent practice. They had a clinical way of assessing the content and reviewing my thoughts that was important to my recovery. Once I trusted they wanted me to keep a journal for therapeutic reasons, I poured my feelings into those journals without fear of their judgement. Now, the journals serve as a window into a time of extraordinary growth and an invaluable resource.
My art exhibit arose in response to a profound moment that occurred as I left for out-patient therapy about two years after my wreck. The five pieces of art anchoring chapters 1-5 resulted from trying to understand that moment. The creative process that culminated in my art exhibit I will discuss in detail later; for now, understand the art arose before this book. That art exhibit was not only the story of that numinous iris, it was a visible representation of this book. Each art piece provided me a seamless outline of my recovery. The painting titled Abide helped guide my exploration of my unfathomable experience while comatose. The heart of this book addresses a five-year period, 2004-2009. I produced the paintings in 2009 and 2010.
Abide Kaleidoscope Eyes Net of Indra
Through a glass, darkly
About the words: Because I grew up in the Methodist church, my language and descriptions are Christian and Protestant. My experience, however, belongs to us all. If you feel more receptive, encouraged, or inspired by substituting other words by all means do so. As I share my experience, I trust you to draw your parallels, your conclusions. As C.S. Lewis observed in Surprised by Joy,
“Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn.”
(Lewis, C. S. Surprised by Joy: the shape of my early life. San
Francisco, HarperOne, 2017)