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The Love I've Experienced Since My Spinal Cord Injury

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“What really matters now is Love. I mean, that condition in the human spirit that is so profound it allows us to rise. Strength, love, courage, love, kindness, love, that is really what matters.” —Dr. Maya Angelou, as reported in “The Wisdom of Sundays” by Oprah Winfrey.

Love. Love is so powerful!

Love moves mountains.

Love makes your vision blurry and extra focused all at the same time.

Love gives you purpose and meaning.

It defines where you are going and why and tells us where you have been.

Love makes you survive.

It makes you thrive towards excellence.

It orients your life choices.

Love makes you get up in the morning.

Love certainly made me survive that fateful morning. As my car was spiraling out of control, I felt peaceful towards my own mortality. I was accepting of my imminent death, until images of my son, my niece and nephew popped in my head. Love for them made me ask for a different outcome. Love for them and love for my cousin – their mother who had died 18 months earlier – made me survive that destructive accident.

Love got me up every morning ever since, so I can create memories with them and for them. All kinds of memories, so they know how much love for them has literally defied their mother’s cancer for years and my near-death that day.

When we look for it, love can be found in many different places. True love, that is!

I found true love in the hearts and actions of all those nurses and rehabilitation professionals. Doctors can salvage your body, but nurses and PABs have the power to salvage and heal your soul. True love is part of how my physiotherapists made me work harder, and part of the pride I see in the eyes of my nurses, OTs and PABs when I am able to do something new.

I saw true love on Saturday mornings in my hospital room. I saw all kinds of people, professionals and patients, chatting with one another regardless of socioeconomic status, education or titles. We are all the same!

I found true love when nurses looked me in the eyes. Despite all the nasty, they were still able to see me. A person. A human being. Not a collection of different body parts. Not a sickness, illness or condition. I am me. I have value.

I saw true love in all those families who stayed united in the face of adversity. It is tough to recover from an accident or an illness, but acts of love made recovery possible.

True love is in the gestures of a young woman towards her mother. Her mother is now quadriplegic. I see her grab one of her legs with kindness, her eyes turned towards her mother, and together they work hard to mobilize her legs.

I saw true love in the smiles and sighs, in how a man looks at his wife and a wife looks at her husband. These couples stay united despite all the challenges. Gestures full of tenderness are there, sometimes subtle, but so very powerful. And it is even more beautiful when these couples renew their vows of union. They know how precious it is to be two.

I saw true love numerous times in the small gifts brought to lift spirits: deodorant, hair brush, pens and paper, some sushi for the soul, and ice cream or bacon on a Saturday morning.

True love is being fed every day — literally being fed when you can’t eat that awful tasteless food the hospital serves. It is getting iced cappucinos from Tim Horton’s in the middle of winter, just so I don’t feel like I have to give up everything I love to eat.

True love is found in friends who don’t give up on you. True love is being in a pool with my siblings, and in every moment we spend texting or when we get our families together. True love fuels courage and dedication in an “orientation-challenged” person as she travels from far and beyond to say “Hi!” while getting lost in the big city.

And finally, the biggest, truest love for me is seeing my parents re-shuffling their whole lives to be with their daughter and grandchildren, putting aside their own needs. The truest, purest kind of love is fueling and orienting the actions of those grandparents to offer stability, and also a chance for our children to know us as their mothers. My parents and aunt and uncle did not take over, they supported my cousin and I so we would live our experience of motherhood the way we intended to. They permitted us to be mothers to our children while offering the best they could of themselves as grandparents.

The love for their children is so strong that they did anything and everything for us. The greatest kind of love transcended the grief they felt as parents following the loss of their child. The greatest kind of love allows these grandparents to raise or help raise their grandchildren with the spirit of their mother in mind.

The greatest kind of love is the one you choose to share with others.

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Getty image by Thitaree Sarmkasat.

Originally published: February 13, 2018
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