A few weeks ago, we published an excerpt from Stan Vander Klay's memoir Chains of Grace in which he recounted my conversion story. I thought it might be interesting to tell you my side of the story.
At the age of five, my brother Michael and I were playing ball on the sidewalk as we very often did. I missed the ball (a rarity), and it went into the street. Michael recalls that I ran into the road after the ball, and a speeding driver hit me. Michael looked out and, much to his lasting horror, saw the car hit me—saw it stop with me lying under the back of the car. He began screaming at the top of his lungs, ran inside calling for our mom. She collapsed. Michael was numb and shaking at one and the same time.
That is how it all began. A five year old boy plays ball on the sidewalk with his brother. The ball bounces into the road, and the boy runs out to retrieve it. The result: car brakes screeching, brother screaming, mother collapsing. The boy hears nothing as he lies still and unconscious in the road, blood hemorrhaging from his ears, mouth, and nostrils. The boy shows no movement except for the involuntary spasms of one hand back and forth, back and forth.
I’ve been told that a neighbor gathered me in his arms, placed me in his car, and drove me to the hospital. The doctors tell my parents, “We’re not sure that he’s going to live. We’ll have to drill holes in his skull to relieve the pressure.” This is done and afterward the doctors say, “Your son is going to make it, but he is still in a coma.” Several days later the doctor says to the mother, “Your son will live, but he’ll never walk. We don’t know what his life will be like.” A week later, I awoke and spoke four words—swearing actually at a male cousin—yet to my parents they were the most beautiful sounds in the world. I was alive. My left side was paralyzed; my right eye blinded. But I was alive.
Future recovery would include wheelchairs, heavy leg braces, and hand braces. There would be more surgery and fifteen years of physical and occupational therapy at Kessler Institute in Orange, New Jersey and in Clifton at the Passaic County Cerebral Palsy Association. One remarkable success after many years was finally being able to tie my shoes.
A few years after the auto accident, I was at least twice sexually abused. Was the fact that my first “post-coma” words cursed the assaulter an indication that this abuse was on-going? I would never know, and wouldn’t have the courage to talk about it for another thirty years. By then, he was in a mental institution, and when I spoke to family members, no one was aware of the abuse as I told no one when it occurred.
Because of the abuse, I was not only physically crippled, but emotionally crippled as well—with scars that would not heal for years and years. I felt broken with absolutely no hope of ever being healed. I felt unworthy and believed, also, that I was no good. Most certainly, I felt abandoned by God (even though I believed he didn’t exist). I grew up to be a very angry, sarcastic, bitter, and hopeless person.
Monday's post will describe how Jesus rescued me from this bitter and hopeless state.