I Will Miss All This

Posted by Candace Cable in Life After Paralysis on May 02, 2016

For 33 weeks, once a week, I traveled from Reno, Nevada by train or plane, but mostly by plane to Oakland California to co-lead with my friend Bonnie, a required training on disability awareness for the Amtrak employees. This daylong training created by the Open Doors Organization set out to improve customer service for people with disabilities and help these employees appreciate that people with disabilities have civil rights laws that protect them.

Traveling by train the landscape slowly changed and details seemed almost alive, but somehow remote and disorientating. But by air that same terrain seemed to fit easily together and make sense to me. This may sound odd, but the big picture from above, gave me perspective that I couldn’t imagine on the ground. I love that view from above, it’s so peaceful and affirming.

My flights could take 3 different routes, the first heading directly west out of Reno with Lake Tahoe, whose name means “lake of the sky” that stunning big blue jewel would be stationed directly out the right side of the aircraft. The second flight pattern cut straight across the middle, slicing Lake Tahoe in two halves. What was so cool about flying to the Bay area so many time in that year was each time I went to work, I would see something different and new from my vision above.

But the third route, my favorite, went north/west with the belly of the plane directly over the town of Truckee and the Sierra Valley, directly on the right side of the plane. This flight pattern that parallel the Sierra Valley, the largest alpine Valley in North America and part of the same faulting that raised the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range was my where my home was at that time. So, I did my best to get that birds eye view sitting in the right side window.

I had spent much time delighting in driving around the circumference of the Valley, exploring its almost same shape of Lake Tahoe, covered in green and not blue, from the ground. My home at the time, sat on a hilltop, looking down on and toward the width of the Valley. It was an expansive view and the first time I truly understood why some people, like to live in areas with such views. It made me feel connected to earth and sky there.

As I looked at the Valley from 10,000 feet for the first time, I was surprised, it was dramatically different then I imagined when I drove the land. It had 20 or 30 fingers, small bits of land that stretched out from the Valley, toward the mountains, seeming to be seeking something. I could see right where my home sat on the hill a south edge of the Valley, where all my friends lived, where the farmers market was and where the cows graze.

As I looked out a strange thought struck my mind, “I’m going to miss this.” A sense of melancholy spread over me a thick liquid substance or like warm water was poured over my head rushing over every inch of my body and mind. It felt weighty, almost heavy. In that moment of broken-heartedness I realized I was feeling my death.

That thought of when there are no more inhalations and my fingers peeled way from my hold on this life, this earthly plane, had me thinking, I would miss this physical experience. In that thinking and feeling moment I felt calm, at complete ease, there was no sadness with this thought of dying. It was a freeing feeling and in that same moment I felt a need to pay closer attention to my life dance here on earth and use my life well. Appreciate this miracle moment, this present moment.

I have had anguished, desperate thoughts dying in the past, before 2001 and then I was terribly sad. I spent time off and on wishing for relief by death when I was fully encased in a pain arrived the day I damaged my spinal cord. It was a burning, tingling, sharp, stabbing, stinging, relentless, deep neuropathic physical pain that abided in my legs for my first 26 years of this SCI afterlife. These death feelings were fleeting and passed quickly, I didn’t really spend much time there, I used many distractions to push me forward, away from my dying wishes. But when I was there in a dark place, I felt alone.

I understand now, I didn’t so much want to die, as I wanted the pain to stop. So, I cried for peace and not death. And peace came, for me in the form of a surgery, the DREZ, a dorsal root entry zone surgery in August of 2001 at Craig Hospital. After a 12 hours surgery my Doctor asked me “could feel any pain?” “No” was my response. Oh, I paid dearly for that relief with my body, but when asked was it worth it? Without hesitation, my response was, “I would give up more of my body to feel how I feel, from that waking moment my life vision went from black and white to color.”

Do not pity me; my life had been well and good to that point, I was deeply delighted and engaged with life in those 26 years previous of the surgery. When my pain slipped away I experienced the truth of chronic pain, the separation and its insidious isolating nature. I say isolating because we live in a physical world, if we can touch and see and smell it, it exists. Pain is invisible; so much is discounted because it’s invisible. Compassion, support and caring, for people with chronic pain is withheld, because it can’t be seen happening and if we could see this pain, we would be hugging people who are that dark place and giving them peace.

I’ve since moved from that sleepy valley and into the big energetic city of Los Angeles. My life experience has changes and shaped me, each in their own way, made me, me. I do miss that valley, as I miss much that I have lived through in my 61 years. But I do not want to go back, I want to keep moving forward, onward, toward more places and experiences that I will miss when they are gone. I don’t want to die, but I know I will someday and that all things, even people, pass away. I continue to seek peace with this.

This Zen Buddhist Temple Chant gives me peace and counsel; Life and death are supreme importance. Time passes swiftly and opportunities are lost. Let us awaken, awaken and do not squander your life.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.