On 19 April 2012, I wrote an email to the Sunday Times, thanking them for the inspirational article on the miraculous recovery of a Singaporean teacher/athlete and mentioning similar stories of inspiring role models such as Matthew Long and Brian Boyle:
“Thank you for the inspirational story on Kirsten Koh’s long journey back to life. I am encouraged by her testimony as well as your mention of books by Matthew Long and Brian Boyle. These are inspiring role models indeed. I hope Sunday Times continues to feature inspirational stories such as this. Blessings.”
Three days later, while reading the Sunday Times, I saw my letter (entitled “Inspirational tale of a true survivor“) has been published. I didn’t really expect it to be published as it was meant to be a short and simple letter of thanksgiving and encouragement to them, but it was nice to see it published. I reflected that since young, I have learnt to value life, and my own period of darkness and wandering and depression in my school days as well as my long road to recovery from heart palpitations in recent years have helped me relate to the hardship others went through.
I think we all like to be inspired and encouraged by authentic or real-life stories that have a good or positive ending because we intuitively know and expect all things work together for good in the end, not only in other people’s lives but also in our own lives. Since we all are a mirror reflection of one another, other people’s testimonies of how they emerge stronger and wiser through trials and hardship can mirror our own journey in life, and sometimes they serve as much needed and timely encouraging reminders whenever we lose sight of the light in the midst of our own struggles. I am often encouraged by inspiring stories of how people survive hardship or calamity and live to tell others how grateful they are for their learning experiences in life, as I can relate to them in my own life’s journey. For example, reading about the stories of how people like Matthew Long, Brian Boyle and Kirsten Koh survived near fatal accidents and recovered well enough to take part in marathons inspired me to keep a positive outlook in life and to run or exercise regularly to keep fit and healthy.
Recently, I was reading accident survivor and triathlon runner Brian Boyle’s book “Iron Heart: The True Story of How I Came Back from the Dead“, and he shared his reflection in Chapter 5 when he woke up from a coma and found he couldn’t move:
“Am I in what is known as a vegetative state? But surely this can’t be the case; I’m aware of what is happening all around me. A cauliflower or artichoke doesn’t ask itself what it’s like to be picked in the field only to end up on someone’s plate. But I’m scared that doctors and nurses seem to presume I’m a vegetable. ‘You used to be known as Brian Boyle, but that’s all changed. Sorry buddy, but there’s little difference between you and the leafy greens in the produce aisle.’
By the end of Chapter 5, he described he could finally move his eyelids and his feet after several days, and the nurses in the hospital who witnessed this rejoiced in his recovery progress, however slight it was at that time.
I was also reflecting that while the above three role models are fortunate to have much support from their family and friends to overcome their ordeals, besides their strong will to live and succeed, my beloved has shown herself to be a heroine and role model in her own right, as she has been facing and overcoming challenges mostly on her own. Her resilience and courage to face and overcome her challenges is an inspiration to me.
I learnt from his blog that Brian Boyle has just completed a marathon in Boston, and I like his words of encouragement here:
“The Boston marathon was a very challenging race, but I enjoyed every second of it. A marathon may be run alone, but in no way is it an individual effort. This race is for my blood donors, the Red Cross and for all the people who have been a part of my journey back to life. This finisher’s medal is a token of my appreciation for the gift you have given me, and I thank you all so much for believing in me and for all the encouragement and support over the years.”
Yes, each of us is a champion in our own right, and we are all connected in helping and supporting one another.
Last night, I managed to finish reading his book “Iron Heart: The True Story of How I Came Back from the Dead“, which began with Brian Boyle waking up from a coma almost two months after the near fatal car accident, and ended with him finishing the Hawaiian Ironman triathlon in Kona three years later. I find this story engaging, inspiring and heartwarming, and can relate to his struggles and triumphs throughout the story.
Here’s sharing his inspiring words towards the end of the book:
“Since this book was first published I’ve received thousands of emails from people and met thousands more and everyone had their own story to tell – and I’ve come to understand that no matter what life throws at you, each of us has the inner strength to overcome these challenges. With the right attitude, we all have the power to move past hardships and obstacles, while banishing negativity and dark moods to a forgotten place. I truly believe that it is only during your weakest and most vulnerable moments when you find out how strong you really are.
I hope to continue testing myself in difficult athletic endurance events. My sights are set on competing in many more marathons, ultra marathons, and Ironman races. And each time I show up in a race, I think about everyone who has helped me succeed along this unexpected path back to the living. Hours later, after crossing the finish line, the joy that I experience is measured not just by how fast I went, but by the joy I feel in living life to the absolute fullest.”
I also like his ending words in the Epilogue:
“I still have a lot of ground to cover in life. I will never recapture all that lost time in the hospital, or the arduous months of rehab. But that period in my life, I now realise, only marked the beginning of a long unfinished journey. I plan to enjoy every moment.
Life is to be lived. There are no bad days. Every day is a good day.”
Yes, every day is a good day, and we can enjoy every moment.