Wednesday, August 6, 2014

In Some Other Place And Time...

Men are not prisoners of Fate
But only prisoners of their own minds.
- Franklin Delano Roosevelt

A very talented - and based upon nothing else than what I have read about him in various places - very nice young man saw his dream of being a professional football player come to a much sooner-than-anticipated end on Monday.  David Wilson, a 23 year-old running back for the New York Giants, learned from a team of very skilled physicians - including the one who had performed fusion surgery on Wilson's cervical spine in January 2014 to repair an injury sustained during the first half of the 2013 season - that he could not be medically cleared to play NFL football.  

Wilson suffers from a condition described by the Giants' team physician, Dr. Russell Warren, as diffuse cervical stenosis.  It was Dr. Warren and Dr. Frank Cammisa, the Chief of Spine Surgery at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City and the performer of the aforementioned fusion surgery, who broke the news to Wilson that his career in the NFL, which began with great promise in 2012, was over.  

At age 23, Wilson demonstrated composure in the immediate aftermath of this news that impressed Yours truly - who is slightly more than twice his age.  "I don't want anybody to feel sorry for me, or pity me.  I lived my dream.  A lot of people only get to dream their dream.  I lived that dream.  Now I have a chance to dream another dream and to live that too."  

James Brady was a half-century older than David Wilson when he died on Monday.  For those of you born after March, 1981 you might not be as familiar with Brady's name as perhaps you should be.  He was the Press Secretary for President Ronald Reagan and was with President Reagan walking from a Washington, D.C. hotel and back to the Presidential vehicles on a rainy winter's afternoon when John Hinckley, Jr. shot four people attempting to assassinate President Reagan.  Brady, nicknamed "The Bear", was the most seriously injured of the four.

The .22 caliber bullet that John Hinckley, Jr. fired into the brain of James Brady relegated Brady to a wheelchair for the remaining thirty-three-plus years of his life.  He and his wife Sarah became spokespeople for gun control, including but not limited to "the Brady Bill", which was enacted in 1993.   He also became a champion for disabled and injured people worldwide.  His candor in describing just how horribly difficult his rehabilitation process was (he referred to his physical therapists as "physical terrorists") revealed a side of him - and of that process - that was unknown to many.  His perserverance in recovering the amount of function that he ultimately did recover against odds that on more than one occasion were calculated as being impossible was nothing short of heroic.   

It was neither James Brady's intention nor his hope to become the figure he became.  He had a job he enjoyed doing in a place and environment in which he enjoyed doing it and would have been quite content to have spent an unremarkable term as President Reagan's Press Secretary.  It was not to be.  Brady, who was known for his quick wit, once quipped, "When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade.  I have several stands around here."   He did indeed.  He asked for none of them.  Yet he tended to all of them with a grace and aplomb that is, candidly, not within all of us.  

It was within him.  And it appears to be, by all indications, within young David Wilson too.  I know not whether one of Wilson's as-yet-unpursued dreams is to become the proprietor of a lemonade stand.  I doubt it is.  But if he can glean any comfort from the mere knowledge that he could indeed do it if need be, then I hope he does.

May peace find them both, wherever they shall be. 


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