A few nights ago I had the privilege of visiting these wonderful people in their home as part of my my Creative Writing: Non-fiction class.
Brooke Hopkins and Peggy Battin have kept a blog of their life over the past three years. Our class usually features a guest writer accomplished in his or her field and whose writing is easily accessed.
Brooke taught English literature up at the University of Utah. In 2008 he officially retired…and got into a horrible biking accident a few weeks later.
The blog first started through their daughter as a way for family and friends to trace his progress. Eventually, Peggy took over when their daughter could not maintain it anymore. When he recovered enough, Brooke began adding his thoughts on the accident. The blog gave him a purpose, a reason to keep going through the trials and therapy.
I haven’t read through the entire blog, but what I have seen impresses me greatly. Here are these two people who have suffered a terrible accident, who work at all costs to overcome every challenge presented. Brooke and Peggy still take journeys, Brooke still teaches as he can. And now they reach out to people in similar circumstances as a beacon of hope.
Because of the writing prowess featured in that blog, and the non-fictional nature of it’s contents, our professor arranged for us to meet and speak with them in person. Because Brooke is quadriplegic, we went to them.
We arrived at a beautiful home in the Salt Lake City Avenues. I couldn’t make out too much detail, as the day grew dimmer with every passing minute. What I could make out greatly impressed me: they had a well kept garden with a tree that Peggy later told us some gymnasts wanted to use for aerial stunts.
As we walked up to the house, Peggy pulled up behind us. She had just come from a meeting up at the University, where she also teaches, and brought back plates of food for us. We took the time to introduce ourselves then and there while Peggy told us what to expect from Brooke.
Upon opening the door, a smattering of abstract art centered around a black grand piano of the room greeted us. After Peggy flipped on the lights, I noticed Brooke sitting on the far left side of the room, looking a little lost.
We all sat down, with Brooke in the center and the rest of the class forming a semi-circle around him. Brooke had no big spiel prepared right away, so we dove into the questions.
For space and time concerns I will not relay the whole conversation here, but one of the last questions led to a discussion I will never forget.
For the life of me, I can’t remember what the question was, but Brooke’s response astounded me. He brought up a visit from a friend who had ALS, who knew his condition would rapidly deteriorate. Brooke was still in the recovery stages, while his friend was pretty healthy. He said something along the lines of “That’s going to be me in a few years, how can you live like this?” Before answering the question, Brooke told us what went through his head when he first saw his body: “that’s my body?!?”. Yet almost immediately Brooke countered that feeling of hopelessness with “while I may not have my body, I still have my mind. To me, that is the most important thing in life.”
When a helpless state overrules one’s livelihood, they have to have something to live for. Pulling out the ventilator and giving up his life would be much easier than pushing through and healing, as Brooke has chosen to do. Yet he had a reason to live: he had his love, Peggy. He had the spiritual journey provided by the blog, and he had his students to teach up at the University. He had the lessons and core of Thoreau, The Iliad and The Odyssey.
Earlier on, Brook related that one of the most peaceful feelings he experienced was when he was undergoing therapy for breathing without the ventilator. He entered a state of meditative trance so deep that he cannot capture it with words. Had Brooke given up, he would not have experienced that deep feeling of relaxation.
He then turned the discussion on us: what do you live for when times are hard? What do you life for when the world offers you no light to travel through the darkness?
I think many of us need to consider this question. What do we live for, what is it that takes up our days? Would it be enough to get us through a calamity such as the one Brooke and Peggy have successfully battled through?
I will answer that question.
I live for the chance to show others the beauty of life.
I live for my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Redeemer of all.
I live to see my husband smile every morning. I live to expand the love we share together. I live to love him everyday.
I live to see the sun rise in the morning and color the clouds above the mountains, in a way no artist but the Great Creator can.
I live through my faith. I live to testify of the happiness I have found. Of the joy I am.
I live to show others the way through their patches of dark and gloom. I live to experience my own darkness, so that I may turn around and tell others how to navigate through that same sorrow.
Fellow readers, what do you live for? What is it that keeps you going when life tells you there is no point in continuing, when all around you is bleak and offers no hope of improving?
Is it worth your efforts?