Thumbs Up! A Message of Strength and Courage

“Anyone can give up, it’s the easiest thing in the world to do. But to hold it together when everyone else would understand if you fell apart, that’s true strength.” – Anonymous       

“I do not at all understand the mystery of grace – only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.” – Anne Lamott

Today’s message is one of courage and perspective.  It is a message that will both tug at your heart yet inspire you.  It’s a message of perspective, and how things can change in an instant. It’s a message that no amount of planning can prepare you for what life might throw your way.  But it is also a message to recognize the strength we all have inside us – if we only knew how to tap in to it.

As I write this message, I sit in the waiting room outside the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in San Antonio’s Military Medical Center.  Saturday afternoon my father was involved in a motorcycle accident somewhere in Central Texas.  A freak accident, they were slowing down to avoid a deer on the side of the road when things went terribly wrong.  Three of the six bikers wrecked – my father being one of them.

As a result of the accident and complications from a medication he takes (Plavix), he suffered what is called a cranial hematoma.  A massive stroke of sorts.  The kind where time is NOT on your side.  Minutes can be the difference between life and death, and everything in between.

I can only offer that he must have a dozen angels following his every move.  I say this because the hematoma happened as they were evaluating him in the emergency room.  Because this happened at the hospital and not out in the country-side, it allowed the medical staff to react immediately and bring him to surgery.  I’ll leave out the details and simply say it was a “complicated” brain surgery.

I quickly found myself in a situation I was ill prepared to deal with.  The surgeon, nurses, and assistants all gave us the grimmest of prospects.   Will he wake up?  They don’t know.   What can you tell us?  Not much.  What can we expect?  The worst.

That is how I spent Saturday night and most of the day Sunday.  Not knowing.  Wondering where this might lead.  Praying.  Thinking the worst, while trying to be strong for my family.  Hoping beyond hope just for consciousness – for some sign of recovery (even in the smallest of ways).

And then Sunday afternoon came and a simple little gesture changed my world again.  He gave us the thumbs up!  At first it was twitches with his feet, but the nurses dismissed it as reflexes.  Then there were small hand squeezes, yet again the nurses said it was involuntary activity.  “You’ll have to get him to do something voluntary to know whether he is going to regain consciousness” they all said.  So, we spoke to him directly asking for some sign he could hear us.  Something small.  Something simple.  “Can you move your thumb?” we asked.  Can you give us a sign?

And then, there it was – a Thumbs Up!  Again and again we asked him, and again and again he gave us that thumbs up gesture.  I couldn’t help it – the tears began to flow.

To be clear, we are nowhere near “out of the woods”.  This is now a journey, one that will no doubt include mind-numbingly slow progress interspersed with numerous setbacks.   And I have no idea where we will end up.  But I know something for sure – if my father can show the courage and the strength to push through this, I can too.

I tell this story not for pity or sympathy , but to emphasize how things can change in an instant.  How your world can be completely flip without notice.  How those challenges you face at work or at home today are likely insignificant in the grand scheme of things.   How important perspective is.

But I also tell this story for inspiration.  To recognize that we all have that type of courage, that type of strength.  In many ways my father is no different than any of us.  A man of principle and values.  A common man – something he’s always taken pride in.  And he has fears… no doubt he is lying in that bed right now, scared to death.  Yet he has found a way to draw deep down inside and find the strength and courage to keep fighting.

Keep that in mind the next time you are faced with adversity – and draw upon that inner strength and courage to push through.  I’ll leave you with these thought provoking quotes to reinforce that message:

“Without courage all virtues lose their meaning”   – [Winston Churchill]

“We acquire the strength we have overcome”    – [Ralph Waldo Emerson]

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”  – [Ralph Waldo Emerson]

PS – thank you so much for your thoughts and prayers.  You can’t imagine what they’ve meant to us.

4 thoughts on “Thumbs Up! A Message of Strength and Courage

  1. Kip, thank you for the outstanding blog and for sharing your intimate and scary story. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, my friend. I speak on behalf of myself and all of the Beeline Family when I send you our best wishes and our heart felt prayers. God Speed! Doug

  2. Kip,

    Thoughts and prayers go out to you and your family. Your father sounds like an amazing person and a fighter. Hoping for the best and for a speedy recovery.


  3. Took much courage to post this. It’s amazing when we take the chance (in many circumstances – professional risk) to reveal our personal vulnerabilities how we can inspire many by revealing the truth. Thank you for taking that chance. We are all men and women well before we are the professional, but temporary roles that have been assigned to us.


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