How is your marriage now?
Our marriage is good! It is a good thing because we spend all day, every day together. All the things that made our marriage good pre-stroke are the same things that make it good now. We appreciate each other’s strengths, work ethic, sense of humor, and willingness to compromise. We have created new routines that work for both of us, giving us some variety in our days. We have found our New Normal and we have found peace.
If you could give your pre-stroke self any advice, what would it be?
Buy more disability insurance!! The financial pressures of disability are not fun. Fortunately we had some disability insurance—thank God. Without it, we would have lost our home, I wouldn’t have been able to stay home and take care of Gordon or be there for the kids. Our outcome would have been completely different, and not in a good way. We don’t have much, but we have enough to provide a stable, relatively normal home environment. What a blessing.
How has stroke changed your lives?
Every part of our lives changed because of the stroke. Gordon’s active, successful, productive life as a sales consultant is over. My life of being active and involved in the community is over. The plans and vision we had for our future are gone. Our resources are limited so our opportunities are limited. It took time to make peace with these changes. We all mourned the loss of the life we worked so hard to build. However, our new life has its blessings: we appreciate each day we have together, we don’t worry about the future, we are grateful for what we have. It certainly is not the life we planned but it is a life still filled with joy, love, and meaning.
Why did Jill write Painful Blessing?
I wrote Painful Blessing for several specific reasons, none of which were that I was dying to be a published author. Reason #1: acquired brain injury, such as stroke, is devastating, scary, and lonely. We can’t be the only people to experience the crazy unpredictability brain injury brings, but it sure felt like it. Reason #2: even after all these years, recovery is ongoing. There have been no shortcuts, just relentless hard work. Reason #3: We want to bring hope to others going through their own challenges. We encourage people to examine their life’s foundations. Are those foundations unshakeable? Reason #4: to encourage people to persevere through their challenges. Life will probably be different on the other side but that is ok.
What role did your Christian faith play in your story?
Our Christian faith is the sole reason we are a success story. When Gordon was lost in the fog of his stroke and I was facing the terrible realities alone, only the knowledge that my loving Savior was carrying me kept me from stepping in front of a bus and making the whole thing end for me. Well, Jesus and love for my children kept me away from a bus. Gordon’s is a story of recovery, mine is a story of surrender. When I gave up thinking I had control, fully surrendered to God, fully acknowledged His power, and fully put my life and our future in His hands, everything was better. Trusting Him allows me to accept our new life and embrace each day as it comes. He has never failed me.
What are your favorite audiences?
My favorite audiences ask questions and engage in wonderful discussion after we speak. I love the interaction with those who are willing to share, question, and relate to our talk. Each audience listens from its own perspective: medical professionals, business professionals, young people, old people, men, women, survivors, caregivers, and everyone else. The questions and discussions reflect the personality of that audience. Everybody experiences obstacles at some time in their lives and our story is really about overcoming obstacles. Our time together is meaningful and interesting and we all leave the room with hope. I love that.