Monday, August 1, 2011

Diving Into the Unknown - an Act of Faith

I have for years resisted the dive into what has happened, the good and the bad.  I was afraid that the witness I gave as a Christian would be countered by the life I lead, the mistakes I have made, the paths I have taken that were wrong, and the ending (current life) would not equal the gift I was given.  In short, that I was not worthy.  Then it dawned on me. First, God uses whom he pleases.  Second, we are supposed to tell people about it.

Acts 4:13 is a good beginning. "Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus." - (NKJV).  Pretty clear, though they were saved already. Peter and John were still human, still not PhD's, still not perfect or holy, yet, they were boldly bringing the word of Jesus to the people, some of whom were educated, rich and wise.  I read a pretty good blog on this topic alone - "What kind of Person Does God Use" by Donald Miller.

Luke 2:13 -14 (ESV) is another great reason tell our story, or witness to the power of God. " And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!"" Good enough for angels, good enough for me.  I intend to give glory to God with this article, by showing you the impact he has had so far in my life.

I Am Diving In!

What I Was Born With and Lived Through

Free Gifts to Start My Life
Credit: Free images from
I was born March 23, 1957, in Frankfurt a.m., in what was then called West Germany. I was from top to bottom an Army Brat. Both of my parents were officers in the US Army.

I have done many things in my life to prepare me for success.  I generally was not asked if I wanted to do them, but that is a view I have in retrospect, as it never would have occurred to me that I had an option when I was a child.

My family has a history of success.  My mother was a Head Nurse of  regional hospital in Texas.  My father had is PhD from American University and was hired and tenured before he arrived to teach at ETSU in Texas. Both of my sisters have multi-masters degrees. 

I played little league ball, in two countries.

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I was a cub scout, part of the first Webelos pack in Europe, a boy scout, an Eagle Scout, a patrol leader, an assistant senior patrol leader, a senior patrol leader, an Explorer scout, I have attended Philmont Scout Ranch, scout camps too numerous to remember, BSA "how to teach" or HoToTe leadership classes and I am sure more.

I learned how to ride a horse, both eastern and western as a young child.

I took ballet and piano for more years than any boy should have to.

I played football in Junior High in Texas, and if you have not played football in Texas, you have not played football.

I was accepted to one of the nations most elite private schools, Culver Military Academy, on full scholarship I might add.  While there, I broke my back playing football, I rowed varsity crew even though I was the shortest person on the first shell, (if you don't know what that means, it is akin to playing base ball with your eyes shut). I was a regimental staff officer, a member of the Artillery Drill team, the rifle drill team, varsity wrestling and cross country teams.  I graduated a cadet officer.  I came to the school with very poor English Skills, due to being lazy and living in Germany for 6 youthful years.  I graduated with AP credits in Physics, US History, European History, English Lit, American Lit, Scottish Lit and more I just can not remember.

At home, I became a med-tech, worked in an Emergency Room, an Operating Room, surgical and medical floors, and ended up working for the chief of staff, because I was not allowed to work for my mother, who was promoted to head nurse.  I also became a Volkswagen mechanic, and repaired VWs for 4 years.

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I went to and graduated from Denison University in Granville, Ohio, and received my B.S. degree in Physics.  Not because I had any great love for physics.  It was just easy for me to do, and cool.  I saw math in my head as other people see pictures. While there I became a Fraternity President.

I was hired as a physicist for a Dow Jones textile company, and survived a recession in their employ when people sitting next to me, with advanced degrees (I was working on  a MS in Physics at the time) were fired so they could pay me more.  Why did they pay me more?  Not really sure?  I asked them to, and they said yes. It seems I could do no wrong.

Money Kept Falling In
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My wife was hired as a sales person for an Insurance company with the highest possible score you can get on a aptitude index battery.  She talked me into taking the same test.  I got the same score.  I decided to sell insurance.  We did pretty well.  We drove a Mercedes Benz. We bought a house with 15 acres, we had a daughter, Barbara, and we learned to race bicycles.

I had NEVER learned to lose. I don't think my family bought into "if you can see it, you can achieve it," but loss never really entered into my life. I had, however, been taught to approach everything as a problem, and go find the solution. A real life Kobayashi Maru test I suppose. I had never run into a problem I could not name, then solve, or change, then solve.  Failure was not even part of my thought process.

Pretty cool set up for life.  Everything you could want.  Family, intelligence beyond the normal, money, talent.  I had it all.

What Happened Next?

A Grate Like this, Took My Bike!
Then in 1986  I was riding with our bicycle club the 100 plus miles or so from our home to Cape Code for our Annual bike trip weekend. I was using Look Pedals, a type of bike pedal that keeps you locked into the bike like ski bindings, so you convert more energy to motion.  (It was not the pedals that caused the accident, it was me and the grate.) It was dusk, the road we were supposed to be on was closed by the town, so we had to use Route 6.  On this road, as I started to accelerate, my front wheel hit a grate like the one on the left, trapping the front wheel, and flipping me over onto what I though was my left shoulder at 35 miles an hour.

I broke my scapula into a large number (7) free and nearly free floating pieces.  As it turns out, I also have a bone chip welded into the left arm socket, making the arm work poorly.  A year after the fact, they also found out I hit my head too.  In fact, the helmet was cracked on the inside, no mean feat.

After 6 months of sitting in a chair, unable to get up on my own, I went from `180 lbs to over 300 lbs. I am 5' 11", so that is LARGE. When I could get up, I learned how to drive again. I could not really use my left arm, but they told me that was normal.

Credit: Free Image from
The next thing I knew, I was driving down a back road, at night, with one car as oncoming traffic. I pulled my car over into the oncoming lane, and sped up, intending to hit the car, and end my life.

I really don't recall doing this. I only recall the story. I don't know why I did this, but I do remember that I spent maybe and hour on the side of the road crying. I evidently discovered what I was doing, and changed my mind. This single act violated everything I believed in. It would have taken me from my family, from my future.

We spent the next year finding out what had happened and why. I was tested by a Neuropsychiatrist
and he determined that I had a bunch of cool stuff, all coming from a brain injury.  TBI, to be accurate.  Some of the cool stuff that came along with the brain injury, and will be with me for the rest of my life, is: Organic Affective Disorder (Depression caused by injury to the brain), left and front lobe epilepsy, (which causes loss of impulse control and short term memory issues, massive focus issues, long term memory loss which we were told might correct itself and some other cool biological stuff, along with the 100% increase in body weight.

As it turns out, though I do not remember any of this, I had thrown nearly everything we own out the window.  Chairs, books, beds.  Anger took over, but I don't remember any of it.  (Loss of impulse control baby.)  Anne had just been dealing with it.

Also during that time I was "hired" as my churches Sunday School Superintendent, because I understood teaching and kids. (News to me, but happy to hear it.)  I was also fired from that post, also news to me, but a direct function of the brain injury and the loss of all planing and most cognitive skills needed to run such a thing.

My insurance company, for whom I had worked, decided, after much arguing, and even after Social Security figured it out, decided that I was totally and permanently disabled.  Good thing that, because if I went to "work" I would be in jail for damaging someone. (Loss of impulse control)  They, my doctor and Social Security told me that I would be divorced in a year and back in hospital permanently.  Wonderful.

Later on, by the way, my insurance company decided that I was not in fact damaged, and was lying about it, so they decided not to pay any more disability insurance, 3 months before we made our last payment to my daughters college.  Fine people.  Take on the little guy because he can not fight back.

We nearly lost our house, but someone at our church was about ready to be replaced in a bank buyout, so he did us a favor, re-wrote our mortgage, and we were off and running into a new problem we could solve, just like always before.

Except not so much.

I really can't fight TBI. All those things they told me are real. Even today.

At the same time as all this was happening, our pastor happened to get up and preach, "we are not like those misguided people who take the bible as literally the word of God, we take it as nice stories to help us grow."  Huh?  If it is not real, you my friend, are a fraud and I am wasting my time. So we stopped going to that church.

What I Lost -  a short List

I permanently damaged my brain, so the thing I am now listing will always be gone.

Short Term Memory - most, though not always all, of what I do is lost by the next day.  Sometimes in the next 15 minutes.  If there is emotional content, it involves a person and their needs, wants, desires and it has a feeling, I have a far better chance of remembering it.

Long Term Memory - Some of this returns, but more is still lost than I have recovered.  I do not remember my parent's or sisters.  Sometimes I can not remember their names.  I do not remember my daughter being born, being married, my parent's dying, where I live much of the time, and the time.  There is more, but I don't remember.  (Laugh now.  It was a joke, though it is true.)

My Job:  I can never be a physicist or a sales person again.  Don't have the math, and selling makes me sick for days.  Plus the memory issues.  I would also damage any boss I worked for due to loss of impulse control.  Plus, I could not drive to work, or back from work, on my own, or I would get lost much of the time.

My ability to contribute to the upkeep of my family or home.  See Above.

Normal Affect:  Everyday my ability to see things as I used to is different.  I neither know or predict what I will feel about anything.

Normal Attitudes:  I have gained massive organic affective disorder, ADHD, agoraphobia and a slew of psychological baggage that would take to much time to write, and more memory that I have.

My freedom: I can not just get into a car and leave.  I will never find my way back, nor do I have access to cash for things like gas, since I would loose the card and forget the math to keep from over drafting.

What I Gained
One of the Jesus freaks I took karate with (odd that my neurologist told me to take karate as something to do so I would not kill myself) asked if my daughter could go to their VBS (Vacation Bible School).  I knew they believed that dinosaurs and people were walking the earth at the same time.  I knew they did not know any science, but I also knew that my 8 year old daughter was brighter than I was, and could make up her own mind.  So I told this Jesus Freak karate friend that it was ok, just as long as they did not tell her that people and dinos walked the earth together.  She agreed, and off to VBS my daughter went.  At the end of the week, we were going on vacation to a home my wife's family owns, and 1/2 way there, I asked my daughter what she learned at VBS.  She told me she learned that people and dino's walked the earth at the same time.  I blew up.  I wanted to drive back and kill my Jesus Freak karate friend.

She kept at me though.  For years, she kept finding ways to integrate me into her church, even though I knew they were freaks.  I took pleasure in shooting her down, because I really did know more about the bible than her.  It was fun.  Stab, stab, slam.

Then another Jesus freak who was teaching me how to teach karate, started exchanging information about teaching if I would listen to him talk about Jesus. (Turns out I was gifted at teaching and he noticed it.)  Over time, he decided to move his school from Florida back to Rhode Island, near where he was born. "Close enough to communicate with us, but far enough away we would not compete.) One day Anne and I were with him, and the light came on.  I had always though the Jesus was about Not Going to Hell.  I really don't like the threat approach.  He taught me about he love of God.  John 3:16.  "God so loved the world that he gave his one son .... " Wow, I would do anything, even now, to protect my daughter, and God gave his son.  Wow.  That was love.  So I asked him how I could become a Christian.  He refused to tell me, the punk. Instead, he told me that he was sure I knew someone who was also a "Christian," and to ask them about something called the Sinners Prayer.

You know the sinners prayer right?  The prayer that was created to help you express what the bible tells us is the way we are to communicate with God about our desire to accept the free gift of salvation.  That is not the focus of this article, though it is the result of the story here.  For more information on the sinners prayer, what it is, why it is, and how to do it, click Here.

Remember the person who taught my daughter that dinosaurs and people were walking the earth at the same time?  She was the one I decided to call.  So  for 2 days I looked at the phone.  I was terrified to call.  I was afraid of the reaction.  I was afraid of what I might look like. I was afraid she would say no.  I was afraid she would say yes.  (Remember, that this feeling of fear is amplified in my life due to the TBI - so as you laugh at the difficulty I am describing, and it is funny, what you empathize with is a couple hundred times less serious in your mind than it was in my mind.)  I was afraid she would laugh or tell me that I was not worthy, even though I knew that I was not worthy; that was the whole point, none of us are worthy.  If we were worthy, we would not need to be saved from our sin.   If we are already righteous, what need is there for forgiveness?  So I looked at the phone.

At the end of day two, I picked the phone up, dialed her number, 1-800-ohh-nooo.  Terrified.  Hung the phone up.  The next day, (sometime in October 1997or 98) I got all the way to her answering her phone before I hung up.

Next day I waited to talk to her, and asked her if she knew what the sinners prayer was.  She dropped the phone.  I heard it hit the floor.  Seems I shocked her.  Shocked me too.

That was how I came to now Jesus.

So the answer to the Question, What did I Gain?

I gained Jesus.

I gained eternal life.

I gained a understanding that I am not in control of where my life goes, and if I were, I would be in a hospital or a medical jail, I would be divorced, and I would NOT be helping other people deal with their own lives.

I gained the ability to teach, the gift of teaching.

I gained life abundantly.  John 10:10  "The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly."

Yes, I have lost nearly everything, a few times, but for 20 years Anne has owned a karate school, where I get to help other people.  Do we make money?  Hardly.  If she gets paid, she is the second lowest paid employee.  I don't get paid. That would make me ill. Yet, my daughter graduated from college, Anne helped her start her own karate school; we have maybe 10 staff members who we add to their lives daily with the ability for them to add in a positive way to others lives as well as getting paid.  We have 5 years left on our mortgage.  We have friends everywhere, though I am the least social person on the planet (a TBI thing.) I have 4 cats. Life, outside of the vision that is imposed on me by my injury, is good.  I have to fight the image I am presented with daily, but I get to do that too.  Many with TBI give up.

Life is good, and because of Jesus, it is abundant.  I have enough, for I have life eternal.  I have enough because I have Christ Jesus.  I have enough because God has seen to it.  When I am mot depressed, most stressed and most put out, I forget, and look at my life from the world's point of view, and only see what I have lost. And then I remember, Life is good. God Rocks!!

Amazing Grace.  How Sweet the Sound.


  1. Mr.McCoy,
    I know you understand what it's like when you are so moved after reading something, that you sit for 40min trying to come up with the exact words to articulate what you are feeling. Well...that's where I'm at! I know this is often over used and under estimated, but...YOU ROCK...You're my hero, And I thank you for being exactly who you are!

  2. And ... by the time you do have the words, you have forgotten what you are doing, and where you are. Never happens to me. (he hears Anne laughing in the background.) Thank you Mrs. D.

  3. Anne and Paul, Amazing Grace and amazing post. Thanks so much for taking the time and showing the raw honesty to share so much of yourself with the world. Michelle Domey is a good friend and she sent me the link. You and me, our lives have intersected in many unusual, unexpected ways: a blow to the head, trying to put our lives back together, and trying -- really trying -- to rediscover joy. Looks like we're on the same Liferaft too. God has held my hand through it all, and I will be forever grateful. When my new website is up, I will pass it along to you. Meanwhile, here's 6 minutes of who I am:

  4. I am a friend of Michelle D, she led me to this and you are inspirational. I am a tbi survivor also. I have had 4 brain/skull surgeries in a 15 month time frame. I am only 2 years into mine. But your persistence and refusal to give up is phenomenal!
    Thank you for sharing your life with the world. I know it the 80's there was not much really on TBI, but now it is a bigger thing and people are paying attention. And online there is a big support world. We all look to each other for inspiration, help, and hope!
    Here is my blog I started when I was finally able to make some sense. Feel free to peruse if you like.
    I wish you well!!!

  5. @ JCB .. thanks. God holding may hand normally helps after the fact, rarely during an issue though. I am working hard on leaning on him rather on me or my wife, since his anger will not be directed at me if I fail. :<) How did you put the facebook badge on you blog?


  6. @wonder women - Nice blog. As to 80's vs now, to my untrained eye, there is still little they can do. Research, test, talk ... all good for care givers, but not so good for me. Anne and I have actually decided long ago to forgo the drugs, since they changed who I was, and only normalized my behavior to what the medical profession called managable ... meaning, I still could not function, but I would not really be a problem anymore, just gentaled. so to speak. ..

    how did you put the facebook badge on your blog?

    following your blog now.

    Feel free to share. every comment reminds me that I can make a difference in lives.

    thanks again. .. Peace

  7. Thank you for sharing your poignant story. I too remember "almost" trying to commit suicide when a counselor told me she didn't know of any help for TBI. I too began to find myself and my value as a person through my spiritual guides. I hope Michelle has shared with you two books written by her friends: You Look Great by John Byler and Lost & Found by Barbara Webster.

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