Soul Surfer

Soul Surfer
                I just watched a movie on television that is loosely based on a true story of a young teenage girl who lost her left arm to a shark while surfing in Hawaii several years ago. After surviving the horrific attack and recovering physically, she had the extreme difficulty of trying to figure out the rest of her life.
                She had dreamed of becoming a professional surfer and for a time, that seemed completely out of reach. Then she went through so many of the aspects of coming back from a tragedy or deep disappointment or loss that begins with denial, then anger, fear and finally acceptance.
                It was hard at first for her to function at all with the use of just one arm.    Going out in the water, climbing on a surf board and then riding waves back to shore was perhaps too much. She ultimately came back to surfing, and learned to do so on a professional basis. But first, there was a steep learning experience.
                That occurred when she went on a mission trip with others to Thailand after the tsunami some years ago and helped young people who had lost so much gain a measure of enjoyment and hope by showing them how not to be afraid of the water again and go out on a surf board with her.
                At the end, she was asked a news person whether in looking back at what had happened to her, did she wish that nothing bad had happened and there had been no shark attack. She answered that she would choose not to change anything because without what had happened to her, she would never have had the opportunity to meet so many new people in the world and have some positive effect on their lives.
                And so it can be with anyone who experiences a disappointment or loss. The resilience of coming back does not happen easily. Indeed, changing the way we have to live our lives and starting over is probably one of the most difficult things to do in the world. At first, we often try to cling to what we have always known because there is safety in familiarity.
                I remember a Superior Court judge asking me about a year ago if I could have my old life back and still be a practicing lawyer, would I choose that, or did I prefer the way my life is today. I smiled back at him and said there was no doubt in my mind that I would always choose the life I have today, because I have been able to meet so many people and make so many new friends…and learn so many lessons…none of which would have happened otherwise. I do admit that I would have preferred to make the change with much more grace than I did.
                I suppose one of the greatest lessons I have learned is not to fear the future and change quite so much, and perhaps even to embrace it. In early April of 1993, in a letter I wrote to the North Carolina Bar, along with my turning in my license to practice law, I recalled the phrase you have heard so often, that when God closes a window, He usually opens a door. What everyone must do, because change happens to all of us, is to have the will and hope to walk through that door.

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