You know, friendship is something that all of us want in our lives to some extent, I believe. Even the most introverted introvert probably wants one good friend, just one.
Something that I have noticed over the years of being married to Chris and living in the "world of quadriplegia" is that friendship changes a lot. When you are not paralyzed friendships can be easy to develop and easy to keep. But when you are paralyzed part of the relationship with a friend involves you asking for help when you don't want to have to ask for help, and involves them giving help when they don't necessarily feel like it. For instance, for chris to go surfing with his friends, one of them has to meet us at the car, carry him into his beach chair or carry him onto the beach. They need to be willing to go to a beach that is accessible enough for Chris to get out there which means they have to be willing to move from a "favorite" beach spot. We need to ask for help carrying regular beach bags and medical supplies for the occasional "unexpected" need. They need to be willing to help Chris get repositioned in his chair or do pressure reliefs while he's in his beach wheelchair (so that he doesn't get a pressure sore wound and have to lie in bed for weeks trying to heal). They need to understand that he can't regulate his body temperature, so he may get overheated much faster than them and have to leave early, or he may be too cold to stay for a long time. He may need help putting shirts on or off, getting water when needed or eating if they are there long. And so on.....
This is not specific to Chris, this is just a brief glimpse, a small example of being friends with someone who is disabled. In a lot of ways it is a "normal" friendship, but in many ways it is VERY different.
This is what makes the friends that we have met, and kept over the years, so powerful and precious. We have met some remarkably giving people everywhere we have lived.....Virginia, Texas, NC, and now SC. In the past few months we have met some new friends who love to surf and have made it their mission to help their friends enjoy the waves too.
These top pictures are Luke and Chris catching the first-ever waves on Chris' new board. Luke, Brandon, James, and their awesome wives Erin, Kara, and Ellen have gone as far as starting an organization to raise money to buy adaptive surfboards for people with disabilities. They have been instrumental in creating the adaptive surfing division in Eastern Surfing Association's surf competitions this summer. They just want their friends to be able to enjoy what they enjoy.....the sun and the surf.
Chris tells me all the time how great it feels just to be out of his wheelchair without something pressing on his back. Normally he has his back pressing against something 24 hours per day - his wheelchair, the bed, or a recliner. BUT in water it's totally different. FREEDOM! The freedom that God is giving him now through these amazing friends is incredible. The freedom to float, the freedom to move in totally different ways, the freedom to ride and feel the power of the ocean again. There was nothing like it for him as a kid and teenager and there's nothing like it for him now. Surfing is in his blood and he's FINALLY BACK!