I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sometimes mistakenly called the “Mormon Church.” Everything about the Mormon faith is meant to lead us to Christ. We seek to emulate Him, and we call upon His grace to make us more than we can be on our own.
Five years ago today (Oct 28, 2007), I was in a serious car accident and had a severe brain injury. It immediately put me into a coma, and I was life-flighted to the hospital as a code blue patient. Probably because my brain miraculously stopped bleeding early on, I survived, physically and psychologically, i.e., I remained the same person. On Dec 3, 2007, I woke up in my hospital bed, thinking it was silly that I was in the hospital for no good reason, wondering if I had missed any classes. I had been a first year law student at Georgetown University. My family and caretakers wondered who I would be when I woke up, if I woke up; I wondered what was wrong.
I’ve ended up being somewhere in the middle: I look and act to most people just like I did before the accident; I struggle and mourn realizing that I’m not the same and have lost much of my brain functioning, but not enough to change my life and not enough to be able to articulate what is different. Nevertheless, unaware of how my brain had changed, I enthusiastically defied my doctors and my family, and chose to move back to Washington D.C. and continue law school.
My first semester back at school, my inadequacies started to hit me. My neuropsychiatric doctor cautioned in his evaluation that I would become exhausted and frustrated easily and easily overwhelmed with too many tasks at once. His assessment was exactly right. Typically I could only do about half of my required reading, and I was often frustrated over simple things. I broke down in tears one evening over my frustration with my can opener–I couldn’t get it to work. I had no trouble in law school developing complex logic, but I often had trouble just paying enough attention to follow others’ logic. I failed one class in law school, so I retook the class–from the same professor. Through his concern for me, I earned a B- in his class the second time and found my greatest supporter. I earned mostly Bs in my classes even when I couldn’t finish the papers or finish all the reading. After I failed one class and knowing I wasn’t capable of completing all the assignments, I always wondered if I would pass classes. But I never failed another class and instead got mostly B’s, and graduated only one semester after the rest of my class. I graduated in a timely manner partly because when I felt I needed to take a semester off, because of the exhaustion and frustration, I felt inspired to take just one 3-credit class. The Dean of Students worked with me to adjust my tuition loan so that I could take just one class that semester. And because I had those credits, I was able to finish my program in one extra semester–to the surprise and delight of the Dean of Students and my friends among the faculty.
Through remembering inspiration I had had in my initial decision to go to law school and lessons I had learned from the scriptures and through prayer, I decided to literally turn my life over to my Heavenly Father. I decided to go ahead and continue with my life as a law school student but with the understanding that I was only living it “by proxy,” that I didn’t have the ability to literally live this life, so it would have to be Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ who lived my life for me, that whatever they wanted me to do, I would be the face, the body, but that it would have to be my Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ who actually did the work. I adopted the attitude that I would just pretend, but that if anything actually got done, it would be through the grace of Jesus Christ.
When I passed my classes and kept getting up in the morning and going to class, it literally was only because I accepted my role as a proxy for my Father in Heaven and His Son. It was they who made me pass those classes–I just had to give myself the motivation to get out of bed and get to class and open my books and try to read some. It was His grace that gave me the motivation to show up for my finals and make efforts to write papers and find help in writing them. Christ’s grace actually did it. I felt good about being a law student, and I knew my Father and Jesus Christ supported me in that, so I left it to them.
I did this to get through law school. For the first three years, every week I reassessed whether I should still be in law school. The last year, I just knew I had to finish it–it didn’t matter that it hadn’t gotten easier. Many law school experiences were humiliating, especially as I’ve had to relearn confidence–and in short, relearn who I am. Now that I’ve just graduated, I’m finding I need even more the attitude that His grace is the only thing that will get me through.
In the Book of Mormon it says,
I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them (Ether 12:27).
In the Bible it says,
And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me (1 Corinthians 12:9).
This article was written by Anne-Marie Waddell, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Received BA in English Literature and Linguistics at BYU; MS in Intercultural Communications at UofU; Juris Doctorate at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington DC. Has traveled extensively, and lived in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Paris, France, Brussels, Belgium, Thailand and Germany. Currently lives in Alexandria, Virginia. Speaks a little bit of Spanish and is conversant/excellent in reading and writing in French.