[title subtitle=”WORDS Stoney Stamper
IMAGE April Stamper”][/title]
I’ve always been a very strong-willed person. From the time I was just a little boy, I always felt like there was nothing I couldn’t do, and there was nothing I was afraid of. That kind of attitude is bound to go awry from time to time because no one is invincible. That sort of bravado is going to lead to some cuts, bruises and maybe some broken bones – in my case, lots of broken bones – but it never slowed me down. I’d pick myself up, dust myself off, and get right back to it. I gave my poor parents plenty of gray hairs, no doubt. But secretly, I think my dad liked it. I was all boy.
Some people may call that kind of attitude arrogance, but I prefer to say I’m confident. Definitely, confident. Although my wife may say I straddle that border between arrogance and confidence pretty closely.
But on a rainy day in November of 2017, my brazen confidence was shaken to the core. As I said, no one is invincible, and on this cold, miserable day, that point was driven home with certainty. I had a bad car accident. I won’t go into details of the wreck, but I will say that what happened that day led to a broken hip, arm, knee, and back. It led to countless surgeries, hip replacement, and memory loss for a year after the wreck. All of this before my fortieth birthday.
For someone that’s lived his whole life as an overly confident and overly independent person, this was without a doubt the most earth-shattering thing I would ever endure. It felt like even though I lived, a big part of me died that day in the front seat of my truck. That may seem melodramatic, but that’s how I felt. The man who thought himself indestructible was now completely dependent on doctors, nurses, his wife, and daughters.
When I was released from the hospital, my wife April became my lifeline. If I needed food, or medicine, have my wounds cleaned, or to go to the bathroom, I was completely dependent on her. That was quite the shock to my system. And I fell into a depression that was as deep and dark as I would ever know. The generally outgoing, funny, over-the-top man I had once been was gone. The happiness I had found with my wife and daughters had slipped away. What I feel most guilty about, and will likely never forgive myself for, was not only had I allowed my own happiness to be taken from me, but I had caused it to be taken from April and our kids. Part of me realizes now that I had no control over what happened that day in the truck, but another part of me realizes that my depression had spread across the house. I was angry and I wasn’t fun to be around.
Looking back, I realize was so selfish, to think that I was the only one that was going through this hard time. Had I opened my eyes, or thought about anyone other than myself, I would have seen the pain and sadness in all of theirs. Looking back now, I see it. And that just breaks my heart. I’m supposed to be the head of our household. I’m supposed to protect them from hurt and pain, not be the cause of it. But that’s exactly what I had done. It began to cause issues in our marriage, and it began to affect my relationships with my daughters.
One day, April came to sit on the bed where I laid with my leg elevated, most likely with a scowl on my face. I could see the hesitation on her face, but I knew she had something to say. She told me, “I know you’re sad. I know that you’re depressed and angry. But we need you. We need you back. I need you back. You’re trying to fix this by yourself, but you can’t. You can’t fix this. You’ve got to quit trying to fix this yourself. You’ve got to give it to God. He’s our only hope.”
Because I was in the depths of this depression, and angry at the world, I admit when she called me out like this, I got angry at her. How could she say something like this to me? She wasn’t the one laying here crippled and in pain. How unfair! But then I began to think about what their life had become, what I had allowed it to become. And I made a decision that day.
I knew our life could not go on the way it had been. I knew I had to be different, but I also knew April was right, I couldn’t do it on my own. I’d been trying that for over a year, and it obviously wasn’t working. I had one of the most unfiltered talks with God I had ever had. I made a conscious effort to become the man I was before that awful day. I learned that God will always help you, if you’re willing to accept it. But I also learned that He won’t do it for you. You have to make the effort.
Every single day, you have to make a conscious choice to be a better person. Every morning, I have to remind myself that everything could have gone differently that day. That my life is a gift. As a matter of fact, I believe even though it was the worst day of my family’s life, that it turned out to be a blessing. Because today, we are closer than we have ever been. Don’t get me wrong, I still have my days that I struggle with pain. I still have days where I feel sorry for myself, and where I may question why the wreck happened. But I go back to that day, sitting on our bed, with my steadfast partner, asking me, begging me, to ask God for help. And then I remember that hard talk I had with God that day. I remember promising I would turn over all my problems to Him. And I’ve kept that promise. And, so has He.
Not long ago, April sent me something she had seen on social media, and it said, “Let Go, Let God.” And those are the perfect words for our life. Actually, I think they are the perfect words for anyone’s life. Had I not made the commitment that day, I don’t believe that my family would be in the place we are at this moment. I’m certain of it. I set out to find the man I once was, but instead, I became a better man than I ever thought possible. Because, finally, I let go, and I let God.