Accidents, Blessings, and God’s Grace
By Kevin Lakey ’05
As I reflect on my experience at Seattle
Pacific University, I remember something Professor of Moral and Historical Theology Rick Steele said in his address to the Class of 2005 at Baccalaureate:
“Before you take a decisive step forward
in your life, you should take a good hard look backward.”
I have to admit, looking back isn’t something
new graduates do best. In fact, we don’t use our “rewind” button much at all. Instead, we plow ahead, make plans, and ask ourselves questions: What am I going to do with my life? Will I get the right job? Whom will I marry?
But as I sat there, I felt challenged to take that long, hard look backward — to examine my past for nuggets of wisdom, value, and God’s grace. Here’s what crossed my mind:
Roughhousing. That’s what I was doing on May 20, 1999. I was 17, at home, in Kennewick,
Washington, when my friends and I were horsing around (what else do teenage guys do?). A shove here, a push there, and before I knew it, our playful wrestling match landed me headfirst on the living room floor.
“I can’t move,” I called out to my friends, unsure of what had just happened. “You’re lying,” they said, assuming I was just joking. “Stop messing with us.”
But I wasn’t bluffing; the lower half of my body was actually numb. Doctors later called it a “one-in-a-million” or “freak” accident. But in an instant, I was paralyzed — from the chest down.
My mind fast-forwards a bit, past the hospital
stay, beyond the months in physical therapy,
where I learned what do with my newly challenged body — and then I’m at SPU for the first time … in a wheelchair.
You can probably imagine
what was going through my mind as I looked at the campus: How in the world am I going to navigate those hills?
My wheelchair wasn’t the only thing that set me apart from other students on campus.
After all, no other incoming
student had his mother for a roommate. That’s right, Mom moved in with me. It was only for six months, until we could find a
permanent caregiver, but for a while,
it was me, Mom, and 40 other guys on the third floor of Emerson Hall. I pause, and allow myself a chuckle.
Friendship. That’s what I think of next. So many people cared for me and helped me in my transition to university life, especially my friends Ryan Brault ’05 and Jamie Hudson ’04. There are places on campus that are not accessible,
but my friends made sure I got anywhere — even if they had to grab hold of my wheelchair
and lift me up and down staircases.
I remember fighting for a worthy cause, too. I felt called to raise awareness about disabilities
at Seattle Pacific. I was interviewed by The Falcon, worked with Disabled Services Coordinator Sara Roberts Wetzel ’99, and wherever I could, reminded my fellow community
members that “diversity” includes people with disabilities. I’m grateful to the University for the improvements made in my time on campus: a new lift system from
Martin Square to Marston Hall, and an
apartment building that is completely wheelchair-
Affirmation. That’s a gift the SPU community
gave me, and I’ll never forget it. Last year, I had the privilege of speaking in front of more than 1,000 people at First Free Methodist
Church during the Thanksgiving communion
service. I had never told my story before in such a public way, so I didn’t know what to expect. But afterward, I never imagined
I could feel so affirmed by this community
— so loved. Then, an amazing thing happened: 2,500 of my fellow students voted, and I became Seattle Pacific’s 2004–05 Homecoming King.
That brings me to the present, and like many other new graduates, I can’t help but think about what’s next. My mind is a whirlwind
of questions — and uncertainties.
I think about where I’m going to live, remembering
that affordable and accessible don’t always go hand in hand. I worry about where I’m going to work, and whether the job will be fulfilling. My heart yearns to be in a dating relationship, too. Will God bring the right woman into my life? That said, I know I’ll be happy if I can use my life to help people feel empowered by Christ’s love, the way I have been.
Before he closed his address at Baccalaureate, Professor
Steele reminded the audience that “[we must] come to terms with our past whenever we are about to make a big step into the future.” And here I am — by the grace of God — at peace with the past and looking expectantly
toward the next chapter in my story.
I think the future looks bright.
Editor’s note: Kevin Lakey graduated with a degree in computer science in June 2005.
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