One moment I was living my dream as a professional basketball player in Europe, driving past my opponent with perfect body control releasing the ball so gently it kissed the backboard. The next instance, I was spinning weightlessly through air when our car flipped off a 100 foot embankment into France’s La Meuse River leaving me clawing against an icy current.
The impact of the crash, broke me in half - cracked my sternum, compressed vertebrae in my rib cage, concussed my brain, blocked my intestines and ended my career instantly.
I was only 26 years old. I thought life was over.
In the long days of therapy I slowly regained use of my limbs while living 4,000 miles away from home. I wanted to give up. I had no purpose.
In pain and despair, I hung on, an hour, a minute, a second at a time.
I never ran or played basketball again, but I persisted and went onto to lead a fulfilling life.
I married the Frenchman, who stood by me as I struggled to carve a new identity in a foreign land. Together we raised 2 bilingual, bi-cultural kids, who grew strong, trained hard and entered helping professions, one as a pediatrician, the other as a chiropractor.
I lived near the Eiffel Tower in Paris and at the foothills of the Alps on Lake Geneva. I stood on Mt. Blanc and the Acropolis in Athens. I rode horses on the beach in the Camargue and floated down the canals of Venice. I walked in the shadows of my forefathers at Scotland’s McKinzie Castle and along the Norwegian fjords of my Olson ancestors above the Arctic Circle.
When I could no longer play basketball, I thought I would never adjust to sitting the bench, but found my calling as a coach. In three decades of coaching and teaching I had the privilege of working with sons and daughters of diplomats and world leaders from around the globe from whom I learned as much as I taught.
I wrote a book that led to an invitation to speak at the U.S. Senior National Games, an NCAA Final Four basketball banquet and commencement at the prestigious International School of Geneva, founder of international baccalaureate.
During my lowest point, I thought I had nothing left to give, but I never gave up. In retrospect, I see that I had a lot left to offer and even more to learn.
Nearly 4 decades later, after another life threatening accident last spring, I struggled again to tie my shoes, walk the fields, write a paragraph, repeating lessons learned years ago. I wonder why am I here? I grapple with finding a purpose to continue.
At age 63, I am too young to put out to pasture.
Each day I lift dumbbells, walk the block, play memory games coaxing my body and mind to grow stronger in preparation for the next calling.
In the meantime, I keep fighting to go on, pulling up someone else, pushing another forward. After all my struggles, this much I know to be true. We are in the game together.
No one gets this far on their journey without the love of family and friends, the kindness of acquaintances and the helping hand of a fellow man.
In this endless season of sadness, during one of world’s deadliest pandemics, we want to throw in the towel and call it quits. Our bones ache from the cold, grey winter, our spirits break from living in isolation and mourning lost loved ones, our minds spin with anxiety facing future uncertainties. We are each struggling with something.
Let my crazy odyssey serve as an example of hope. Take it from the kid who thought her life ended in an accident at age 26 and is still standing today. Don’t give up yet.
Better things lie ahead.
Hope. Have faith. Hang on.
Put one foot forward.
The sun will rise again.