LIVE LIFE, LOVE LIFE
Father Luis de Moya suffered an automobile accident in 1991. His life was miraculously saved, but his spine was fractured and he lost all mobility and sensation below the neck. He had to learn to live with an almost unusable body, dependent on others for almost everything.
Nevertheless, despite his changed situation, he didn’t succumb to hopelessness, a culture to which a person in his state would’ve easily given in. He understood that, with God’s help, he could turn his life into a fundamental weapon for doing a great deal of good. From his wheelchair, he has given us a fantastic testimony of strength, of courage, of acceptance… But how does a person like him feel? He wrote about it in the book “Sobre la Marcha” (which I would translate freely as “About Moving On”), which came out in 1996, of which there have been 5 editions in Spanish, and one each in French, Portuguese, and Italian.
😉 😉 😉
Sobre la Marcha
de Luis de Moya
Al mundo, desde una silla de ruedas
The book can be found here:
The Chapters are as follows:
- The Accident
- Intensive Care
- On the Third Floor
- On the Fifth Floor
- Return to Work
- Back at the Hospital
- On the Streets
I offer here a crude translation of only a tiny part, that section entitled “A Fundamental Question”, within Chapter III “On the Third Floor”.
A FUNDAMENTAL QUESTION
The month and a half I spent on the third floor [of the hospital] was particularly good, because apart from seeing my physical state improve, during those weeks the foundations for what could be and should be my recovery were laid. I never had the experience of the situation I was going through, and therefore I saw myself in a completely new world where I didn’t know how to manage myself. Luckily, Doctor de Castro knew very well what she had to do and I had to trust her completely. The reason for this trust had got something to do with her evident honesty more than with her many other qualities. Her frankness, intransigence and simplicity at the same time gave me that certainty.
A little while after leaving the ICU, she surprised me with a question, which wasn’t explicitly stated, in one of those frequent conversations that I had with her and which were necessary for my treatment. The Doctor needed to assure herself that I was truly interested in going ahead, and that I was fully aware of the great difficulty all that was going to mean: the attempt at recovering fully my activity as a person and as a Priest.
I was surprised. Although I never had had to ask myself whether I was ready to carry on just like before the accident, I never had the slightest doubt about this. It never even occurred to me to think about the possibility of changing my attitude, as regards the meaning of my life, because I became completely unable to move. It just occurred to me that, for as long as I had my head all right, and that I wanted it, I could go on in what was essential just like before, if only I could put in my share at every moment. I was totally convinced that things didn’t really change that much, that is, in such a way that I could think of not moving on to be –to the extent possible– the best man I could be.
Even prior to this event, I knew that in order to be a good person –in my case, a good Priest– I ought to exert all the effort on my part at each moment: to really try, and not in the weak sense of this expression. During various moments of silence during the day, and above all in the evenings, I had enough time to think of my life: the life I had lived, and the live I was going to live after these new circumstances, which I was realizing more and more during those days.
I soon began to be aware that, before the accident, I’d frequently exert effort in my tasks, but only up to a certain point. Of course, things weren’t the same: I’d examine my conscience and I’d repent –especially in Confession– for not having put in all my strength in this thing or that other. And even if my resolutions to improve weren’t so effective and I’d fall once again, my life carried on without calling attention. I didn’t observe so much my lack of effort, because a bit of skill would’ve made me succeed and overcome my little shoddiness and thus live joyfully despite being shoddy.
But now, after losing my agility, everything’s going to be practically more complicated. A life that otherwise would be livable could turn out much more burdensome and troubling. I couldn’t imagine the majority of the difficulties that awaited me, neither the details of the efforts I had to put in the future. But, although I couldn’t tell what the difficulty of moving on really consisted in, neither did I feel a sense of being overwhelmed by a miserable existence, since I was counting on God for everything that, by His Will, life was going to give me.
In any case, I needed the indispensable clarification to know what it all meant: knowing what it was I wanted to achieve, what means I was to have, and up to what point I was determined to achieve things. I only knew by then my own experience, and could only imagine the future from that perspective. I had fully realized that others, in my situation, wouldn’t know how to take things so peacefully, and that for that very reason, for example, in some hospitals which specialized in patients like myself, they’d had to put grills on the windows in order to avoid suicides. With time, I got to know about cases of persons who weren’t ready to live what they needed to go through so they’d live the most dignified life, on seeing that they’d have to suffer the rest of their days in a state they’d call deplorable.
My doctor’s question included another tiny aspect, which was fundamental for ensuring that my decision to recover the best possible way was for real; rather, it was a condition for moving on, or if you like, a clarification about what it really meant to be truly ready to exert every effort to overcome the difficulties. I couldn’t just make do with organizing my life “stupendously” within the bedroom walls. I couldn’t limit myself to being interested only in ‘surviving in the best possible manner’. That would be called “hospitalism”. Despite my incapacity, I knew I wasn’t condemned to just being enclosed or to just having the right to be taken care of and that’s it.
A huge part of my treatment consisted, therefore, in avoiding such “hospitalism” at all costs: that tendency of patients who were similar to me to just setting themselves up in their room and organizing themselves to merely withstanding the best possible way all the bothers and deficiencies they were suffering, focusing a good part of their attention and activity only on that. I couldn’t –I shouldn’t– seek out merely feeling comfortable or feeling the least bothered within my four walls, as if I couldn’t do anything more, as if no one could expect anything else from me. If I had fallen into this trap, I would’ve condemned my life to a permanent lamentation as a life background. Consenting to such negative outlook on my situation would’ve meant –apart from having a pact with falsehood– condemning oneself to ‘victimism’. Going about the world with a ‘victim complex’, as if everything was a pain, was (it appeared to me) ignoble and rather false, because I saw clearly that, with a healthy head like mine, there was no reason to not use it to the full.
My life’s horizon continued where it had always been, since in what was essential, nothing in me had really changed. Apart from the physical disability and its consequences, the great and definitive reality of my life was the same and continued to be accessible. Materially more difficult, yes, but possible. No matter how costly it was going to be, I had to exert myself in keeping up my spirits enough to be able to carry on a life on the streets, in an office, in a classroom or in a Church, just like before the accident. I didn’t want to enclose myself –it wasn’t my style–; I had to foster personal relations so I could continue with my work as a Priest, taking advantage of the circumstances in which I now was finding myself.
It was fundamental thereafter that I was to feel loved and useful. There’s no need to explain why: it was basic, but my doctor wanted to tell me expressly, since it was going to be necessary never to forget it thereafter. In the succeeding period, I felt more the affection and lacks of affection and, with greater ease, I could’ve had the temptation of thinking that I was going to be capable of nothing or that I was even becoming a bother.
–> Return to Work
Short Bio: Don Luis de Moya was born in Ciudad Real in the summer of 1953; he was the eldest of 8 siblings. In 1971, he began his Medical studies in Madrid. At the end of 1978, he went off to Rome to study Theology. In August 1981, heading back to Spain, he received his Priestly Ordination.
Life is Worth Living
January 23, 2008
Feeling that you are loved
Fr. Luis lives in Pamplona, and in his house you can feel the great affection of those who care for him. On entering his room one often finds him answering e-mail on his specially adapted computer or updating his web page: www.fluvium.org.
Sixteen years after the accident which left him in the care of others, he strongly affirms that “every human being needs an environment where he can feel that he is loved, whether sick or well, whether a child or an adult, whether needing or not needing a wheel chair. To feel understood and helped by others is a need for every person. We have feelings and a heart, we rejoice at the good news of others, and weep with those who weep. Animals cannot cry, nor laugh; but men and women can.”
It is impossible for a person who receives and gives affection to think of committing suicide. That affection helps to sustain the person, to keep him working. To feel that one is loved and needed by the people who are closest to us is very important, although this does not mean that discomfort, annoyance, or pain will not at times leave a person in bad humor. But one has to make an effort to appear cheerful, thinking of others in order to offer one’s sufferings to God. The life of Fr. Luis is a continual example of this cheerfulness, and many people are surprised so see the dignity with which he lives. In fact, on one occasion Fr. Luis even said that he feels “like a millionaire who has lost a ten dollar bill.” He explains this with great simplicity: “I can’t allow myself to fall into a negative dynamic, thinking continually of how unfortunate I am to have suffered a traffic accident. I know that I have to continue working and carrying out my priestly ministry.”
And so he got down to work right away without letting any time pass. Immediately “after the operation, I continued giving classes and working as chaplain in the School of Architecture of the University of Navarre, as well as collaborating with other priests in the pastoral work with students.”
It’s not so important
Far from what one might imagine, Fr. Luis is not from outer space nor does he have a screw loose. He is very conscious that “I had an accident which impedes my mobility,” but, he adds, “it is something that is not so important.” And he reveals the secret to moving forward: “Although it is difficult to confront it every day, the important thing is to know that I am a son of God and that God loves me and would never give me anything that was bad in itself. If God had had a bad intention in permitting the accident that caused my injury, he would have been cruel, and that is not possible with God. God is always good, and everything that I receive from him is for my good and that of others. And so I look at it as if I had lost a small bill compared with the millions that I have received and continue to receive from him. Perhaps it is that we don’t think much of what we are and are worth in being human: because God has wanted us to be persons. And this greatness of being human, the greatness of being persons, is not a matter of movement. Many animals are many times faster and more agile than we are! But they can neither reason nor love, nor do they have an eternal destiny in heaven.”
With his years of experience in “driving” a wheel chair, he has been asked to speak for those who might suffer or have suffered an injury like his. “I Iencourage them not to fall into the negative dynamism of considering, again and again, the innumerable misfortunes that they suffer as the result of a stupid accident . . . that they not let themselves be conquered by laziness or neglect, that they stay out of that vicious circle: how much I have lost, how unfortunate I am, I can never again do this or that… Everything becomes suffering and sorrow for how much I have lost, and this goes on forever. On the contrary, I encourage them to work, to seek activities, to subject themselves to a schedule, and not to consider those activities as a way of ‘passing the time,’ as a mere distraction. I tell them to think of what they still have and how to make that profitable. There are so many things to do; how can they not do anything? And if they can’t think of anything, let them contact me, and I’ll give them work to do.”
He also has words of encouragement for the families of accident victims and for those who take care of them. “I encourage them to realize the value of what they have at home. It is really a treasure. It helps them to work for others, to value life, to give and receive love. It makes them more human, more understanding. I tell them that they should feel the responsibility of loving with deeds those who need them so much and who seem to have been put with them to make it easier for them to love. They should feel certain that the greatness of each of them lies in this more than in anything else.” This is something that the goodness of Fr. Luis teaches us every day with his example, his dedication and his tenacity.
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Luis de Moya’s website and resources :
[My favorite section is MOTIVACIONES, where you’d find all sorts of files (PowerPoints, resources) on Values and Transcendence, as well as MUSIC files (mostly PowerPoints with audio) and IMAGES you’ve always wanted to have!]
Father Luis de Moya is now in Facebook 🙂
You can add him as a friend: his profile is Luis De Moya Anegón;
you may also <friend> him from my list 😉
Don Luis de Moya acaba de entrar en Facebook 🙂
Le puedes agregar, buscando su perfil Luis De Moya Anegón y añadiéndole; también le podrías agregar desde mi lista de amigos 😉
There’s also the group “Fluvium.org” in Facebook, which I’d encourage you to join // También hay un grupo “Fluvium.org” en Facebook: favor de unirte.
😉 😉 😉