Life Takes A Fall

My life took an unexpected turn or I should say ‘’dive’ last year when I had a very bad accident. I fell off my balcony located five floors above ground in Ottawa and when I hit the concrete below, I broke both my limbs and other bones in my body. I was told that I had been very lucky to survive.

After a long stay at the hospital, I found myself, in a convalescence center (a place someone goes to when they are sufficiently well to leave the hospital but not well enough to go home) that was also located in one of the largest retirement homes of Ottawa.

Of Sadness, Despair And Autumn Leaves

Here I was, a relatively younger person, immobilized on a bed for many months to come and slated to be in a wheelchair at some point after that for even more months, surrounded by mostly much older people, many of whom suffered from dementia and other conditions that can unfortunately arise during the golden years.

Needless to say, at that point, I was understandably not overjoyed. I think ‘grim’ would be the word that would best describe the frame of mind of yours truly, so grim that I was probably as much distressed about being in a retirement home as I was about my extensive injuries. I felt damaged both in body and in spirit.

In the beginning, I spent a lot of time looking out the window at the many trees on the center’s grounds and I found some bittersweet, fleeting satisfaction admiring the vivid orange and red hues that autumn used to colour the landscape with.

Of Lessons Leant And Becoming Better, Much Better

Yet as time progressed, while there were moments where I wished things were not the way they were, I think that my four months in the convalescence center taught me the most important lessons of my life so far and fundamentally changed me to the core for the better, for the much better.

One sunny but crisp autumn morning, I had a conversation with one of the nurses there, a lovely lady whose kindness literally shone from her eyes. This sweet soul recounted how she would often find it hard to imagine that some of the older people she looked after now and stricken with illnesses were the same people she would see in the pictures of themselves in happier times and which adorned their rooms.

She continued on to tell me that her job had taught her the value of living in the present moment and making the most of that moment, an antidote to the anxiety of dealing with the unpredictable, because one never knew what lay around the corner.  After this conversation, I resolved to live fully in the here and now as of then and let tomorrow be tomorrow.

I was not on the medical staff but every day I would also see the struggles of some of the elderly and the conversation with the nurse as well as the dawning realization not to take health or time for granted awakened me to the next lesson: be grateful for one’s blessings because things could always be or get worse.

While I saw many elderly struggle with health challenges while I was there, I also saw how they made the best of things: they befriended each other, they went to the concerts and parties being organized onsite, they met in the residence pub to chat and many of them always were cheerful. I learnt in those moments that we choose how we respond to life and the healthier response is to make the best of the situation and focus on the positive in it.

Furthermore, when I saw how the elderly there faced their health issues stoically and with grace, taking tests after tests and countless medications, it inspired me to be strong while facing adversity and to do what needed to be done to heal even if it was difficult, without complaining excessively. I reasoned that if these people could go through all of this with such quiet fortitude, I could do the same.

As I observed the population around me and tragically, as I watched people pass away, I understood how true the saying ‘time is your most precious commodity’ rang. I became more grateful to be alive and I promised myself to spend my time productively and on things that gave me fulfillment.

As I observed the elderly, I grew fascinated with how many of them would sit often in silence, contemplating what was and at peace. As a result, I gained a newfound appreciation for self-introspection and going within to find calm. This led to better mental health over time.

I was also very touched by the support that various families and friends showed to their elderly loved ones. On the other hand, I was dismayed to see how some people had no one through no fault of their own and spent milestones events like birthdays alone. I learnt then that our relationships with family and friends are important and it was essential to cultivate these bonds in the hope they flourish because one day these people may become the angels lifting us up.

The other big lesson I learnt as I witnessed countless acts of kindness bestowed on me and on the elderly by various people working there was that humanity is fundamentally good. I thus realized that while we may make mistakes, we can learn to do and be better (example: yours truly through this experience) and that the good within each of us makes it worthwhile for us collectively to help each other become higher versions of ourselves.  The world as a whole would benefit from this.

As time went by, I began to see the convalescence center not as a place of bondage but more as a place of healing, not just physical but also mental and spiritual. More wonderful yet was that I started to view my temporary place of residence as a school teaching me life lessons.

During these four months, I underwent an unexpected shift in my perspective: I came in the center broken both in body and in spirit, feeling lost at how life had thrown an unexpected storm my way. Yet, through these lessons, I found myself gaining something that was just as important as physical healing: hope that what was to come would be good because of all the fresh perspectives I had acquired.

Lessons For The Ages

I have left the center since and I am gradually reintegrating my life after what has been quite the trek. I practice daily many of the lessons I learnt during my stay and my life while not perfect is better, much better for it. I, while not perfect, am better, much better for it.

I once read that sometimes life teaches one lessons and uses whichever means necessary so that one has the opportunity to learn these lessons. I believe that now to be true. The stay in the residence may not have been what I wanted but I think it is what I needed. I leant lessons that will last me a lifetime, lessons for the ages.

To the reader, thank you for taking your precious time to read this. I hope you found something in this article that makes a difference in your life or at least was a reminder of lessons best not forgotten. If you know of any other lessons you feel we can learn from the elderly, please feel free to leave them in the comments section below so that I and others may then learn in turn from your insight.

Kevin Chitamun created “PicturePositive“, a global Facebook group dedicated to capturing moments of positivity in photography and sharing them so as to help people who may need hope and to show them that life is worth it. Kevin learnt through life experiences and through PicturePositive that kindness and positivity can change the world and now he tries to spread them everywhere he goes.



Image courtesy of Cristofer Jeschke.