My name is Bill Hogenauer. I am Peggy and Brooke’s nephew (Peggy’s sister’s son.) But, this is not about who I am.
I have wanted to say so many things to Brooke and Peggy since the accident. I have wanted to tell them how sorry I am and how much I wish I could be there to support them. I want to look Brooke in the eyes and tell him how much I love him (something I have never done.) But, this is not about what I want.
I have been in denial about the accident, wishing it had never happened. I am an active person who bikes, hikes, skis and runs just like Brooke always did. Brooke’s accident has affected me in some ways more than if it had happened to me. I have experienced thoughts about life, love and mortality I never before contemplated. But, this is not about how I feel.
This is about Brooke.
Brooke is paralyzed from the neck down. He has spent the last few weeks just inches from death. His heart has actually stopped beating. He now receives his food through a tube and has other bodily functions regulated by machines or other able bodies. It is doubtful he will ever walk again. It is even more doubtful he will ever again be able to do all of the active things he loved to do.
Yet, despite all of this, Brooke is a man who has accepted his fate and is “starting a new life.” He looks forward to his future regardless of the hardship he may face. He can actually see opportunity for reflection and discovery in the face of tragedy. He has thus far lived his life like each day could be his last, and now he does this by force instead of by choice.
I can say with confidence that before Brooke’s accident I would not have been as accepting of such a fate. Would this accident have happened to me, I would have asked all of the typical questions like, “Why me?” I would feel that I didn’t deserve such a fate. I would resent the hand I was dealt and likely be bitter and angry. I would blame, doubt, and criticize those who disagreed. I would likely not have wanted to live.
Now I am unsure. Brooke’s accident has taken from him the things I take for granted every second of every day, yet he moves on without complaint or regret. While most would consider his “life” over, he considers it a chance to live anew. I hope I would feel the same. Brooke is the kind of person I would be fortunate to become.
So, all those things I wanted to say can be replaced with two simple statements; “Thank you, Brooke. I love you.”
But this is not about me.