The Strength of Others

"How'd you do it?" People would say
So confining, day after day
Having others around for constant care
Ever wonder if life's unfair?

"How'd you do it?" People would ask
Is it better now than in the past?
To see others do what you did before
Realizing you cannot do them anymore.

"How'd you do it?" People have said
Needing help in-n-out of bed
Doubts at times? Patience wearing thin?
Ever wonder how it will end?

"How'd you do it?" Day after Day 
The path takend wasn't my way
The choice was Another's, not my own
He sent me help. Couldn't do it alone.

How'd I do it? Let me confide
Always with others right at my side
Family and friends from the start
Gave me love in no small part.

How'd I do it? Day after day
Would not have it any other way
They shared triumphs and setbacks too
Been blessed, when I look back in review.

How'd I do it? Let me reply
On those who help me, I totally relied
They taught me to live, not just cope
With their love, they gave me hope.

How'd I do it? Day after day
Help of others along the way
Valued friends, sisters, brothers
I simply borrowed-the strength of others.

- Bill Atkinson

William E. Atkinson, O.S.A. (Order of Saint Augustian)

Bill's poem: "The Strength of Others" is about how he was able to face the challenges of a person who became a quadriplegic at age 19.  After the accident, Bill lived for 41 years and was the first person to be ordained a Roman Catholic priest with such a severe disability.  He was Father Atkinson, Fr. Bill, to those he served: high school students he taught, persons he counseled, or and those who were fortunate to be touched by him.  His gifts were shaped by his appreciation of life and the love that surrounded and inspired him.  This circle of love included an exceptional family, members of the Augustinian community he belonged to, and countless friends.

From that fateful day when the toboggan he was on veered from the worn path, Bill had to blaze a new one, requiring constant traveling companions, especially the Lord of Life.

Although Bill could no longer walk, run, or dance, he inspired others to take steps he could not take, to go where he could not, and to dance to life's music for him.  Bill sat for most of his life in a wheelchair; but he went farther than most people because he embraced his challenges, and allowed others to share and support him in facing them.

Bill's legacy is to live life to its fullest, whatever its challenges, by accepting the possibility and promise that sharing live brings.

In the closing line of his poem, he says he borrowed from the "strength of others."  However, Bill's life was really about the strength he gave to others.