On New Years Eve, about five or six years ago, my mom received a phone call from my aunt about a recent car accident that had put one of my cousins in the hospital. Knowing almost no information, we said a quick prayer for her and went about our day, preparing for the killer party we planned on throwing in a couple hours. (And I’m talking killer; there was more fake champagne than I thought possible)
It wasn’t until the following day that information was released to the extended family about what had happened in the accident. My cousin was in the car with her boyfriend when she slipped on black ice, resulting in the vehicle spinning out of control. It wasn’t until a minute after the accident that she went unconscious. She was rushed to the hospital, where spent the next two months in a coma.
When first brought into the hospital, the doctors found no brainwaves, and assumed she would forever be in a coma, if not dead. However, she gradually grew back to her regular health, and her body was almost healed to perfection. After many healing services, countless prayers, and the great faith of my grandparents, the only body disability she now has is the inability to move her left foot.
Still though, she isn’t the same person as before the accident. Her mind never went back to the intelligence and capability it had before. To this day, she is dependent on other people, unnecessarily asking for help constantly. She’s not aware of the burden she puts on the people around her. At the age of twenty-five, she is currently living with her parents.
Last weekend, her mom was not able to take care of her, so she stayed with my family. The time spent with her is always a great trial of patience. I found myself constantly failing to remind myself that she does in fact have a mental disorder, and her actions are justified in the eyes of God. I would snap at her and gossip about her to my family members, who felt the same way.
Then Sunday morning came. As the family prepared for Mass, my mother and I assumed she would move much too slow to allow my family to arrive at the church in time. However, my cousin was ready at the same time as the rest of us, and was excited for Mass.
During Mass, my cousin was a distraction to the people around her. Being an altar server, I was facing my family, watching them instead of paying attention. I continuously complained in my head to God about how frustrating she was making my mother and me. I began to judge her, once again failing to see the beauty she continues to hold inside of her.
When time for the Consecration neared, I worried that my cousin would continue to be a distraction during the most important part of the Mass. However, I was pleasantly proved wrong. The moment Jesus became present to the people in the physical form of the Blessed Eucharist, the twenty-five year old daughter of God bowed her head as low as possible. I then watched my cousin receive the Blessed Sacrament, in awe of the piety she displayed.
I realized in that moment, even if I was a great burden to the people around me, even if I was physically or mentally handicapped, I am and always would be a child of God. I began to see the human dignity of my cousin that I didn’t notice in the past. I looked at her as a soul, and not simply as a body with a disability.
My mom and I talked about this the day after my cousin returned to her home. We will never forget the reverence we witnessed, unaware of the reverence we lacked. We know that we were not the first to notice this. Ever since the accident, the family of this cousin has grown immensely in their faith lives. Anyone who knows of the healing process after the accident cannot deny that God played a major role in my cousin’s life. The pain and the burden of the car crash brought about a whole new meaning to life that we did not grasp before. My mentally handicapped, high maintenance, manipulative cousin who rarely stops talking, taught us more than she could ever imagine.
She inspired me.
And she still does.
Editor’s Note: This blog is part of a series of blogs that relate to our 2014 theme Inspire[d]. If you would like to submit about a blog about an Inspire[d] story that you have, please see these guidelines.