By Gracie Rosenberger ©1998 Copyright Gracie Rosenberger - Used with Permission - All Rights Reserved. UpBeat and the UpBeat logo are service-marks of Rainbow Productions
Have you ever been rock climbing, played basketball, or gone skiing? Many people might take for granted their ability to enjoy these activities -- but not Gracie Rosenberger. She has a fantastic outlook on life, and used that optimism and driving spirit to overcome what many would call a tragedy. UpBeat discovered Gracie through our Website and now would like to share her story with you...
At seventeen, I thought as most do, that I was immortal and life would mold itself to my plans. Nature gave me a fierce drive and a love for adventure, so I approached every activity with a 'mission.' Life had not been easy for me. I was born with severe eye problems that led to five surgeries by the time I was six years old. When I started school, my eyes caused me to have a reading disability that went undiagnosed for some time. My teachers felt I needed to be in remedial or special education classes. Fortunately, one progressive teacher, and my determined mother, helped me find the correct path and I graduated from high school a year early with a 4.0 GPA. That tenacity showed itself in every aspect of my life. I lived 'to conquer' and up to that point, I had been successful. My constant striving to push myself faced a seemingly immovable obstacle at the end of my seventeenth year.
On November 18, 1983, while a freshman at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, I had a devastating car accident. Over fifty bones were broken, and most were crushed. Medical personnel were surprised that I even lived. I lost all control over my highly disciplined life. Worse yet, my own body was unable to respond to the simplest commands without protesting with searing pain. All the lofty goals I had set for my life vanished only to be replaced with the goal of survival. Everything seemed unattainable, the simplest task, such as feeding myself, or sitting up in bed. A hope of walking again appeared bleak To the amazement of many (including me) I did improve. I pushed myself to the limits during physical therapy, and I willed myself to walk. Eventually though, the damage in my legs won out and I lost my right leg in 1991, and the left in 1995.
I no longer 'live to conquer'. I conquer life by simply 'living'!
Fourteen years later, over fifty operations, and two amputations, I have learned to set new goals and dreams. Never again will I be able to ski down a slope as fast as I can to be first, but I can ski. Now the thrill of being the fastest or the first has been replaced with the joy of being able to reach the bottom of the run at all. (Although, I train every Winter with the goal of 'down-hill' Gracie shoots the hoopsracing!) I don't run up stairs or jog three miles a day anymore, but I can walk to the mail box, play basketball with my children, and even walk out stage to sing for an hour concert. However, I will not EVER give up on the possibility of running up stairs or jogging again! To me, that would be just like giving up on myself, because those things are apart of who I am.
Understandably, each step I take and each activity I try with these state of the art prosthetics, IS A THRILL, not only for me, but also for my husband and two sons! Just over two years have passed since I became a double amputee, and I am still pushing myself. However, I no longer 'live to conquer'. I conquer life by simply 'living'! I "live" by savoring the experience of such things as racing an ATV on remote mountain trails. I "live" by drinking in the freedom of being on a snow mobile in the cold mountain air, or skiing downhill, feeling the exhilaration of doing something that few people ever thought would be possible for me to do.
Recently, I have even taken on a new challenge--something I have ALWAYS wanted to do, but since my accident was reluctant to mention to anyone rock climbing! People ask me "why on earth would you even WANT to rock-climb? My reply is simple, 'Why not?!" Fighting against that incredible obstacle, going against gravity; I feGracie climbing a rock wallel as if the rock itself represents everything in my life I was either told I SHOULD NOT do, or I WOULD NEVER be able TO DO. I actually climb all by myself. The guys who are helping to train me are at this place called 'Classic Rock'. They bole me loosely so that I am doing the climbing, NOT the rope. The entire time I am climbing, I keep saying to myself, 'I WILL DO THIS, I WILL DO THIS!' Then eventually, everything in me starts shouting 'I CAN DO THIS, I CAN DO THIS!" I am and have always been a "fighter", in the figurative sense of the word. When I climb, I am fighting to conquer so much more than just a mountain or rock. I'm fighting to conquer all the fears I have ever had about being truly ALIVE again.
"why on earth would you even WANT to rock-climb? My reply is simple, 'Why not?!"
As I drink in every moment that air is pumping through this body, I am "living" in present time not looking down the road and "wishing" I could, but experiencing the exhilaration of exceeding "surviving"- right now! One of the guys at 'Classic Rock' talks about THE rock you get to right before reaching the top of a climb: it's that "thank you God rock" you grab hold of when you realize "THIS IS IT! I'm one rock away from victory - I have reached the top, after all the sweaty, grueling work, and I HAVE DONE IT!' My doctor recently told me, 'If there was one activity I would have bet that you could never do, it would have been rock climbing.' There are no words to describe the feeling of proving your doctor wrong! I am doing it! I'm climbing that immovable rock, and I'm reaching the TOP by conquering the option of quitting. Gracie hits the slopes with her husband Peter
Who on Earth knows what other things are on the horizon for me to tackle? Every moment is precious! It sounds like a nursery cliche, and maybe even trite, but when you have literally looked into the abyss of death and known it was NOT your time "to look"; it becomes neither a cliché or trite, it becomes truth! Whether I'm walking out on stage with my husband to perform an hour concert, snow skiing, playing basketball with my sons, coaching first base at little league games, or even rock climbing, the feeling is always the same gratefulness! Because of technology and these wonderful prosthetic legs, I can participate in so many activities previously unavailable for me to even contemplate attempting. Because of perspective, I can unabashedly appreciate them!
April 1998 Big Sky Music 914 Waterswood Drive Nashville, TN 37220 615-292-9964
--Visit the website of Gracie and Peter
UpBeat salutes Grace for her amazing courage and triumphant