On the morning of December 10, 1996, Jill Bolte Taylor, a 37-year old neuroanatomist, experienced a massive stroke in the left side of her brain. She observed her own mind deteriorate to the point that she could not walk, talk, read, write, or recall any of her life. In her 2006 book entitled My Stroke of Insight, Taylor shares her unique perspectives on the brain and its capacity for recovery. The human brain has tremendous ability to change its connections based upon its incoming stimulations. This ‘neuro-plasticity’ underlies its ability to recover lost functions.
It would take eight years for Taylor to heal completely. In her book she emphasizes that recovery, however you define it, is not something one can do alone: “My recovery was completely influenced by everyone around me. I desperately needed people to treat me as though I would recover completely. Regardless of whether it would take three months, two years, 20 years, or a lifetime, I needed people to have faith in my continued ability to learn, heal, and grow.”
I am grateful to literally hundreds of medical and rehabilitation professionals, family members, congregants, ministerial colleagues, and friends for their sustaining messages of encouragement. These messages have been essential at every step in reminding me: “You are not alone.” I am deeply grateful to you all, as the journey continues. I am so blessed to be significantly on the way to a full recovery.
I offer a personal appreciation to Dr. Scott Rome, Medical Director at the California Pacific Medical Center, who oversees a staff of over 800 rehabilitation specialists and who served as my doctor during my 23 days of in-patient rehabilitation. He and a colleague composed a remarkable poem entitled “Mind to Heart”, one which they present to each of their patients. I offer Dr. Rome’s words to each of you as well:
Mind to Heart
Yesterday the clay cracked but did not break.
They made promises over cookies and tea.
And summoned mind and steel to break the spell.
Your maple leaf dreams fell as tears.
While they made promises over cookies and tea.
Yesterday we were lost in fallow fields
Where maple leaf dreams fell as tears
And songs echoed in the empty well.
Yesterday, while we were lost in fallow fields
Lost memories sowed new seeds.
From an empty well sages cried
To clouds for promises of rain.
Today lost memories sow more seeds;
We banish mind to heart and weave a spell.
The sages sing from the empty well,
And those seeds grow where the rain once fell.
Scott Rome, MD
Finally, I enthusiastically encourage you to join me and several dozen others on Saturday, February 7th at the church from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm for the workshop entitled “Understanding and Analyzing Systemic Racism”, sponsored by our church’s ARAOMC (Anti-Racism, Anti-Oppression, Multicultural) Committee. The workshop facilitators will include Dr. Jo Ann Mundy, Executive Director of ERAC/CE (Eliminating Racism and Claiming / Celebrating Equality). If you were in church January 18, you will appreciate how Jo Ann’s compelling message and spirited singing brought a strong sense of re-commitment to our Sunday service. Please join us for this important opportunity. Registration forms are on the kiosk in the foyer, and on the church website. The workshop is specifically designed to:
Explore common language and definitions to understand the continuing issue of racism throughout our country;
Introduce an understanding of racism as a systemic issue, and not simply an issue of individual attitudes and actions;
Explore approaches to dismantling racism that can provide the foundation for enduring solutions that lead to true racial justice and racial reconciliation.
Finally, my thanks to you all for your continuing encouragement as I resume normal routines at the church. I am deeply grateful to be serving you during this transition year.
Drive safely, and step cautiously, if you need to be out and around. Best wishes, as mid-winter arrives. See you in church.
Rev. Dave Johnson, Interim Minister, People’s Church of Kalamazoo, 2014-2015
cell phone: 269-330-8495