91: Getting Up Again

91: Getting Up Again

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Tough Times, Tough People

Getting Up Again

Every day is an opportunity to make a new happy ending.

~Author Unknown

I am a firm believer that no one is given a burden they are not capable of handling. But there was a time in my life when the number of burdens that fell on my shoulders seemed so overwhelming that I didn’t think I’d ever be able to get up again and recover from them.

My wife and I had been making a decent living working together at a private business school. It was Christmas, and we were looking forward to the yearly bonus we always got on the last working day of the year. When that day came and went and we received nothing, I began to get nervous. When I went down to find out what was going on, I found out things were even worse than I’d feared. The school’s owner had disappeared with all the school funds, and left everyone holding the bag.

Not only did we not get a bonus, but we didn’t get paid for the month. We couldn’t collect unemployment because the owner couldn’t be found. The bills began to mount quickly. We were suddenly in debt up to our ears, and were in danger of losing the house we were renting. I scrambled to find another job, but times were tough, and there were no teaching jobs to be found. I had to get three part-time jobs to make ends meet.

Around that time, I applied for a teaching job at a private school and was hired. Things began to look hopeful just as the last of our money was eaten up. Then the week before I was to start teaching I began getting sharp pains in my chest. I’d developed pneumonia from overwork and stress, and I thought that was the cause. But one night just before bed I felt a huge weight slam down on my chest. I was rushed to the hospital where the doctors told my wife my aorta had ruptured and my chances of survival were very, very slim. I slipped into a coma. My family began to prepare for my death.

But I didn’t die. Somehow, through endless prayer, I came out of the coma, and though the doctors said they couldn’t operate because of my condition, I survived. I left the hospital two weeks later with all the experts telling me I would be disabled for the rest of my life. Lying at home on the sofa, wracked with intense pain, through the haze of dozens of pills, I pondered what to do.

I’d always been taught that when life knocks you down, you gather your strength and get back up. That’s what I did. My wife and I worked every day to help make me stronger. I was under orders not to strain myself at all, but life is a great motivator, and I had a family to take care of. I got back on my feet and went looking for a job.

By that time I’d lost the teaching job I’d originally been offered, and had to start over. We were broke, I was sick, and we’d used up all the resources we had. Family and friends offered what they could.

My wife worked part time from home while I began work as a substitute teacher. I went back to college to get my public school teaching certification. Each day I crawled home and fell into bed, exhausted, in pain, and praying I’d make it through another day. The process seemed to go on forever, and we barely got by. We put off creditors, worked with our landlord, and found every odd job we could. I put one foot in front of the other and kept going.

Finally, two years after my visit to the hospital, I walked across the stage at my graduation and got my teaching certificate. I was stronger, and more determined than ever to make it. I got a job teaching at an elementary school and prayed that I would be well enough to keep it. The first year was rough, but our prayers were answered and I found myself able to handle the load. I decided that if some education was good, then more was even better. I kept on going to college in the evenings.

Now, years later, I am still teaching. I also write, having pursued that dream for a long time and finally seeing some success. I am in a Ph.D program and we are working to recover from all the debt we accrued from school and my illness. My wife and I have faced other challenges since then, but together we know we’ll be able to handle anything life brings us, because we’ll face it together, in faith and love, and with the knowledge that as long as we can get up again, we’ll always be able to find a way to make things better.

~John P. Buentello

More stories from our partners