34: Reaching for the Sky

34: Reaching for the Sky

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Recovering from Traumatic Brain Injuries

Reaching for the Sky

One may walk over the highest mountain one step at a time.

~Barbara Walters

It was so difficult. We inched our way up, climbing the Snake Path of Masada, a fortress in the mountains of ancient Israel where the Jewish people held off the Roman emperor’s army for three years. As in the days of Masada, my trip up the Snake Path was arduous. However, I kept reminding myself as I ascended with my father, “The easy things in life are usually not worth doing.”

I had learned that lesson the hard way. I had been shot in the head at the young age of nineteen, causing a traumatic brain injury. I did survive with much help and determination. Some say I have turned surviving into thriving, but I just try. I have disabilities as a result of the injury; however, I believe that all human beings have their own challenges and disabilities.

I kept repeating that statement to myself as I attempted to climb the steep mountain. There were many places on the path where there was not enough room for both my father (who was holding me tightly) and me to climb side by side. My father, therefore, held me perhaps even tighter as he followed me slowly up the path.

As we climbed higher and higher, I was also remembering how difficult it had been to train for this climb. Months before, my father and I would climb the twenty-five flights of stairs at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital in Houston. At the end of several months of training we had reached the point where we were climbing the hospital stairs three times in a row. Because of that routine, I was breathing easily as I climbed much of the mountain, as I was basically in good shape. (There were times when my father and I were having difficulty breathing, but it was because of tension and strained nerves, not lack of conditioning.)

But as we approached the top of the Snake Path a broad smile came over my face. It did not matter how much I was hurting; also, it did not matter that we were thousands of miles away from our home in Houston. Actually, for a brief moment in time nothing seemed to matter at all, except that I was accomplishing my goal—climbing the steep fortress of Masada.

Just then, as I was twenty steps from the summit, I heard a group of Israeli soldiers at the top of Masada all applauding my achievement. I was so proud, not because I had climbed Masada and not because Israeli soldiers had applauded my accomplishment, but because I had achieved my goal.

Everyone in life has his own mountains to climb, some big, some small—but mountains nonetheless. I believe the important thing in a person’s life is trying to overcome one’s obstacles. I thought about that as I reached the very top of Masada—and then I collapsed for a few minutes. Lying with my face on the ground I thought: “I did it. I did it.” But I quickly realized that I had many more and different goals still to reach. I smiled and thought, “Which one is next?”

~Michael Jordan Segal, MSW

You are currently enjoying a preview of this book.

Sign up here to get a Chicken Soup for the Soul story emailed to you every day for free!

Please note: Our premium story access has been discontinued (see more info).

view counter

More stories from our partners