Sunday, May 20, 2012
On Hatteberg's People, it is a story Wichitian Jeanne Gordon has never before told publicly. In 2006, she and her 27-year-old daughter Gabriele were on a bicycle ride when they were hit by a pickup truck. Gabriele was killed and Jeanne was critically injured and is now a quadriplegic. For the past six years, Jeanne and her family have rebuilt her life around a faith so strong it is contagious.
"I am not going to let this get the best of me. And I am the same person, the same wife, the same mother, the same friend. I'm just in a wheel chair," said Gordon.
In an instant, Jeanne's life changed tragically. Gabriele was gone and Jeanne was paralyzed from the neck down.
"About a week before the accident, Gabriele and I were riding our bikes and sometimes we'd pray. Sometimes we'd talk. Sometimes we would just be quiet. And I had a moment where I was talking to God and I said, 'Okay Lord, what do you want me to do in my life? I'm at a point where I just want to do your will. What can it be?' And one week later, the accident happened."
Jeanne now lives in the lower level of her home. Her bedroom used to be a living room. In it, she is surrounded by the statues of her faith. Six years ago, as she regained consciousness from the accident, her thoughts weren't what you would expect.
"I had such peace, a peace that just overrode everything. And I knew that I was doing what God wanted me to do, and I knew exactly where Gabriele was because she had been living her life beautifully for God."
From her bedroom, Jeanne can see the garden she tended before the accident.
"One of the first things I do is sit here, look out into the yard and the bird feeders. I can watch the birds in the morning. It is like the Audubon Society out here. But here I say my morning prayers. I have all sorts of things tacked on the window here."
After the accident, Jeanne discovered she had an artistic talent for mouth-stick painting. Her aides put a paint brush attached to a stick in her mouth and magic happens.
"I would describe my art as God granting me a creative outlet. Because I was creative and had projects going all the time, but I had never painted before, and I think he just said, 'You know, I think we're going to let you have this talent.'"
She began painting during her rehabilitation at a Denver hospital. An activities director attached a paint brush to a dowel rod.
"And I tried drawing just a little violet... and it worked. It was like 'Oh, yes!'"
At Blessed Sacrament School, one of Jeanne's joys is helping to teach the children how to paint. They are fascinated with her. For Jean, these times are special.
"I love it. There isn't anything better than little people, to see them expressing themselves."
Jeanne's husband's Russ, who is also the owner of Brick's Clothing in Wichita, now takes care of her garden along with neighbors who pitch in to help.
"I do not know what I would do without all the support of the community and the church, the kids, my friends. People are still bringing us dinner, and that's a big part of it. I feel so blessed, and so grateful."
You can see Jeanne's artwork at her website www.mouthstickart.com. You can also contact her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.