Have you ever noticed how many people in the world around you are
generally unhappy? Have you ever noticed that of those people none of
them believe they have any control over this fact - worse they have long
ago accepted the role of victim and the possibility of change is not even
open for consideration! Even practicing witches who presumably
understand and embrace the very principles that support the power of
individuals to create through clear intention and will fail to see their
power and influence on their own small world. They succumb to a
pattern of choices and never realize that it is, indeed, a matter of choice.
I was talking the other day with a friend about the this very topic and I found myself sharing with her about my Uncle David to drive home the point that no matter how difficult our circumstances, human beings can prevail and that it is INDEED all a matter of making a conscious decision to take control of the world - from the inside. David’s story is the perfect example of how even when life deals us a hand which would appear to be so random and so unfair, we still have the ability to make of it what we Will. The amazing story of David’s life could fill volumes, but I feel confident it will only take these few paragraphs to inspire and motivate you - hopefully to claim your own place of power and choice if you have not already done so.
My Uncle David was born in 1954 with multiple handicaps likely a result
of in-utero thalidomide exposure or possibly his mother's exposure to
German measles. Both occurred in the first trimester of her pregnancy. He
had heart and spinal deformities, and only one finger on each hand and
one toe on each foot. Doctors advised he would not likely live long as
there was no way to know exactly how extensive his handicaps actually
To further complicate his young life, he was born to a mother whose husband abandoned her along with his two older siblings at a time when there was no legislature requiring a man to support his children. Life was anything but fair or easy for David and his family.
In the early 1960‘s David had one of the very first successful open heart surgeries to repair his heart defects. From birth, pain and needles were a weekly part of Davids life.
His mother no doubt had a tremendous influence on his attitudes and self-perception, for she refused to treat him as if he were disabled. He had chores and responsibilities just like her other children. When it was time, he attended the public schools with everyone else. In high school he cut grass to help with household expenses and to save for college even though the stress on his deformed feet caused him great pain.
David learned to play the trombone and the harmonica and he marched in his high school and college bands. Later in life he participated in a local orchestra.
He loved sports though his physical limitations prevented him from playing. Rather than not be involved at all, he worked with the teams as a water boy and locker room attendant. His high school team eventually voted him “team captain.”
David was a scholar and finished both high school and college with a 4.0 grade point average. He taught himself to type so that he would not have to pay someone to do it for him. He accurately typed 35 words per minute with his two little fingers.
David was an aggressive defender of the weak. He loved animals and he loved his family. He gave creative names to each of his siblings and nieces and nephews. No family gathering was complete without David. When the small children of the family showed concern for his lack of fingers and toes he explained that he was just different! “God makes everyone different, right?” Then he would patiently let them examine his hands and laugh with them about how his finger looked so much like a hook.
When he met someone, he never hesitated to look them in the eye with a smile on his face and offer his handshake. Knowing this frequently made people uncomfortable, he would initiate conversation with a joke and a smile, quickly putting them at ease. David knew no enemies because he was such an incredible friend.
David’s professional life had a bumpy start, too. After his graduation from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1976, he initially planned to pursue a career in television. He was 22 years old and devoutly Christian and this fact likely influenced his goal to work for the 700 Club based in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He mailed in his resume and his first interviews were over the phone. All of the interviewers were highly impressed with David. He was intelligent, articulate, poised, and had a very quick wit. He was told the decision to hire him had been made, but they needed to fly him up and formalize the process with an in-person interview. They would show him around and help him find a place to live while he was there.
When he arrived at the airport and extended his hand in welcome, his host showed no shame in his prejudice. “You are handicapped! Why did you not tell me this on the phone?!” he exclaimed. David chuckled in response, so very used to the shock of those who had never met him before, and assured him that he was indeed NOT handicapped. He shared with the 700 Club executive that he could do any and all tasks required of him, but the interview was over. The public was “simply not ready for a host with deformities on the 700 Club!” It was probably the most difficult challenge of David’s life because it was one which pushed him to deal with issues not of his own choosing, but those of others who could not see him as he saw himself. It was the first time I remember David having trouble releasing what he could not change ... he was openly, and justly, angry.
After a few months of sulking, David rebounded. He found a career, like everyone else, but it was to be in radio. Eventually he married and bought a home.
Life was to never be easy for David. The older he got the more curved his spine became. Then he developed compression fractures in his already unstable vertebrae. He suffered migraines throughout his life and in adulthood they worsened and became more frequent. By age 30 he began having seizures, too. This, he learned, was due to neurological abnormalities.
Eventually, at age 42, an MRI revealed that his odontoid process (a little bone which connects the C2 vertebrae to the C1) was beginning to press into his brain stem. The doctors said this was causing his headaches and likely worsening the seizures. He was incapacitated with pain almost 100% of the time. Doctors advised a trans-oral odontoidectomy ... a delicate and dangerous surgery rarely performed. The risks of surgery were high, but without it, they said, he would live with the pain and as if he had a loaded gun to his head. A stumble, fall, or fender bender could cause the odontoid process to impale his brain stem. It would kill him instantly.
David faced his fears, and comforted his family who were terrified of losing him. Two weeks before the surgery, he wrote us each a letter sharing his confidence in his doctors, the Divine, and in a greater purpose in which he was just playing one small role and wrapped it all with his special brand of humor. The surgery was a success, but one month later complications took him anyway.
There is not a doubt in my mind David was put on this earth to teach by example. I was incredibly blessed, and, yes, incredibly privileged to have called him family and to have known him so intimately. David was only seven years my senior, but he seemed to always be aware that his young life, attitudes and choices he made, profoundly effected the world around him.
The little church where he worshiped did not have enough seating for the multitude which attended his funeral. They had to place speakers outside so that everyone could hear the memorial service. I will never forget how amazing it was to me that one man who had barely left the relatively small community of Asheville, North Carolina, had impacted eleven hundred people enough for them to stand in the rain on that cold Thanksgiving weekend to honor his memory.
It is likely that out of all those who loved David so very much, few really knew what it was about David that made him so special. Some would say it was that he loved so perfectly or that the words “self pity” were not in his vocabulary, but I think it was that David lived his life with a joyful attitude of personal responsibility. He had REAL perfect love and perfect trust that the universe works the way it is supposed to and he embraced the power that was his alone. David chose not to be a victim … he chose to be happy. He created his world in spite of incredible adversity not of his own making. He took responsibility for his choices and owned his life, difficulties and all. Maybe the most important thing to say about David, however, is that he lived consciously.
Whether by default or conscious decision, we make choices every single day. We either claim our power or give it away. This is the real power of the Witch - to live conscious of our choices and know that we are the true masters of our Universe. Adversity is often simply an opportunity for greatness given to an ordinary person.
Elaanie Stormbender is a celebrated witch who tirelessly dedicates her time and energy to teaching the old ways in a new format. She is a wife and mother, a Priestess of the Temple Tradition, and the founder and High Priestess of Hecate’s Cauldron.
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