When it was announced in 2005 that the Olympics would be coming to London, few thought of the fact that we would also be hosting the Paralympics. Fast-forward to 2012 and this competition has been the revelation of the summer.
The courage of the athletes, shorn of what so many of us are ‘blessed’ to take for granted, has proved to be an eye-opening inspiration, helping the public to see the individuals behind the disabilities. A children’s physiotherapist commented that the Paralympics had caused her to revaluate just what her patients might be capable of if given the right opportunities.
Antoinette Anthony-Pillai had to confront just such a question when she experienced severe brain injury at the foundational age of 21. Like many of the Paralympians she had been leading a very ‘normal’ life until circumstance intervened. One moment she had been a brilliant medical student with a flourishing career ahead of her, the next she was facing years of painstaking rehabilitation and absolute uncertainty about who she was and might yet become.
In her book, The Never Ending Journey, Antoinette chronicles her experience of seeking to find identity and purpose in a world that struggles to understand and accommodate difference. Displaced from her home as a child when she and her family were forced to leave Sri Lanka due to the bloody civil war, Antoinette had already had to forge a new identity in her early years but this was different. Step by step Antoinette had to relinquish dearly-held dreams and ambitions, the extent of her brain trauma becoming ever more apparent to her as she successively ‘failed’ to be ‘normal’. However, through this process she came to a deeper recognition of her intrinsic worth through the ministrations of her family and the comfort of her God.
For many of the Paralympic competitors, the nation’s enthusiastic response to London 2012, the full stadiums and heartfelt interest, has given meaning to years of training and hard-work, enabling them to imbue their often hidden struggles with irrevocable value. Their individual stories, like that of Antoinette, serve to bring hope and encouragement to all who are experiencing difficulties. The Never Ending Journey is not a catalogue of despair and misery but rather a record of the triumph of the human spirit over staggering adversity. Like the athletes many of us have become familiar with in recent weeks, Antoinette’s whole person shines through all she does, making The Never Ending Journey a witty, down-to-earth and engaging book that will serve as an inspiration to all who read it.
The Never Ending Journey is published by Instant Apostle, a new publishing venture set up in April of this year to give voice to new writers with original, authentic and thought-provoking messages. For more information about The Never Ending Journey and other Instant Apostle publications please visit their website www.instantapostle.com, or Amazon where Antoinette’s book is available in both paperback and Kindle editions.
The Paralympics and The Never Ending Journey
Published 18 September 2012 | Nigel Freeman