Eight Years On: An Exclusive Article by Henry Fraser Author of The Little Big Things
"There is no point dwelling on what might or could have been. The past has happened and cannot be changed; it can only be accepted."
An extraordinary work from an extraordinary individual, The Little Big Things is a unique and inspirational book, a defiant celebration of how to live well in the face of adversity. Paralysed from the shoulders down since the age of seventeen, here author Henry Fraser looks back, eight years on, at the accident that changed his life and what his experiences have taught him about gratitude and learning to see the world with new eyes.
This summer marked 8 years since my accident. 8 years since my life changed forever.
I was on holiday with my mates to celebrate the end of our exams. On the fifth day, surrounded by incredible friends on a hot beautiful beach, I did something I’d done a hundred times over. I ran down the beach and into the sea to what I thought was a good depth and dived forward. I hit my head on the undulating sea bed and dislocated the fourth vertebrae in my neck, leaving me unable to move anything from my neck down.
I spent three weeks in hospital in Portugal where my body and my mind went through an incredibly tough time. My mind was taken to dark places I didn't know existed and my body was taken to the brink of its life. I then spent six months in hospital in England fighting. I had to start again, from learning how to breathe to getting as strong and as healthy as possible.
My life was turned upside down but at some point you just have to let go of what you thought should happen and live in the reality... When you get bad news or circumstances change you have to deal with it. You must ‘accept what is and adapt’ because until you do this you can’t move on, and you end up wasting energy wishing things were better.
Before my accident my life revolved around being active; it was my release. I was a very keen rugby player, but now that release has transformed into something more creative.
Two and half years ago I rediscovered my love and joy of art. I've always loved drawing and painting but I let that love of creativity drift away. For five and a half years I didn't go anywhere near it, until January 2015. I had a sore that meant I was bed bound for a few weeks, and I was getting rather bored until I found an app on my iPad that I could use for drawing by holding a stylus in my mouth. I loved it! When my health had improved I was able to get out of bed and I taught myself how to draw and paint with pencils and paint by attaching the utensils to a mouth stick. Being able to move onto physical pieces felt brilliant. Rediscovering my love for art has opened up a thoroughly enjoyable new chapter in my life. Adversity has given me a gift.
One thing I am often asked is: ‘Given your situation, you must have down days – there must be days when you ask yourself, why me?’ And in answering this I look at whoever asks me the question and I tell them that I wake up every day grateful for everything I have in my life. I look around and think about my incredible family and friends. The life that my parents have given me and my brothers. I get to wake up every day and do a job I love. I get to be challenged to push myself in many ways on many levels and I am always learning, always moving forwards. Not many people can say that and when I look at my life this way, I consider myself very lucky. What do I have to be down about? I have so much to be happy for. Every day is a good day.
There is no point dwelling on what might or could have been. The past has happened and cannot be changed; it can only be accepted. Life is much simpler and much happier when you always look at what you can do, not what you can’t do.