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More From Johnny Nelson

November 12, 2021 by Johnny Nelson (Texas, USA)
Mary and I, Christmas 2011, just months
after the accident

Our growing family during a recent
Christmas spent together


Mary and I now, playing tennis together on
a recent visit to my home in Texas

My sister’s car accident and her traumatic brain injury still feel fresh for me and my family, though almost a decade has passed since the events I described in my meditation for today. She beat doctors’ predictions, coming out of a coma several weeks after they gave her a bleak prognosis for even living through the first night.

It has been a long road of recovery since then. First Mary needed to be transported back to our home in Ohio, where she could undergo rigorous physical therapy with the support of loved ones. She relearned to walk after several painstaking months of building back muscle and adjusting to new limitations. Then came speech therapy, where she worked to overcome the severe aphasia caused by a frontal lobe injury. After years of different clinics, medications, and out-patient treatments, along with the enduring dedication of my parents, my sister Mary has made a near-full physical recovery. And she continues to progress in relearning communication skills and piecing together sentences. It has been a truly remarkable journey that has tested the faith of all of us at various times. But ultimately, the trials have drawn our family closer together and have strengthened our commitment to one another and to God.

I was not physically present in the early days of horror when my parents and siblings woke every morning (if they slept at all) wondering whether Mary would live from day to day, whether she would come out of a coma, whether life would ever be the same. I returned home about a month after the accident and helped out as we got Mary’s therapy started and adjusted to our new reality. But I continued with my studies, and I still do not live close to home, having found a job at a college far from my parents and Mary. There are still moments when I feel guilty for not being closer geographically. Yet I continue to rely on the story of the centurion to help me remember that prayer works no matter the distance and that faith in our healing Savior cannot be limited by mere geography. By praying constantly, encouraging one another in Christ, and maintaining a steady belief that Jesus continues to work in Mary’s life and in the lives of my now-extended family, my parents, siblings, and I continue to take comfort in the centurion’s exemplary faith.

When I wrote and submitted my meditation nearly two years ago, it was before the pandemic. At the time, I wondered whether my story would truly resonate beyond my own lived experience of being far from a loved one in peril. But since then, countless people have faced the challenges of isolation, sick relatives, and prolonged distance. In some way, we have all been forced to grapple with supporting and praying for those we love even if we cannot reach them physically. I hope that the example of the centurion, who had faith in Jesus even at a distance, encourages us all to continue to pray for those we love, whether they are close at hand or a world away.


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