Words for Robert

By Mark E. Smith


People too often underestimate the power of words – the absurd, the reverbs. Words really can define the direction of one’s life, changing it from dark to light, from day to night, from blind to sight.


A few words can inspire, liberate, desire to be one’s best. However, to the contrary, words can also defeat, destroy, debilitate, make one’s life a mess. I mean, what we’re told by others, we often believe – heart on a sleeve – sometimes we’re left to flourish, sometimes we’re left to bleed. And, it’s for these reasons why we must choose every word carefully, deliberately, thoughtfully, where our words positively impact, not negatively detract.


I recently read a charitable letter – words striving for the better – about someone we’ll call “Robert,” and it sang a tune straight to the heart, that wasn’t an end, but a kick-start:

Though the doctors said there was little chance that he would walk again, our family refused to accept this devastating prognosis. We began doing research, determined to move Heaven and Earth to make Robert whole again.


In those two sentences are words that made me realize something that I’d never had the courage to admit to myself before: I’m not a whole person, just a partial equip. See, the fact that I’ve never walked makes me incomplete, a lesser person, someone not whole, my existence a burden. And, after fully realizing those few words in that eloquent, poignant charity letter, I understood how worthless I am, how meaningless of life I live – I am useless, a never-do-better. And, it’s devastating to my core, a struggle to live with myself like this – a fragment of a man, deserving dismiss. I mean, can you imagine the pain that my daughter has endured, being raised by me, an incomplete father, a lesser person, someone not whole, to be abhorred? How could I let my disability do this to her? And, how much suffering have I caused my family, friends, colleagues, and community? And, as for the women in my life who have come and gone, who can blame them – they deserve better than half of a man, me.

As one who cannot walk, who’s not whole – whose incompleteness has let everyone down – I have one thing to say from the depths of my heart, to write down: I am sorry for who I am, I regret who I am, and forgive me, Father, for what I’m not, not living to what life expects. Words can never express all of my regrets.


And, yet, those words, you see, aren’t me – I am whole, complete, and worthy, regardless of disability. However, here’s the question that truly terrifies me: If Robert is hearing such words from his family – Unless you walk, you’re not whole, you are not worthy – does he believe them?


Author: Mark E. Smith

The literary side of the WheelchairJunkie

5 thoughts on “Words for Robert”

    1. Excellent goods from you, man. I have take into account your stuff prior to and you are siplmy too magnificent. I actually like what you’ve received here, certainly like what you are stating and the way in which by which you are saying it. You make it enjoyable and you still take care of to keep it wise. I can’t wait to read much more from you. That is actually a great web site.

  1. Beautifully said, Mark, but I can’t help feeling that you’re probably preaching to the converted. This message has to go out to the mainstream of society for perceptions of disability to change and that includes our own self-images.

    Maria Dewan

  2. That statement from the letter, that I know is intended to be strong an inspirational, absolutely breaks my heart. I’ve never seen, and experienced such wholeness, until Annabelle, and this beautiful community that she has made us a part of. Some of the most ABLE bodied people I have ever met ( you being one of them ). Like I told you today, I’ve never been surfing, but my three year old wheeler has been three times! Several of the people that we have met who did not have a disability, and then were injured into this community, ended up doing way more with their life than they had before the disability. So amazing how a disability can actually enABLE a person. I’ve been awe struck by it time after time in the last few years. I am afraid of how I might react if anyone were to imply ( and I’m sure they will – many have asked if she’ll ever walk ) to me or to HER, that our Annie is not whole. You have certainly said things on reacting and choosing your battles that have resonated with me. By no means do I want to raise her to be on the bitter defense. But sometimes, WORDS warrant WORDS. I pray that “Robert” does not believe them. Thank you Mark. I LOVE your words.

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