Never Say Never

By Grant Bentley

If any nice person, nasty person, place, event, happening, thing, or sport seems familiar, it is purely coincidental.

Never. That’s what the doctor said. Never. I was stunned. I just lay there devastated in total disbelief. How could that be possible? I was only 16. I played hockey on the provincial championship team. I played soccer and basketball. I skateboarded. I won a gold medal in the 100m and in the 400m relay at the provincial high school track meet. I raced my dirt bike every weekend. I was a hero to most of my high school classmates. I had it all. And, now I had just been told…never.

I’ve fallen down, been knocked down, been thrown down, been jumped on when I was down. Hell, I’ve spent half my life flat on my back looking up. Then, a week ago, all I did was slip on some ice and fall backwards onto our front steps. I shouldn’t have even got a bruise. A scraped elbow maybe, but this? No, they were wrong. They had to be. I mean, fuck, there was no way this was happening to me…no fucking way.

I hit my left thigh as hard as I could and…nothing. I felt nothing. I just lay my head back and screamed. I think every nurse, orderly, doctor, and a few patients on the 5th floor came running into my room to see what the hell was going on. I completely lost it. I sobbed. I cried. I swore. I threw anything I could get my hands on across the room. People were trying to grab my arms and restrain me but I was so angry, I was having none of that. Suddenly I felt a sharp pinprick in my left arm and then everything started to fade and get blurry.

The next time I was aware of anything, I saw my parents slowly come into focus. My dad looked terrible and my mom looked like she had been crying for a week. They both gave me a weak smile and Mom sat on the side of my hospital bed and gave me a little hug.

“How are you feeling?” Dad asked.

I just stared at him as the tears started again. I was back in Mom’s arms in an instant and Dad took my hand and squeezed it. We stayed like that for…I don’t know how long. Finally Mom released her hold on me and sat up. We remained quiet for several minutes. I don’t think any of us quite knew what to say.

Finally, I responded to my dad’s question. “I don’t know how I’m feeling right now. I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel. They said never, Dad. I’m never going to be able to walk again. I’ll never be able to do any of the things I used to do, any of the things I love to do. It’s like my life just ended, but I’m still here.”

“Oh, honey,” was all Mom said, as she brushed the hair from my forehead.

It was at that moment that Justin walked into the room. The second my eyes met his I was in tears again. This time, Mom slid out of the way and I was wrapped in his strong arms.

Somewhere off in the distance, I heard Dad say, “Mom and I going to go for a coffee and grab a bite to eat. We’ll stop by a little later before we go home,” he said. I glanced at them and nodded.

When Justin finally released his hold on me, I looked into his eyes and asked, “What’s going to happen now?”

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“They said never Justin. I don’t think I can do never,” I said quietly through my tears.

“First, it’s not ‘I’, Kent, it’s ‘WE’, and together we can do anything. And, just so you know, it’s always going to be ‘WE’. I love you so much man,” he responded quietly as his arms gently wrapped around me and pulled me close again.

“I know you do and I love you too, but they said never Justin. We won’t be able to do any of the things we used to do, none of them,” I said.

“Then we’ll do other things. But, whatever we do, we’ll do it together,” he said.

“You’re not gonna get bored with me?” I asked.

“One thing you will never be is boring,” he said with a chuckle.

“But they said never, Justin. I’m never gonna play hockey, never gonna play soccer, never gonna play basketball, never gonna ride my bike or my board again…never. Fuck, Justin, I’m never gonna walk again…never,” I stated as the tears started again. This time he didn’t pull me into a hug. Instead he wiped away my tears with his thumbs, placed his hands on my shoulders, held me at arms length, and looked directly into my eyes.

“If you think like that, you’ve defeated yourself before you even leave the hospital,” he said, “Remember the videos we watched of Aaron Fotheringham at the skate parks in his wheelchair? How impressed we were by his strength, determination, and skill. How being in a wheelchair didn’t even slow him down. You’re just as strong, determined, and athletic as he is. There’s no reason in the world you couldn’t be as good as him. And, then there’s wheelchair hockey, basketball, soccer, even rugby. There’s nothing you won’t be able to do.”

“I don’t know, Justin,” I said.

“Well I do,” he replied with a determined edge to his voice, “And I never want to hear you say never again. For you and me, there is no such thing as never.”

“No such thing? I asked.

“Nope, no such thing,” he replied as he smiled, leaned forward, and gently kissed me.

I have to say I wasn’t totally convinced, but I loved him so much and he was so positive and so determined, I took his word for it. Three years later, with his continual love, encouragement and support, I will be one of the youngest paralympic athletes to compete in both the summer and winter games. I am currently on the paralympic basketball team preparing for the 2012 summer games in London, and I am also on the ice sledge hockey team preparing for the 2014 winter games in Sochi.

And…even though we’ve spent countless hours at the skate park, I haven’t attempted Aaron’s wheelchair back flip yet, but never say never.


If you feel you need a little inspiration, see one meaning of never say never by checking out Aaron’s Wheelchair Backflip VII and the rest of his website too while you’re there.