Two brave fighters

Patients battle adversity with inspiring, indomitable human spirit

It’s not often that you can so plainly witness the defiant, transcendent power of the human spirit.

But the Augusta area has glimpsed two inspiring examples of it in recent weeks and days.

First there’s Aimee Copeland, the Snellville graduate student who’s garnered international attention while battling a severe flesh-killing infection from a nasty cut on her leg from a May 1 makeshift zip-line accident. Despite nearly dying, and losing a leg, foot and hands to amputation, Aimee and her family have maintained a glorious and unerringly optimistic air at Doctors Hospital’s Joseph M. Still Burn Center.

She was even making jokes May 27, after only recently regaining the ability to talk.

“I was so excited,” her father Andy Copeland posted online after hearing at church that she was talking again, “I wanted to spring up out of the pew and into the aisle and do a dance. My fellow Baptists probably would not have appreciated that, so I resisted the urge. Instead, my fingers danced across my phone.

“She knows everything is going to be fine. We know everything is going to be fine. We all know it is going to be a long and challenging road, but we will handle it together.”

How often do you come across such otherworldly conviction and down-to-earth pluck? This family has something to teach the world.

More recently, Aiken boxer Paul “The Punisher” Williams, paralyzed from the waist down in a motorcycle accident May 27 in Marietta, is sounding utterly unbowed.

“I’m going to be walking, I know that. That’s how I feel,” he’s been quoted. “If I can’t walk, then, oh well, hakuna matata,” he added, borrowing a phrase from Disney’s The Lion King that means “no worries.”

“I’ll be on a boat fishing.”

He even chuckled in saying it.

Earlier, Williams was quoted as telling his manager, “If I never box again, I’ll do some stand-up comedy.” We’re not sure if the irony was intended. But we wouldn’t be surprised.

Granted, Williams may not know what’s in front of him. Though 41-2 in the boxing ring, he’s never faced a more daunting foe. And one caution: Positive thinking is most effective when based in reality; otherwise, it risks sliding into delusion and, when reality hits, despair.

Still, who’s to tell this man what reality is? And nothing may be more important in one’s recovery from a serious setback than an intrepid, steadfast, hopeful outlook.

But the battles these two fighters are waging are even bigger than both of them. In overcoming what they can – and merely in attempting it with the kind of bravado and spunk that flows straight from the soul – they have the capacity to lift up countless others through example.

It is beautifully and uniquely a human quality, infused with the divine, that allows someone who can’t even walk on his own to carry others to the summit.

God bless these two on that arduous journey.

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