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From the Ashes of My Dreams From the Ashes of My Dreams

Ed Smith

Price: CDN$19.95
Flanker Press
ISBN 1-894463-27-7

Book Description
Ed Smith is a writer of humour From the Ashes of My Dreams is the story of his struggle to come to grips with quadriplegia after a motor vehicle accident, and describes his adventures and misadventures of seventeen months in rehabilitation centres in Newfoundland and Toronto.The author details his frustrations and triumphs and from his own experience offers critical observations on certain aspects of health care.With the help of family and friends, and support from people all across Canada, Ed Smith persevered despite many personal challenges to return to what he loves; family, home and, of course, writing.

From the Ashes of My Dreams is Ed Smith's seventh book. His humour column, ''The View from Here'' has been running in Newfoundland newspapers for more than eighteen years. He is the winner of the International 2001 Gabriel Award for ''writing that uplifts and inspires the human spirit,

About the Author
Ed Smith was born in Newfoundland in 1940. His father was a United Church clergyman, so the family moved from one small outport to another, and young Ed and his sister, Pat, found themselves in several different schools for their secondary school education. Ed finished school before he was old enough to attend university and worked in a bank in Sackville, N. B., where his father was attending university preparatory to be ordained. Ed likes to say he put his father through college.

After two years at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Ed was given a church as a student minister. Three years was enough to convince him that his skills and interests lay in teaching, and he began that career after graduation. In the meantime, Ed and Marion French of St. John's were married in 1963. Ed taught in schools all over Newfoundland, finally settling in Springdale where he and Marion still live. Since that time he has been a high school principal, an assistant superintendent of education, and principal of a college campus in Springdale. Ed retired in 1996, just over two years before the car accident that left him paralyzed from the shoulders down.

It was Marion who encouraged Ed to begin writing a humour column for the local newspaper in 1980. Other papers soon began running the column, so that today "The View from Here" appears in six papers and magazines. In 2001, Ed prepared a series of short radio clips on life with quadriplegia which he wrote and presented on CBC radio. These earned him the International 2001 Gabriel Award for "writing that uplifts and inspires the human spirit," and the 2001 Canadian Nurses' Award for "excellence in writing and broadcasting in the field of health care." Ed has been nominated for the Stephen Leacock Award for humour and has also been recognized by the Atlantic Community Newspapers Association for "hilarious" material. He has also written for the Toronto Star and Reader's Digest.

Ed has found time to write an autobiography of his childhood, Some Fine Times, and Fish n' Ships, a "brief, twisted history" of Newfoundland. Four collections of his columns have also been published. From the Ashes of My Dreams is Ed Smith's seventh book

Ed and Marion Smith have four adult children and six grandchildren.

Winner of the 2003 Newfoundland and Labrador Book Awards - Rogers Cable Non-Fiction Award

Chapter 1

I am conscious only of noise.

I know the Ford Explorer is out of control and plunging down over the embankment because of the noise. The rattling and banging as the vehicle bounces over ground and rocks and trees is deafening. I can see nothing from my prone position in the rear except roof padding. Then I close my eyes tightly. Curiously, I feel no movement, no sense of being thrown around. I know when the vehicle comes to rest because the noise is over.

There is a great silence. I open my eyes and discover several things at once. The upper half of my body is outside the side window and lying on the ground. My right arm is on fire. Already there are excited voices as other motorists climb down from the highway to where we are. I realize we are upside down because lying on my back I can look up and see the wheels. Then a voice comes from inside the car.

"Okay, I'm all right. Is everyone else okay?"

It is the take-charge mode of my youngest daughter's voice. Almost immediately, I hear my wife's response.

"I'm okay." A slight hesitation. "Ed?"

"Yes, I'm fine." And enormously relieved that we have all lived through this with hopefully nothing more than a broken arm.

Men are clambering down over the side of the road and through the snow. They gather around and prepare to lift me completely out of the car. The fiery pain in my right arm is increasing, if that's possible, and I ask them not to touch it. It seems to be broken in several places. And then I'm aware of something else.

"I can't feel my legs." It's a matter-of-fact statement, said to no one in particular. None of the men say anything so I feel obliged to say it again.

"I can't feel my legs." Again, no one seems to notice.

I hear Jennifer trying to get to me through the inside of the car.

"Don't move him," she calls. "Don't move him." She, at least, has heard me.

"We can smell gasoline," a male voice answers. "This thing could explode any minute." And they continue their efforts to get me away from the car.

This time Jennifer's voice is a shout.

"Do not move him!"

The men stop trying to move me. But now I have another concern.

"Is my wife out of the car?"

Jennifer is kneeling beside me on the ground.

"Yes, Dad," she says, "Mom is okay."

Moments pass like lifetimes, like milliseconds. People are talking above me, but no one seems to be talking to me, lying down here on the ground, on the snow. I seem to be a bit player in some vague drama, and I have the ridiculous feeling they've forgotten all about me. Jennifer is talking to me, asking me questions. Am I answering her? I don't know.

Then Marion is bending over me.

"You'll be okay, my love." But there is no conviction in her voice and I know she's only trying to comfort me.

"No, no!" I say desperately, trying to reach out to her, trying to make her understand. "It's not okay. I can't feel my legs. I can't feel anything."

Which is not exactly true, since the fire in my right arm is burning almost out of control. But it is nothing compared to the fear now rising rapidly in my throat, threatening to overcome me, to suffocate every other feeling, every other thought.

"It's okay, Ed, it's okay."

Marion's words cut through the thick, heavy panic that lies on me, surrounds me, engulfs me. And although I know it's not okay, her voice reaches out and touches me. The fear that gripped me only moments ago like a giant bird of prey slowly releases me from its clutches.

I can't feel my legs. The impossible thought remains, but the great bird is gone. It's only when the words are spoken, I realize, that I'm seized by the talon-fear. I won't say them aloud again.

I hear the voices of many people. Something is being placed around my neck, and I'm in an ambulance. I know it's an ambulance because of the flashing lights which mean someone is hurt or sick or having a baby. I hope, as I always do when I hear the siren and see the flashing lights, that it's a baby.

Someone is asking me if I can feel this or that, but I don't know if I'm responding. I'm on a table and I see Marion and a man who seems to be talking to me or perhaps to Marion. I'm not sure because everything is getting fuzzy and then there is nothing.

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