Monday, May 9, 2016

Letting Go (part 2 of 2)

In part one of this two-part post, I wrote about my love of handcycling, and how MS progression forced me to let it go. Never again will I feel the joy of cruising down a bike path under my own power, breeze on my face, muscles in my arms aching, blood pumping. It’s better that I experienced these sensations and lost them, however, than never to have experienced them at all. At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

I considered donating the handcycle to an adaptive sports organization, but Kim and I have a wish list of disability-related purchases we would like to make ourselves, so we decided to sell. Our advertisement explicitly stated that we would not ship this product – pickup at our house required. We needed to be sure the bike was right for whoever would be purchasing it. The last thing we needed was an unsatisfied buyer halfway across the country, or worse yet, someone who meant to resell the cycle for profit that we left on the table in good faith.

Kim and I had sold disability-related equipment online before and had dealt with scammers. Click here to read about it. Because of that experience, we planned to treat this sale dispassionately. No matter how compelling the story, we would remain skeptical.

Then Ray emailed us. He expressed an interest in buying the handcycle for his 13-year-old grandson, JJ. Ray and Mark (JJ’s father) would drive up from Massachusetts on Saturday to complete the purchase.

Upon arrival they inspected the handcycle, and it exceeded their expectations. That was enough for Kim and me. We would have been pleased with the transaction. Then Mark said, “It’s going to be a surprise for JJ, my son. He has no idea we’re getting this handcycle for him.”

“Tell me a little about JJ,” I said.

Both father and grandfather gushed. JJ was born with caudal regression syndrome. His lowest three vertebrae did not develop in vitro, resulting in limited movement in his lower extremities. He’s gone through two major back surgeries this year – the first to have growth rods inserted into his spine and the second to adjust those rods. Through it all, he has remained upbeat and positive. As they spoke, it became apparent to me that the affection these men have for JJ is not born of pity, but of admiration and love.

“We’re going to take a video when we give him the bike later today,” Mark said.

“Can I get a copy?” I asked. We exchanged contact information, and a friendship between families was born.

I took the photos and videos Mark sent me and put together this little summary of how JJ's day went.
note: if you are reading this blog post via email, click here to watch the video

I’ve written how the anticipation of losing something can be worse than the loss itself. For example, when I sensed my days of driving an automobile were numbered, I worried about how I would know when to stop and what it would be like after I did. But on the day I came home and cut up my driver’s license, I felt an overwhelming sense of relief, and I never looked back.

It didn’t work that way with the handcycle, though. I hadn’t used it in five years but had held onto it in the desperate hope that one day I might be able to improve my health enough to use it again. When I put the cycle up for sale, that signified the end of such hope. I felt only sadness, not relief – until JJ came along. Now I’ll remember this transaction as much for what he gained as for what I lost. Cycle of life?

Thanks, JJ, I hope you get as much joy out of that handcycle as I did, and more.


  1. The smile lighting up that kid's face has made my day. Loss AND gain. I'm going to remember this story. Thank you so much for sharing.

  2. a wonderful story. i just discovered that Crotched Mountain in Greenfield New Hampshire has, apparently, lots of accessible trails. ( As well, my son has been working at Mt. Agamenticus, helping to build accessible trails. Not quite the same as biking, but these two locations give wheelers and slow-walkers like us options for "hiking."

    1. Stephen, I did the Crotched mountain trails a few years ago and made a video blog post about it here:

  3. What a feel-good story. Thanks for putting the smile on my face, Mitch.

  4. I can't wait to share this with mom. What a blessing!

  5. Hey Mitch, lovely story. The video was great, so nice to see that young man's smile when he saw the bike. The cycle of life, right? Hey, there's a pun that I didn't even intend. Anyway, your story is a nice illustration of the Yin and Yang of it all…

    1. I cannot believe I didn't think of that pun…or did I? If you go back and reread the post, it's there. It was the whole time, wasn't it?