UCC Pastor and Stroke Survivor Shares Story of Recovery
July 3, 2012
By: Cathy Gordon
The MRI scans were bleak following the Rev. Larry Pray's massive stroke in the fall of 2003. Given little chance of surviving, it took time for Pray to realize his life had forever changed. Now, nearly nine years later, he paints a new picture -– of life renewed, faith regenerated and a purpose more meaningful than ever before.
As an accomplished author and pastor of First Congregational Church in Big Timber, Mont., Pray was accustomed to expressing himself through beautiful poetry and stories. And even though he had suffered not one but two strokes, he says the love of language never left him.
“Even though I couldn’t always understand what people were saying, the beauty of the written word stayed with me,” Pray says. “And I knew I had to figure out how to grasp the beauty of the experience.”
“Thresholds” shares remarkable insight into Pray’s journey to rediscover his sense of self and recognize God’s constant presence in times of extreme hardship and confusion.
“I knew I couldn’t turn back the hands of time,” he says. “Something new had to emerge. It is a thick and scary forest, but God reaches into that with inexplicable timing and says, ‘I am still with you.’"
Pray hopes his book will help patients, family members and health care professionals better understand the experience of loss and the journey of healing that accompanies brain injury.
He considers the act of storytelling therapeutic and encourages victims of brain trauma, especially those injured in combat, to tell their own stories of healing — although he stresses the importance of patience during the process. It was once thought that healing takes three or four months, but research now shows it takes years.
“We must hold on,” Pray says. “We must connect with other people. We tend to try to fix ourselves. We tend to try to control life. When we no longer have those skills, we have to wait for the slow hand of God to give us new skills and perceptions. The good news is that the language of God returns.”
The book is framed with a quote from Genesis in which Jacob says, “Surely God is in this place and I did not know it.”
Inspired by his mother, a watercolor artist, Pray also expresses himself through painting. His impressive collection of artwork is featured in several prominent hospitals and throughout the pages of his life-affirming, critically acclaimed book.
“Thresholds” is currently available online through Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Apple’s iBookstore. A print edition will be released mid-July. More information is available on Pray’s blog at www.larrypray.com.