Formerly "Neil Stone Updates"

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Time For a Change

 First we need to say thank you. Thanks to all who have followed Neil's story and continue to check up on his progress. Thanks for the kind words of encouragement and support in the blog comment section, in emails, and in person. You may not think it matters much, but it does. We try to keep things pretty positive here, but at times we get tired, sad, and discouraged, so knowing that people care can help to keep us all going. To the Burnt Mills neighbors, thanks for caring about Neil, even though he was just a stranger to you. I feel like we're friends now even though we haven't met yet!

Does it sound like we're ending the blog? Well, we're not, but it is time for a change. This past year our lives have been consumed with the aftermath of Neil's accident. And now we're finding that it's starting to define who we are. Like it's all we can talk about. I know we're really boring company. Certainly the consequences will follow us for the rest of our lives, and so many things we've experienced because of it have changed us for the good. But now it's time to move on and be the Stones--as a family, as individuals who are more than just "the boy with the brain injury", or "Neil Stone's brother", or "Neil's mom."

So, about the blog--I will continue to write, but it won't be exclusively about Neil. Yes, I'll post about his progress. I feel I owe that to all who have invested so many prayers on his behalf. After all, he's your miracle, too. But I want to be able to include pictures of Eric, like this one taken at the beach in December:

I want to be able to brag about Alison at the Jeopardy! audition. It would be nice to talk about something that doesn't have to do with brain injuries. (We've almost decided to ban those words from our vocabulary!)

So, be prepared for a new look and a new name if you're still game to continue on this journey with us. The web address will remain the same. And thanks again for all the love, support, prayers, and well wishes expressed both silently and aloud. You will never know how much we have relied on them.

Lots of love,

The Stones

Who Are You?

Just before Christmas Neil had some friends over, most of whom he hadn't seen since early fall or summer. In order to prepare himself to recognize his guests, we got out the yearbook and started practicing. I'd show him a picture and cover the name. He'd tell me who it was. It was tougher than you'd think. He usually had to guess several names before he got it right. Even when I showed him his own picture, he thought it was his friend, Mike.

When party-time came, he actually didn't do too badly. It really helped when he could hear their voices and see familiar mannerisms. Even now, we occasionally run into his friends at Burger King or somewhere and it takes a minute for him to put all the elements together and recognize who they are.

An astute occupational therapist tested his ability to see contrast the other day and found that Neil has a real deficit in that area. That may mean he finds it hard to determine features on a face and could explain the whole "who are you?" problem. We'll be seeing the optometrist again in a couple of weeks and see what he has to say.

In the mean time, it wouldn't hurt to tell Neil who you are when you see him next time, or refer to something that will help him identify you. Oh, and please don't be offended if he doesn't know you right away. If you were a part of his life before, you're still a part of his life now. And thanks for being there.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Some Answers

WARNING: I've included some pictures at the bottom of this post that you may not want to see. Just letting you know before you get down there.

Tomorrow marks the one year anniversary of Neil's accident. A little over a month ago we finally got up the courage to ask the police department for pictures of the accident scene. It took awhile to get the okay, but we picked them up yesterday and finally got some questions answered about what happened that night. Of course there are some things we'll never know...

Seeing these pictures was difficult, as you could imagine. We didn't want to relive those moments or picture Neil in that horrific scene, but in a way it helps us appreciate the gift of his life. It's hard to see how any one could have lived through this crash. We will be ever grateful for his quick-thinking friend and devoted police and rescue workers.

We already knew the basics: Neil and a friend were coming home from a concert and were about three miles from our house. It was about 11:30 PM. Neil had not been drinking. (That was important to me.)

Below you will see how badly damaged the car was. I didn't include the more gruesome shots, but we were able to see that the driver's side door had to be removed to get Neil out. Also, his seat belt was cut off. We know that an ambulance took him a mile or so to the county airport where a life flight helicopter took him to the hospital.

The next day, an investigative team came out to take pictures and measurements. Through studying the skid marks on the road they were able to piece together what happened to the car. It appears as Neil began to approach a place in the road where it rose then curved sharply, he came close to the middle line and perhaps over corrected a bit to the right. Around the curve he must have felt his right tire hit the soft shoulder and panicked because there was an icy river a few feet away. He then swung the wheel to the left and lost complete control as the car spun around, hit a tree, and bounced off. The skids show that he was braking all the while, so I'm assuming he was driving too fast.

I'll tell you, this is a very lucky boy we have here. And believe me, we tell him we love him everyday!

The following is a video that Eric put together of all the still shots of the police team's reenactment with some PVC pipe to represent the car. He shows it four times at different speeds.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Battling the Nikibis

Retouched picture from the calendar photo shoot

It just sounds better in Japanese--almost is if they were cute. Really, no one wants to read the word zit on a nice blog like this, so we'll just stick with the Japanese translation.

Neil had actually fought the war with acne a couple of years before the accident and had come out a victor, but now the nikibis are back with a vengeance. Could be just from the physiological stress of the trauma to his body, could be due to medication used to treat him. But anyway, they're back and they think they are here to stay. They're not!

Alas, no retouching in real life, but he's still handsome!

We've been working on this for several months now. Plan "A" didn't work, so now we're on to Plan "B" with "C" and "D" in the wings, in case they're needed. You may think this is minor, and in looking at the BIG picture, I guess you'd be right. But, for a young man whose social world was always so very important to him, and who now has virtually none, this is certainly something that needs attention.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Christmas at Grandma's in Oregon

Christmas morning at Grandma Stone's house.

Uncle Joe, Aunt Shelly, and Uncle Alan

Alison and Brandon came from Kansas City

Surveying the carnage

Christmas brunch at Shelly and Joe's house.

Beatles Rock Band...oh, yeah!

On the beach...

...with Grandma, Alison, and Brandon.

Ah, how sweet!

Bowling on New Year's Eve.

And a bonus video!

Saturday, January 2, 2010


A few weeks ago I was asked to speak in Church the Sunday before Christmas. I thought I'd share an edited version of my talk here:

What is your favorite thing about Christmas time? Is it the music? The food? The parties? How about the lights and the decorations? Do you cherish the chance to gather with loved ones and share traditions? Maybe you reenact the Savior's birth in a pageant with scripture narration. I’ll bet you love the way so many get caught up in the Christmas spirit—helping others out, giving and sharing. But probably, if you asked any child what his or her favorite part of Christmas is, I think they'd say, quite honestly, “the presents!”

No question, presents are fun! And we choose our gifts so carefully, don’t we? We take into consideration what the receivers want (or what we think they would want) and what we can afford. Even if we had unlimited resources and money wasn’t an issue, in buying gifts for our children, wouldn’t we still consider what we wanted them to have—what was good for them? Surely everything a child, or anyone, asks for isn’t always in their best interest.

Let’s step away from the idea of Christmas gifts for a minute. What do we want our children to have? What is really most important for them? Here are a few things you might be thinking of: the basics like food and shelter, an education, good health, good influences. How about a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ, faith in the Lord, compassion for others and the gift of Christ-like charity?

If we want these things for our families (and for ourselves) we can ask for them. I guess it’s not unlike sitting on Santa’s knee and whispering to him the wish of our hearts. We can kneel before a very real Father in Heaven and present him with our “wish list” and we can be assured that he will listen. But will he grant us what we ask? Our Heavenly Father, like any loving parent, wants to pour out blessings upon us. He has wonderful things in store for each of us individually. But we need to trust Him to give us what is best for us, and that is what we should be asking him for.

But how are we supposed to know just what is in our, or our loved ones’ best interests? What should we be praying for exactly? In the book of 3 Nephi in the Book of Mormon we have a beautiful description of Jesus Christ’s visit to the Nephites. After he chose twelve apostles to lead his church he prayed for them. They prayed as well. In chapter 19, verse 24 we read,

“And it came to pass that when Jesus had thus prayed unto the Father, he came unto his disciples, and behold, they did still continue, without ceasing, to pray unto him; and they did not multiply many words, for it was given unto them what they should pray, and they were filled with desire.”

They were filled with desire such that they knew what the Lord wanted them to have—they knew what they were to pray for.

In Romans 8:26 in the New Testament we’re told,

“Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities; for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groaning which cannot be uttered.”

In other words, with the help of the Holy Ghost, our needs will be made known, even though our words may be inadequate. And from modern-day revelation in the Doctrine and Covenants 46:30: “He that asketh in the Spirit asketh according to the will of God…”

Our Bible dictionary can help us to understand the true nature of prayer. It says,

“Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. The object of prayer is not to change the will of God, but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant, but that are made conditional on our asking for them.”

Almost a year ago our family (and so many of you) flooded the heavens with our pleadings to Heavenly Father on behalf of our son Neil. As he lay in a coma, struggling between death and an uncertain life, we asked for a miracle. But honestly, I found I couldn’t say to our Father, “just fix it--make it all go away.” This was certainly what I wanted, what I ached for. But my actual prayers sounded different. I felt compelled to tell my Father in Heaven that I didn’t want Neil to suffer, that I wanted him back just as he was, but that I trusted Him to do what was best for Neil…for all of us…whatever that was. As difficult as it was, I knew that I had to say, “not my will, but thine be done.” I felt the Spirit guiding my thoughts, my words, my prayers. I was moved to ask for ministering angels to attend him. Through the immense pain, I felt comfort and peace in knowing that God was in charge—that a loving heavenly parent would give us the gift that we really needed.

As Neil struggles now to regain skills and abilities, and works to find his path and direction in life, I’ve seen his faith grow. As he continues to heal, I’ve seen a strength and determination in him that I don’t think was there before. His positive attitude and outlook has touched many lives. Our family has grown closer. We have felt the love and support of so many, many friends, strangers, family, and loved ones. We have all been changed for the better because of this experience. Would I ever have asked for Neil’s accident to happen? Certainly not knowingly, but when I prayed in faith for my son to know God and to understand the power of Christ’s atonement--His ultimate gift to us, maybe that is just what I did. I do not think that God caused the accident, but I’ve seen his hand in all the good that has transpired since. That has been a sweet and precious gift.

Our prayers are being answered daily—yours and mine. If we can be in tune with the Holy Spirit, I believe that each of us will find that our “wish list” is exactly what the Lord has in mind to grant us. And we’ll be getting just what we want for Christmas this year.