Gabby Giffords: Doing the Right Thing

5 years ago

Doing the right thing isn't easy. Deciding what the right thing might be is even harder. Add brain trauma to the mix and set it all before a backdrop of the media and Congress, and my head hurts just from lining up all the pieces. Monday morning, I had a chance to see it in action. It wasn't easy to watch, but I am a better woman for it.

Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords invited me to finish what we started a year ago -- she was reconvening Congress on Your Corner just for us. All-of-us, the euphemism we seem to use for each other, were invited. Colonel Bill, the Bowmans, Ron Barber.... faces that you've seen on CNN and PBS and in the New York Times, people who are just names to you, heroes and survivors. To me, they are those with whom I will be connected forever. Gabby is one of us, too.

I've yet to hear any one of us say that "it's over." No one has told me that he or his loved one is fully healed. We've gone back to our small businesses and our professional careers and our retirement amusements but none of us are the same. We all have deficits; Jim couldn't be there because he was having another surgery. We ache in all manners, ways, shapes and forms.

Rehabilitation is an arduous process. There's nothing delightful about it. Hard work, repetitive work, frustrating work, work work work..... all day, everyday, forever. The gains must be reinforced; there is no resting on one's laurels in rehab. Taking a day off because you are tired or have other commitments or just don't feel like doing anything is not an option. Your body betrays you and then amazes you and there's no predicting the outcome. It's your own journey, inside and out. Others can guide you but only you can do the work.

Jan. 08, 2012 - Tucson, Arizona - U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) addresses a crowd gathered at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Ariz. in her first orchestrated appearance in Tucson since she was shot last year. B3948 (Credit Image: © Will Seberger/UPPA/

Some days are better than others. Sometimes you just don't feel like getting out of bed. But when 641,329 people are depending on your voice to represent them to the federal government, your options are fairly limited. No matter how you look at it, being a member of Congress is a full-time job. Then, again, so is rehab.

Knowing that, for a year we waited and watched and wondered. The progress her husband, Mark, documented on the videos he took of her recovery is nothing short of miraculous. On ABC's Nightline, Diane Sawyer showed us Gabby at rest; Monday, I saw Gabby at work. Those two clauses were unthinkable last January, when the images of Gabby's bandage swathed head raced through my brain each time I closed my eyes. "Poor baby... poor baby" was my only thought then. Amazing us all, that poor baby's inner strength and fortitude brought her back to the point where, 54 weeks after a bullet tore through her brain, she was able to finish what she started.

Finish. That's what Monday morning was all about. It was the end of Congresswoman Giffords' time in office. Her staff will continue the work of inventorying and closing up as employees of the House of Representatives. District 8 (most of which will soon be District 2) will have a special election right before the general election and by the summertime we will, once again, have our own person in Congress. Life will go on. It will be very different.

Choosing to step out of the limelight, opting to take care of herself and to give up what she loved because she couldn't do both full-time, accepting the limitations of her new reality and sharing that decision with the world, putting a brave face on a rotten situation -- Congresswoman Giffords did all of that and more on Monday morning. She did it with grace.

Her eyes were bright and her smile was quick. "Wow" was the word of the day, but body language and facial expressions were much more useful. She masked any frustrations she was feeling and we only felt the love. Standing in the back of the room, watching her bid farewell, I was overcome by a sense of pride. I was watching someone do the right thing.

She wants to be my Congresswoman. Circumstances preclude that, for now. A rash act threw a spanner wrench into her plans and, for a while, it was okay with everybody to see how things developed. But now, a year later, progress is still progress but it's not perfection. Not even close.

It's not admitting defeat, it's accepting reality like a grown-up and acting accordingly.

I don't doubt that she will continue to blossom and improve and that before too very long I'll have the opportunity to affix a Giffords campaign bumper sticker to my car. For now, that's not possible. Until it is, her job is to focus on herself, to get better, and to come back to us once more. I'm hitching my own recovery to her brilliant smile.

Godspeed, Gabby.

a/b from The Burrow at

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