I didn't know what to expect when I met my friend Kenny Elmore for breakfast several weeks ago.
The last time I saw Kenny was about two years ago at the signing party for his book, "One Second." The room was filled with family, friends and new Kenny fans who have become enamored with Kenny's lovable persona and despite incredible personal physical catastrophe, notched up his will to fill his life with happiness and joy.
Although still in the midst of painful recuperation, he was sitting at a table with his unmistakable huge Kenny grin autographing his book.
"One Second" is his account of his ongoing recovery from a near fatal motorcycle accident four years ago. In his book he describes in great detail his injuries, surgeries and excruciating rehabilitation. Almost equal to the physical devastation caused by his accident was the emotional trauma on his wife, Wendy, and two young children, daughter Loren and son Kelly.
It was October 2008. Kenny was on his way to work when a car pulled in front of him and in "one second" created a new and unsettling "normal" for him and his family. Kenny had to be revived at the scene of the accident. Photos of his motorcycle after the accident have to be labeled "motorcycle" in order to recognize that it was a motorcycle.
Kenny was in a drug-induced coma at Kern Medical Center for six days. On the seventh day and subsequent months, his nurses, doctors and medical team quickly learned of Kenny's dry wit, mirthful look on life and positive mojo. Even in his darkest hour, Kenny found hope and blended it with humor. As he once explained to me, humor was his way of dealing with the uncontrollable. I believe it helped people around him become more at one with his need for life's light rather than despair's darkness.
And life's light is what I found when we had breakfast several weeks ago. The life threatening injuries he sustained more than four years ago did little to impact his positive outlook and hunger to experience daily miracles he once took for granted.
His quirky smile and the almost bobble-head demeanor remained untarnished as though no catastrophic event had ever struck him or his family. Except for a slight limp, you would never suspect the tragedy that nearly killed him and literally almost tore him physically and mentally in two.
As we chatted over breakfast, Kenny told me of how in his early stages of recuperating at home, his wife would take him on mini-strolls through the neighborhood in his wheelchair. He remembers one day they passed a bush filled with butterflies, something he never would have noticed or even cared about before his accident. They paused and Kenny took in the beauty of hundreds of butterflies gathered seemingly for his exclusive pleasure. He was in awe of their delicate nature and simplistic exquisiteness.
The butterflies became his mantra whenever financial, personal or physical struggles seemed to hamper their quest to regain normalcy. At the peak of exacerbation and to help ease his wife's concerns, he would remind her, "Wendy, remember the butterflies!"
Kenny also explained to me that his injuries paled compared to others he met while in physical therapy. That's Kenny for you. Always trying to divert your concern for him to those he deemed less fortunate.
As we finished our breakfast, I realized my buddy had turned trauma into triumph and hardship into an opportunity to be an example for his children. He had every reason to turn to the dark side and become depressed, dejected and forever miserable. But he choose not to.
He says he has discovered a new level of love he never knew existed. Wendy was truly his angel.
Family has encouraged Kenny to write another book about his recovery. I agree but I think it should be more about how the horrific accident changed his attitude on how life's simplest things can be our greatest blessings, something I think most of us should be doing.
And I already have a title for his book: "Remember the Butterflies."
-- Steve Flores is a contributing columnist for The Californian. These are his opinions, not necessarily those of The Californian. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.