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In the year plus that I've been writing a column here, I've met some incredible women taking part on Fabulously 40. I've observed displays of staunch character as many of you wrestle with the challenges of trying times. Some are attempting to overcome extreme financial hardships at home, striving to keep a business intact in a falling economy, dealing with debilitating illnesses, loss of loved ones. One dear lady had lost a son to war in Iraq. It is women like you that will appreciate this story. Yana has given me full approval to share it. She will find it inspiring herself, I believe.  

A few times in a lifetime, we come upon a person or a story that impacts us so deeply our entire field of awareness is altered. It may open our eyes to a whole new world we'd never considered before, compel us to study a new philosophy, or possibly give us a new hero to place above all previous heroes. A time such as this came to me when Garret Lee Frey entered my life. I met him between the covers of “As I Am“, a most touching book and his first effort at sharing his story, and what I found to be, incredible accomplishments. I was blessed with the privilege of being asked to edit the work. Those who know me around here know I don't believe in coincidences. It was destined that I walk a while with this amazing young man.  

At the time I met Garret, he was a "nearly five year old boy." A child filled with wonderment, Garret reveled in all his god-given senses and was driven to explore the "the world around him." He loved the April breeze on his cheeks, the nature presented to him by the row of evergreens that filled his back yard with the sweet aroma of pine.

Garret had no premonition of the approaching moment in time in which life, as he knew and understood it, would come to an end . . . "I do not remember the day I was born and I do not remember the day that I died. I only remember my life 'As I Am.'"  

It was April 24, 1987. Garret jumped for joy into his father's arms when he showed up at the babysitter's home to pick him up. In the driveway, sat his father's shiny motorcycle. His dad had previously taken him and his older brother for short rides in the neighborhood, always paying careful heed to the helmet laws and rules for cycle safety, but this would be the longest ride Garret had ever taken before. A full mile from the babysitter's home to his own with a promised stop for bubble gum on the way. Seated safely, helmet in place, Garret was ready for the ride of his life. But, the mysteries of destiny were at hand.

Garret had forgotten his trusty yellow scarf, that special thing in the life of a four year old. Understanding, his father went back to retrieve the scarf and tied it securely around Garret's neck, tucking the tied ends inside his jacket. An extra measure of warmth on a breezy, April in Iowa day. Soon, Garret was reveling in the wind on his face, planning his out-of-doors play on the arrival home, and anticipating the sweet, spicy taste of his favorite bubble gum. As his curious mind was taken in by the joys of life around him, he vowed to live each day to its fullest. Then, his destiny entered in. Garret was about to experience a course change he could never have imagined.

In that miniscule flash of time, the beginnings of Garret's story were written. A freak accident when his trusty yellow scarf unwound in the wind and was caught up in the rear wheel mechanism rendering him to a life of quadriplegia. Garret's spine was snapped; he was paralyzed from the neck down. He would become ventilator-dependent for every breath of life thereafter.  

The destiny of his life's journey would also become the journey of those closest to him, a devoted mother, Charlene Frey, determined to bring her son home, a dedicated family, and one most special friend. Over the years, many other lives walked parts of this journey with Garret. Precedents were set and barriers broken down which will affect generations to come with a landmark ruling by the United States Supreme Court guaranteeing disabled children a public education in all fifty states.  

Now, through a magnificent effort on the part of Garret and that one special friend, Dr. Karen Pirnot, a child psychologist who has also devoted over twenty years of her life to Garret, we have all been invited to walk a while by his side. I can't think of a better way to pay tribute to mothers and women everywhere than to share this magnificent chronicle.

For me, an attempt to guide the reader's perceptions with a typical written review critiquing my own journey with Garret and Dr. Pirnot would fall far short. It would sadly lack the power which lies between the pages of "As I Am". Only Garret can tell his story. Yet, after my own walk, I can offer this insight . . . Anyone who loves beauty, the power and glory of Nature working with the power of mind and Spirit, will be moved. Anyone who admires courage, determination, and the perseverance of the wind itself, will be touched. Anyone who has wandered on the edge of peril or despair will be given hope. Anyone who has already fallen over the cliff will be lifted up.  

If you have an opportunity to read "As I Am", I promise you that you’ll walk away overwhelmed at the power of attitude. I think what impresses me the most is Garret’s desire to give to others with what he has that works. His heart and his incredible mind.  

I was fortunate enough to meet Garret, now 26, and his mother, Charlene, this week when they traveled from their home in Cedar Rapids, Iowa to Sarasota, a feat in itself, to offer a presentation to schools and libraries. Dr. Pirnot and her husband, Dr. Carl Davis, live here now and worked diligently to set up these events. When asked his dreams, Garret replied "to give back to others. To have a website where disabled folks can gather and support and help each other." There was a collective sigh in the meeting room. Then, he added, "And buy my mother a modest home in Sarasota County where we can be warm in winter." Garret's father passed away only a few weeks ago.

If anyone out there would like to help Garret achieve his dreams, Dr. Pirnot has requested that the book, "As I Am" be obtained directly through her as Garret will receive more profit than if purchased through a bookseller. She will provide the shipping.

Thank you. A most blessed Mother's Day to all mothers everywhere.



**Susan Haley is the published author of two books, several articles on networking, an award-winning poet and prose writer, a contract copy editor and book reviewer.  Her book reviews for AME Marketing out of San Diego have brought a demand for her reviews. She is a columnist for "The Florida Writer" the official magazine of the Florida Writers Association, and serves as Facilitator for the Sarasota County Chapter. She also contributes a variety of editorials and excerpts of her work to various publications. Susan can be contacted through her website:

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Member Comments

    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Midnightmom wrote May 7, 2009
    • Thank you for making me aware of Garret Frey. I am heading over to Dr. Pirnot’s website to purchase As I Am right now.

      "I do not remember the day I was born and I do not remember the day that I died. I only remember my life 'As I Am.'"    


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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Vikki Hall wrote May 7, 2009
    • What an incredible journey... I will go check it out.

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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Lois Stern & Patty Kovacs wrote May 8, 2009
    • As I read Garrett’s story, I felt chills rise from the bottom of my feet, through my spine and radiate to the tips of my fingertips. He is living proof that despite the most severe obstacles, we can choose to dwell in darkness or reach for that one sliver of light. God bless him and support his efforts.  

      I am off to Dr. Pirnot’s website.

      Very best,
      Lois W. Stern
      Author of: Sex, Lies and Cosmetic Surgery
      Tick Tock Stop the Clock and
      co-author of the newsletter:

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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Tamra wrote May 9, 2009
    • Thanks for sharing this, Susan!  I’ll also visit Dr. Pirnot’s website to get the book.

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