Stories of personal tragedy resulting from a sudden downturn in health are all too common in life. And when one is so stricken, it’s unlikely that prior life had been so effortless. Yet now even more strength and effort must be found simply to stay close to where they were.
The tragedy takes on a unique, and in some respects intensified quality, when it befalls those of an athletic nature. Accustomed to doing more with their body than the rest, they are suddenly reduced to doing far less. The world of sports is rife with famous examples of this happening.
The ability to recover is not easily found, either for those to whom it actually happened, or to those who surround them and are connected to them. Teleri Wyn Davies, a Welsh women’s rugby star, was one who had this search for resilience thrust upon her. But she found it.
It was the father of Teleri Wyn Davies- Bryan Davies, known affectionately in the sport as “Yogi”- who was cut down at an especially inauspicious time: he had just announced prior to the match that it was to be his last at the age of 49. The team honored him by making him captain for the game. But during the match, a scrum violently broke down, during the course of which Davies sadly suffered three broken vertebrae, paralyzing him. He would spend the next several years recovering in hospitals.
Welsh rugby fans rose to Bryan’s aid with £200,000 to retrofit his home for disabled use, but he would unfortunately perish some six years after the original accident. The loss devastated his daughter Teleri, wife Susan, and son Ilan, and ultimately was attributed to tetraplegia-caused pneumonia.
The loss was manyfold, taking from the Davies family its patriarch as well as the binding agent that was the sport of rugby. Teleri particularly related a sense of bitterness and resentment towards the game for robbing her father of his estimable vitality and ultimately of his life. For years, she would turn from the game entirely.
But a particular conversation with her still-convalescing father prior to his death began the ball rolling. Teleri had asked her father what, if he were granted his former health for just a day, he would spend it doing. Bryan answered that he would spend that day playing rugby, the very sport that had laid him low. From that moment forward, Teleri began to see rugby and her connection to it in a new light, ultimately resuming the sport.
Any combination of the grief, the long layoff, or the sense of vulnerability that would come from having been so close to the accident, might have thwarted the ambitions of Teleri Davies. But she persevered and not only resume her place in the game, but advanced from it. Today she plays in the top Welsh women’s league, and for the Welsh team.
One is reminded that there can be no underestimating the capacity of humanity to endure and overcome, to be resilient in the face of setbacks and outright disaster outright, and to fling itself back into danger in pursuit of its goals until they are achieved. Though it does not always work out in the end quite how it did for Teleri, the pursuit is as noble for the ill-fated as for the fortunate.