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24 September 2011 ·

Grateful to be alive

Twenty years ago today I touched death. To be honest, I’m not terribly interested in different theories about near-death experiences; I know what I experienced, and what I believe: that sometimes, on the border between life and death, we’re lucky enough to come back. For me, it was looking down from the tunnel to see my child being comforted by a stranger over the apparent death of his mother in the mangled car. I was filled with rage at the thought of dying and leaving my family, and I believe that’s why I’m alive today.

I wrote about the injuries and the start of recovery, as well as the near-death experience, in Peeling the Onion. It’s been a slow process, but there is now very little that I can’t do. I’ve worked hard, but I’ve been exceptionally lucky too, with the therapists I’ve found along the way. Don’t ever believe that physical recovery ceases after two years – I’ve improved steadily over twenty.

So, noting the date today, my first reaction was to feel sick. My second was gratitude. I’ve never subscribed to the theory that I need to be grateful for horrendous injuries and years of pain, because of what it ‘taught’ me. But I am very grateful for the life I’ve had around and since those traumas, and for the future that I still have. 


  1. I hate that whole thing that terminal illness is supposed to teach you something. Was listening to Oprah and a woman who had Stage 4 cancer said that the treatment she tried didn't work because she hadn't learnt what she needed to. Made me sick to hear it. Illness isn't about life lessons and being punished. It just is. I'm glad you recovered and are here and going strong.
    September 24, 2011 at 7:49 pm · Reply
  2. Wendy Orr Thanks Amra and Simmone. How horrible that someone should believe they're dying because they failed to learn the right thing the right way! Very punitive philosophy when taken to that extreme.

    So I love the thought of bookshelves being grateful that I lived and went on writing. I object to people saying the accident was a gift because I got to write Peeling the Onion. I'd have been quite happy to have skipped years of pain and disability and never have written that particular book. But since it happened, I'm glad I wrote it.
    September 25, 2011 at 4:26 pm · Reply
  3. Jane Wendy, your story touches me and am so grateful you are here, and most of all you have continued to heal over the last twenty years. I know from a difficult life experience myself that the healing never ends. From the limited amount I know about you, the world is a better place for having you in it. It sounds like your writing is a powerful tool for you. your recent kindness with regard to your wonderful book, Poppy's Path was so deeply appreciated. thank you and best wishes, Jane x
    September 25, 2011 at 8:08 pm · Reply
  4. Wendy Orr Thank you - and you're certainly right that the healing never ends. But what a wonderful thing that is!
    September 25, 2011 at 8:11 pm · Reply
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Wendy Orr is a Canadian-born Australian writer. Her books for children and adults have been published in 27 countries and won awards around the world. Nim’s Island and Nim at Sea have also become feature films, starring Jodie Foster and Abigail Breslin (Nim’s Island) and Bindi Irwin (Return to Nim’s Island.) Her latest book is Cuckoo’s Flight, a companion to the highly acclaimed Bronze Age novels Dragonfly Song and Swallow’s Dance. Read full bio