Nov 30, 2015

Life Stories: Gil Penner

Yours are the hands with which he is to bless us.”

I first heard of Gil Penner’s story through Facebook. I didn’t know him, but through his sister’s posts I came to learn a bit about who he was and what happened to him. I invited him for a photo shooting/interview a few weeks later and I had the chance to meet him and learn his story.
Gil and his family moved to Canada in 2010. At age 17, Gil’s life was changing. It began when he lost his friends and began to feel very alone. “I was aggressive.” Gil says. “I was impatient. I stopped going to church. I was trying to run away.” Then, in 2014, on November 13th, Gil found himself caught in an accident that he could not run from.

“I was having a great day.” Gil says. “I was at work and excited to go home. Then I got a call to bring a load from outside.” “It was really cold and I was wearing a big glove, something I usually never do.” To this day he can’t remember how it happened but suddenly he felt something on his hand. “I was in shock. I could hear my bones breaking. And I was hanging in the door. My arm was being rolled into the cable as it opened. I was being lifted from the ground.”
“The only thing I could do was scream, ‘No, no, no.’ I just couldn’t believe what was happening.”

The months following the accident “I had to be patient.” he says. “The frustration was so big. I couldn’t see my fingers. I didn’t know if I would be able to keep my arm, it felt pretty much dead. All I could do was be patient.” And wait.
“I knew that everything happens for a reason.” I tried to tell myself that. But “it’s hard to see what reason these kind of things happen for. It’s hard to keep our feelings and emotions away, and think with logic. “Sometimes there are no explanations.”
Gil felt more impatient with God than ever. “I just couldn't understand why I had to go through all that pain.” So, Gil started talking to God.
“So many things were going through my mind, and my thoughts were so loud. I couldn’t hear him.” “I didn’t try to think about the accident. I just tried to manage things. I had to learn how to do everything again, like putting on my own socks. I feel pain all the time, even when I’m sleeping.”
Gil is still trying to over come his phantom pains. “I feel like my fingers are crossed. I can feel them even though they are not there.” The doctors say that he has to learn how to uncross his missing fingers in his mind to make the pain go away. A physical injury has now become a mental barrier.
And then his thoughts were silent, and finally, he heard Gods voice.
He said “That he would never give up on me. I would be someone better than I was before.”
“I just didn’t understand. How could I be someone better if I couldn't even dress myself?”

Gil, like all of us, does not always understand God’s plan. But we, after all, are the body of Christ. Through our feet He walks the earth. Because his hands are on us, through our hands he will touch others.
Although he did not always understand, Gil continues to allow the Lord to work through his faith. I hope, that by sharing his story with you, we can begin to recognize that we are all living extraordinary lives. We can recognize that through our hardships can come beauty. We are the ones who choose whether or not our lives are worth recognizing.
When I asked him what advice he would give others that are struggling he said, “Just find a reason to wake up in the morning and just keep fighting. We all need to find something we love and fight for that, because, if we stop fighting, nobody is gonna fight for us.”
I asked Gil how his life has changed since the day of his accident. “Everything has changed,” he said. “The way I think and the way I see other peoples problems. I can see change in my family. We are closer than we were before. My mom was my biggest supporter. She was always by my side.”
“I have learned to control myself. When I was in the hospital I had to be patient. People visited me, and they were patient with me. God has used this to change my attitude.”
Gil is working again. He is currently working towards developing his own prosthetic hand. He says, “I am happy that I can work again. I thought I would have to retire. Now I can even put popcorn in the microwave. I can make it!”

written by Lea Sophie
Photography by Heinrich Nikel Photography

~ You are more than what you see ~