Northborough's Nixon family inspires because they “choose” to be happy
By Sue Wambolt, Contributing Writer
Northborough – Nothing could have prepared Mark and Sheryl Nixon of Northborough for the phone call that came at 9:20 p.m. April 4, 1995. In the blink of an eye, their world was turned upside down. But faith was important to them; in fact it was the foundation of their lives. It was this faith that they clung to like a life raft while their lives spun out of control and what they considered normal just that morning, seemed a distant memory.
On that day in 1995, four of the Nixon's six children were involved in a serious car accident while returning home from a church event in Marlborough. Their youngest son, Kent, received only minor injuries while daughter Natalie suffered a severe neck injury that left her with bouts of depression, fibromyalgia, post-traumatic stress syndrome and post-traumatic headache disorder. They both also experienced debilitating psychological trauma. But Reed and Rob fared much worse – they broke their necks. Then 17 and 16, and rising track stars at Algonquin Regional High School, both boys were paralyzed in the accident.
Sheryl, a professional singer and songwriter, documents the moments, days and years following the horrific accident in her recently released biography, “In the Blink of an Eye: The Reed and Rob Nixon Story.” From the early weeks in the hospital, to the months in rehab, to the transition home to college, graduations and marriage (and everything in between), the biography chronicles the trials and triumphs of their journey. It is a story of love and sacrifice and, as coined in Sheryl's 1986 song titled “Never Give Up,” the story of one family's determination and fortitude.
Throughout the book, Sheryl recounts song lyrics, her personal vehicle to healing. “Music and I had a type of spiritual connection,” the book reads. “Writing music calmed my heart and soul, especially during challenging times.”
As with most of life's circumstances, there is a silver lining in even the most devastating moments. For Sheryl, the accident that could very easily have torn her family apart, instead, knit it together. She credits her faith for allowing her to see the blessings in the situation and for giving her the strength to face another day.
“If God leads you to it,” she said, “trust in Him; He will take your hand and lead you through it.”
In Sheryl's words, “As a result of the accident that was so devastatingly destructive, our whole family is more deeply connected and united, and we have become stronger still. Our level of support has expanded and broadened so that we have a large network of wonderful, loving people we can count on if we need to.”
Mark, professor and department chair at Bentley University, echoed these sentiments.
“There was never any strength left at the end of the day, but I felt God strengthen me when I had nothing left.”
The outpouring of love and support from family, friends and strangers surpassed anything the Nixons could have anticipated. They received: financial donations, which poured in from across the country; a handicapped-accessible van, which was donated by a cancer patient at UMass; a 1,100-square-foot ground-floor addition to their home constructed for Rob and Reed by five area builders; the proceeds from a 5K road race fund-raiser organized by the faculty at Bentley. The Nixons continued to count their blessings in the most harrowing of circumstances.
“Through this experience,” Sheryl said, “I have learned that how you live your life will make or break the rest of your life and it is important not to allow circumstances to swallow you up. I have learned that we can “choose to be happy” and that is what I have done.” She added, “Difficult situations are an opportunity to find strength, and they allow us to grow.”
Today, Sheryl says that Reed and Rob are an inspiration to everyone because of their positive attitude and humble spirits. She said that they have melded into two incredible men who share a bond that cannot be broken. As for Sheryl, she said that she would go through this all over again if she had to in order to become the person she is today. The adage “Life is not about avoiding the storm; it's about learning to dance in the rain” is one that Sheryl embraces, and claims as her personal motto.
Born out of Sheryl's daily journal entries, “In the Blink of an Eye” is a story of courage and inspiration and, most of all, the story of love – the love of a mother, the love of family, friends and strangers, and the ultimate love of God.
Sheryl will be giving a presentation followed by a book signing at Tatnuck Bookseller Gift Gallery & Café (Westborough Shopping Center, Route 9 and Lyman Street) in Westborough Saturday, Nov. 19, from 1 to 3 p.m. Mark, Reed and Rob will be joining her for the event. For more information, visit www.tatnuck.com.
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