Robert Buren wrote and published a book without an ending.
He thought he had wrapped it up — a raw, brutally honest and excruciatingly painful account of what happened when he broke his back — a motivational read for those who found themselves in a similar life-altering situation or anyone interested in a story of formidable will power, courage and the capacity of the human spirit to overcome.
Buren, a self-professed junkie for anything on two wheels and “epic outings of speed,” takes the reader from the moment 13 years ago when he was lying motionless on the forest floor after a ramp jump went awry, to the exhilaration of competing as the first Canadian paraplegic in the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii, a 226-kilometre triathlon race.
In his almost 200-page book, Buren describes in meticulous detail his days in the aftermath of the accident, his time in rehab, the tears, the sadness, the frustrations, those he met along the way who inspired him.
The private and personal nature of the book, which touches on very intimate moments, was the crux of why he eventually decided to release the book to a wider audience than his immediate family.
“No one talks about this stuff, the intimate piece: the reality that when you lose your lower body, you lose everything, and it’s messy. I’ve been told by some people, ‘Don’t talk about that, its uncomfortable to people,’ but that’s life.”
At that moment, Buren felt he had his ending: the physical, emotional and mental fight to retrieve the life he and his wife, Sabrina, and two children had prior to his accident. Buren had found a way to live again. He had his “neat and tidy end.”
And then life intervened again, with an even harsher reality.
“It’s as though I crossed the finish line of what was supposed to be the hardest race of my life, only to be told to get back on the racecourse and just keep doing laps,” said the 50-year-old Oakville resident.
A second tragedy befell the family just over a year ago when the Burens’ 14-year-old daughter, Zara, died trying to save her horse in a horrible accident.
“This loss is immeasurable, the weight unbearable. When I think about the challenge of recovering from breaking my back, that was easy compared to learning to live without our baby girl,” he writes.
Zara, said Buren, would want the family to keep moving forward.
“So that’s really what we’re trying to do. We’re taking her with us; we’re trying to find a way to live again.”
Writing the book was both emotionally and physically punishing for him.
“I really didn’t want to remind myself of the things I’ve lost. It was difficult, because I’ve always been trying to move on, focus on what I’ve got.”
Penning words that described traumatic events actually brought on shots of agonizing neuropathic pain, a condition caused by damage to the nervous system.
“I’m going to look at this as training; the more I can talk about it, the more I can write about it; the more I can be around it, and not run from it, maybe the better I’ll be, and I will overcome it (neuropathy), and that’s how I have to look at it.”
Buren said it would be meaningful and rewarding for him if readers of his book came away with a different perspective on their challenges and what they’re able to do.
The ending he thought he had was only the beginning of another chapter of his life.
“Losing Zara forced me to realize that my story hadn’t ended.”
“What’s Next: Striving to Find Happiness After Heartbreaking Loss” is available via eBook or in paperback through Amazon.