Book Excerpt from “6 Minutes Wrestling With Life”

I just finished John Passaro’s book titled “6 Minutes Wrestling With Life.”  

John chronicles the day his oldest daughter, Jess, had a seizure and the resulting brain injury.  The doctors told him to “pull the plug” because she would never recover.  John chose life over “pulling the plug” and it changed his life in a way he could never have imagined.  

Full of inspirational quotes and raw emotion.  I enjoyed his book and highly recommend it!

Below is an excerpt, from his book, that John suggested, but I should note that my favorite line from the book was, “I know that I have a friend and that somehow, someway, something good is going to come out of this.”  

Sound vaguely familiar to anyone?



Only Light Drives Out Darkness


Walking with a friend in the dark, 

Is better than walking alone in the light.

Helen Keller


The emotional dichotomy of my days is torturous.

So much has happened.

So little has happened.

Time has stood still.

Time has flown by.

BettyJane and I are hopeful.

And many days we are crushed and broken down to our core.

It is 6:00 am and I am getting my day started.

I am in a 10×10 former dorm room, which has two small beds, a small refrigerator, a television, two pink concrete walls and two walls that have windows to the outside, which are covered by old venetian blinds.

This dorm room is exactly one hundred feet directly across the parking lot of Helen Hayes Rehabilitation facility and exactly one hundred miles from my home.

Helen Hayes is nice enough to allow BettyJane and myself to use this dorm room on campus, like a Ronald McDonald House while we visit Jess.  It saves us paying for a hotel for the next ninety days. I am very appreciative, and I silently pledge to myself that when I become rich I will start a similar program one day.

Being that Jess is over a hundred miles from our home BettyJane and I decide to take four-day shifts at a time.

I am about to leave the dorm room to start mine.

The cornerstone of my faith is my belief that: “Everything in life happens for a reason” and that “God works in mysterious ways.”

My faith and belief system are being tested and I need a sign.

So I ask for one.

I just blurt it out, sort of what someone does when they start talking to someone that they haven’t spoken to in a while.

“I need a sign. I need something. I’m not asking for much, but you got to give me something.”

I try to use leverage that I do not have as I plead –

“Please show me a clear, distinct, undeniable sign by midnight tonight.”

I wipe my eyes, pick up my key off of the refrigerator top and I head over to see Jess.

I open the door to the facility and I walk through the beautiful marble lobby to the elevator.

I am alone on the way up to Jess’s room.

I have been told to measure Jess’s progress over months and years and not over days.

That is all good, except for the fact that Jess has days here and not months or years.

Jess needs to start fast and show improvement quickly.

The elevator dings when it gets to the 3rd floor, I get out and walk towards Jess’s room.

Against my best wishes Jess is sharing a room with three other patients who have also have a trach.

I enter the room.

There is a huge window that takes up the whole far wall.  It allows a tremendous amount of sunshine into the room but makes the room extremely hot.

Jess’s bed is on the far right hand side of the room.

Directly across from her is Zorie.  Zorie is a middle age African American woman who recently had a stroke.  Zorie’s neck is tilted from the stroke and is almost perpendicular with her body.

It is hard to view.

Next to Jess is Crystal. Crystal is a twenty-year-old young girl who can pass for eight.

Crystal lives near by and her mom and family visit her often.

Directly across from Jess, is Chris. A few months ago, while Chris was on the construction site helping to build the New Yankee Stadium, Chris’s head got crushed between two steel beams.

Chris has an extensive brain injury and a pregnant wife named Bridgette.

The first day that I entered this room I only saw the disability of each person.

Today I see four people who happen to have a disability.

As I walk in, I do what I normally do to start the day; I turn on everyone’s television to the right channel for that person even though each person is either in a coma or has an extensive brain injury.

Crystal gets Nickelodeon, Chris gets the football channel, Zorie gets the soaps and Jess gets the fashion channel.

I keep my eyes open for the sign.

Overall I know that Jess is getting better.

Jess’s schedule for the day is intense.  She has two physical therapy sessions, two speech therapy sessions, and two occupational therapy sessions.

Jess has taken to some therapists and hates others.

It is a long day that ends around 3:00 pm.

By this time Jess is mentally and physically exhausted and is prepared for bed.


Normal visitation hours are over now, and I am the only parent left in the room.

My mind has stopped looking for any sort of sign.

Jess has been given her “medicine” and she is fast asleep and will be for the rest of the night.

I sit by her bedside until I am asked to leave about 11:00 pm.

I kiss Jess on the forehead and I head back to the room.

On the way out, when I am in the elevator, I realize that I have not eaten at all today.  There are not many food places that are open at this hour in Haverstraw, but I find one.

I order my meal and I sit in my car and I eat it.

I take my time, as I have nowhere else to go.

The clock on the dashboard says 12:01 am.

I head back to the room.

It is cold and pitch black outside.  There is no sign of life anywhere.

There are three sets of doors to my room.

I juggle for my keys, which are hard to handle with my gloves on.

I enter the first set of doors, which takes me into the dorms hallway.

A few feet down on the left hand side, I unlock another door, which takes me into a vestibule and a quad of rooms.

The last key is inserted and I open the door to my room.

It is pitch black inside.

Except for an illuminating ray of light that is coming from the lamppost outside, shining through my window, filtered by a cracked venetian blind, which has beamed a perfect white cross on the pillow of my bed.

I stare in disbelief.

“Thank you, my friend.” I say out loud.

There are a few things that I now know.

I know that I have a friend and that somehow, someway, something good is going to come out of this. I don’t know why so much pain and suffering needs to be involved, but I am certain that “Everything happens for a reason” and “God works in mysterious ways.”

For the first time in a long time, I do not want the sun to rise any time soon, for I have found my light in the darkness, and it feels real good.


Excerpt from “6 Minutes Wrestling With Life”

John A. Passaro


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