spinal-cord injury

Recollections – when not to listen to Norah Jones

Well it turns out that I have not been very motivated to blog my recollections one year on. Difficult week to be honest, and sometimes one feels like there is just nothing worth saying. Who knows whether I might take a stab at it next week – I’ll leave that decision to my mood at the time.  in any event, I’m going to spend tomorrow focusing on my brilliant and gorgeous wife, who graduates with a bachelor of arts (major fine arts) from the Australian Catholic University. I will say more about this tomorrow, and try not to think about my own anniversary.

In the meantime, one quick recollection. My beautiful friends Kate and Andrew Tennikoff brought me some wonderful headphones and an iPod with some music to listen to an intensive care. Music has a power in times of crisis and so I asked the nurse to place the headphones on my ears and turn on the iPod. The album selected was by Norah Jones and it wasn’t long before I realised my mistake. Her music has a haunting quality and is intensely emotive. Within a minute I found myself crying my eyes out. The problem was that I was trapped in bed, without arms or hands to the iPad off or remove the headphones. It was probably only 10 min or so before my distress was noticed, but it felt like much longer.

I want to walk with you

On a cloudy day

In fields where the yellow grass grows knee-high

So won’t you try to come

Come away with me and we’ll kiss

On a mountaintop

Come away with me

And I’ll never stop loving you

Try listening to that song on a dark day, with your arms tied behind your back. The definition of torture!


About Author

Shane is an ethicist and theologian, Honorary Associate for the Centre of Disability Research and Policy, the University of Sydney, and Assistant Director, Policy, at the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation against People with Disability. Shane is proudly disabled, and an occasional blogger on


  • Tanya Riches
    October 6, 2011 at 7:27 pm

    Hey Shane… thinking of you! What a hard week. And I’m so proud of Elly…! Congrats to her – and to you also for her achievement (I’m thinking of Tim’s contribution to my academic career, I’m positive you’ve played a huge role in supporting her and encouraging her towards the goal too). Much love.

  • Esther
    October 6, 2011 at 8:35 pm

    Hi Shane, you dont know me but I’ve been praying for you. Along with the passage of time I imagine there has been a lot of firsts that you have had to tackle. I’ve thought about that a lot, and prayed for you in the reality of life. I imagine you have a lot of people praying for you and yours, however life does still go on.Im praying that in the midst of your suffering that God will give you strength when you feel that there is no strength, that He will fill you with peace when peace seems so far away. Ive asked the father in His mercy to give you a glimpse of His angels that surround you and your family wingtip to wingtip, offering the protection that only the Father affords. God Bless you Shane and your family that you love so well.

  • Elly Clifton
    October 6, 2011 at 9:31 pm

    You picked it Tanya. I never would have gone to uni without Shane’s encouragement (more like insistence) so he should be praised in my achievement!

  • Tenni Kate
    October 7, 2011 at 9:10 am

    So glad you guys have a wonderful celebration to participate in today! If I recall correctly, after Norah the nurse turned to Coldplay, upon your request for some rock/softrock. Yikes… not much more helpful ‘Oh, we’re sinking like stones, all that we fought for, all those places we’ve gone, all us are done for.’ There should be an ICU approved music playlist!!

  • Deborah Taggart
    October 7, 2011 at 9:47 am

    Hi Shane and Elly…wow, thankyou for being so open and honest through the whole journey – even when openness is simply saying ‘this is too hard to talk about right now’.

    I feel as though I’m mourning with you for all that was lost a year ago, but also rejoicing in how much you’ve overcome together, how many new ways of living you have found and created, and that in the midst of all the change you’ve been through over the last 12 months, Elly still completed her degree – super well done! 🙂

    Beyond that, I’m struggling to find words too, but the song that springs to mind when I think of you is U2’s ‘Walk on’….even when your legs stop working, you’re still ‘packing a suitcase for a place none of us has been, A place that has to be believed to be seen’, still finding ways to make this world and the next more like ‘home’ for yourselves and the people around you.

  • Craig Benno
    October 7, 2011 at 12:18 pm

    I pray that you are increasingly finding that you are able to do many firsts, once again and I’m glad you can find humour in the past. Elly, having seen some of your art and having heard Shane promote your talents many times – I think Shane was right to encourage your education…Congratulations for you both.

  • Shaun Mowrey
    October 25, 2011 at 11:28 pm

    I don’t mean to offer any sort of comparison here, but I relate in my own way to the portion about Norah’s song and the power of music. I have had an anxiety disorder most of my life and went through an acute, near-suicidal season. I remember the creative and/or destructive power music had on me. Songs that were lovely became bittersweet because I was unable to participate in them.

    Funny thing is that now that my mood is stabile and I can participate in them, I probably don’t feel their power anymore.

    Congratulations to your wife as well 🙂

    • Shane Clifton
      October 26, 2011 at 2:11 am

      You are very right. I love that same album now!


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