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Woman's bizarre accident leads her to strong spiritual growth

Renee Bondi speaks at a luncheon in Holy Rosary Monday, telling the audience about how a freak accident left her a quadriplegic, but that her life is full with her husband, son, singing career and speaking engagements. (Vicki Gerdes/DL Newspapers)

When Renee Bondi says it was a freak accident that left her as a quadriplegic 20 years ago, she means just that.

The California native was just 29 years old, just weeks away from her wedding and at the beginning of a promising career as a music teacher. Then one night, Bondi awoke from a deep sleep to find herself inexplicably taking a swan dive off her bed -- onto her head.

"I went to bed really excited," she told a noon luncheon audience at Holy Rosary Church in Detroit Lakes on Monday. When she woke up, her life was forever altered.

The accident left Bondi without the use of her arms and legs, confined to a wheelchair "for the rest of my life," she said.

For some time, it also robbed Bondi of her singing ability. In fact, she was barely able to speak above a whisper at first, Bondi said.

"I'm still not sure exactly what happened," Bondi said. "That used to bother me tremendously."

Even after she got married to her husband, Mike, and gave birth to a son who is now a freshman in high school, Bondi still found herself bothered by that question: Why?

Then one day, Mike asked her what would happen if she received a letter in the mail one day, telling her exactly why and how she ended up in that wheelchair.

"What would change?" he asked her. And Bondi realized, the answer to that was, "nothing."

Her life would still go on exactly the way it had before. And so, she finally decided to let it go.

Though doctors told her that she would never sing again, Bondi eventually was able to regain her singing voice, as her diaphragm gradually got stronger. Finally, four years after her accident, her soaring soprano voice was restored.

"The Lord allowed me to record music that would help others through difficult times," Bondi said.

Today, she is one of the top-selling Catholic recording artists in the U.S., with over 200,000 albums sold.

But just recording music wasn't enough for Bondi. She also spends several weeks a year on the road, at speaking engagements similar to the one she undertook in Detroit Lakes this week.

A wife, mother, daughter, sister, singer and minister to a growing number of people, Bondi's life is full, she said.

So how did she learn to embrace her changed circumstances? Basically, by putting her life in God's hands, Bondi said.

Just like anyone else however, Bondi said, she has days when she feels a little grumpy or impatient.

"The one thing that is hardest about being a quadriplegic and confined to this wheelchair," Bondi said, "is the frustration at having to describe every little thing (i.e., tasks she wants her caregiver to perform for her), hen I just want to go do it myself."

And whenever one of her caregivers leaves their job, Bondi has to spend another three months acclimating that person to her wants and needs.

There was one day a couple of years ago that she told Mike, "I just don't think I have it in me to do it again (train another caregiver)."

In her search for a way to find that inner strength, Bondi discovered that praising her lord and savior for both the challenges and the joys she experienced in her life was the key.

"If you stop praising the Lord, you will start praising something else," Bondi said. "This is not a guilt talk, it's just a checkup," she added.

It's the "sacrifice of praise" that helps give a person the strength to face the everyday challenges of "life in the fast lane," Bondi told her audience.

"He honors your obedience," Bondi added. "Commit yourself to the spiritual discipline of praising the Lord in all things ... it will make your burdens much lighter."

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454