Gabrielle Giffords on Death, Marriage and a New Normal: 'I Nearly Died. That Drew Us Much Closer'

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Photograph by Dan Winters for TIME

There was much to hate about politics this year, especially the amount of hate that seemed to poison it. But if there was an antidote, it came from one of the victims: Gabrielle Giffords, vibrant and valiant member of Congress from Arizona, gunned down when a deranged shooter outside a supermarket put a bullet through her brain. That she survived at all was a miracle; that she recovers — slowly, stubbornly, each day a search for another word, another milestone — is a model. "You have to have hope and faith," she says at the end of Gabby, the book she wrote with her husband and fellow warrior against all odds and expectations, astronaut Mark Kelly. "I will get stronger. I will return." She answered our questions by e-mail.

Writing such an honest book is an act of bravery. Was it hard for you to relive the events this year in order to write it?
It was really hard to relive those days. At times it was a bit scary.

What do you remember about the shooting?
I don't remember anything.

Mark waited a while to tell you how many other people were hurt or killed in the shooting. Did you realize that even before you were told?
I had no idea. I didn't even know what happened to me. I didn't know I was shot until I was told.

Do you think what happened to you was partly the result of the bitter divisions in the country or entirely the act of a disturbed individual?
Politics has been very nasty recently, but this was clearly a sick person.

President Obama went to see you several times after the shooting. What did you talk about?
First time he visited, I was in a coma. Other time I saw him, I was in Florida before Mark launched into space. I don't remember what we talked about, but it was probably about my recovery and rehab. He did say he wanted me back in Congress.

You have to decide by May whether you're going to run for Congress again. Have you come to any decision yet? What are the factors likely to affect your decision?
No decision yet. The main factor is whether I feel like I can do the job.

What's an average day like for you these days?
Busy, busy, busy. Stretching at 6:30 a.m. Up at 7 a.m. Breakfast and read the Arizona Daily Star, Arizona Republic and New York Times. Drive to rehab at 8 a.m. Physical, occupational and speech therapy for most of the day. Home, dinner and watch The Daily Show. Then off to bed.

Are you religious? If so, did that help you through this experience?
Yes, I am. Of course it did.

You have two stepdaughters, Claire and Claudia. Your book says your relationship with them has improved this year. Why?
I nearly died. That drew us much closer together.

Outside of your family, who are the people who have inspired you most as you work toward recovery?
Our veterans who fight every day to recover from their injuries. My friends Jimmy Hatch and Brian Kolfage inspire me. They were injured in Afghanistan and Iraq.

What was it like to go back to Washington for the debt-ceiling vote?
Overwhelming, but I enjoyed it. Was nice to see my colleagues and the Vice President.

When you think of your future, what do you imagine for yourself?
I try to take one day at a time. I'm hopeful for the future.