December 23rd

We’ve known this day was coming.

The anniversary.

And now it’s here.

One year ago today, my day started quietly. David had left for work. The kids, still weary from end-of-semester tests and sugar-saturated Christmas parties, were sleeping well into mid-morning. Rather than wake them, I decided to let them rest. I lit a candle, poured a hot cup of coffee, and sat down with my computer. Thoughts that had been tugging at me, like a toddler demanding attention, had tightened their grip. Thoughts that would only be satisfied when proper attention was given – which meant wrestling through and sorting out on paper. Words tumbled out and landed in their proper place. It was an exercise I’d been through countless times. An hour later, I clicked “Save”, closed the computer, and turned my attention to the final details of Christmas preparations. I’d been writing about imagination and fear. Sometimes, what seem to be our most routine mundane moments are, in reality, the most significant.

At 10pm that evening, our world changed forever.

After coming home from a typical workday, David took the dog on a walk – in the rain in the dark, through the trails in our neighborhood. Only minutes after coming back home, he started getting ready for bed. He turned toward me, eyes wide and glazed. He knew immediately. Strangely, so did I. After helping him stumble over to the bed, I called 911 and our family’s journey took a sharp turn from the path we’d been walking the past two decades. The new territory awaiting us was more arduous and less predictable than any we’d dared to imagine.

I’ve watched others encounter similar tragedies. I’ve prayed for their families and hoped for the best. Yet I’m embarrassed to admit that along with my concern, I’d breathe a secret sigh of relief. It didn’t happen to us. I couldn’t imagine enduring the despair and uncertainty. I couldn’t imagine my children having to walk through the darkness. A few seconds of consideration was all I could bear.

But on December 23, 2015, it did happen to us.

The unimaginable became our flesh-and-blood reality.

The circumstances were dire. His physical condition was tenuous and no doctor could provide assurance. David did, indeed, walk through the valley of the shadow of death. In the dark quiet room of the neuro-ICU, we all waited – hoping that he’d pass through and come back to us.

Our Christmas morning in the neuro-ICU. Unthinkable. Full of beauty and hope.

A harrowing January wasn’t the end of our journey. At some point in the following months, we realized it was just the beginning.

David’s road to recovery had blind curves and steep hills. The same was true for our recovering family. We’re exploring the same territory, yet we each navigate in very different ways. Recovery from trauma happens in inches, not miles. Little by little we push forward. There’s still a long road ahead.

As we pause to reflect on what the past year has held, I return to same ritual that began last December 23rd. On the small brown couch in our library, Christmas tree peeking out from the adjacent room, coffee dutifully beside me, and computer glowing on lap. Distilling the vastness of the past year seems impossible. Yet one truth is tugging, demanding to be heard.

Last year, I wrote about the dark side of imagination, which is fertile ground for fear.

Throughout this year, we’ve learned a twin truth: Imagination has limitations. We can only see – and can only imagine – a finite slice of the reality in which we live.

There’s so much more:

Comfort that can cover and soothe the most gaping of wounds.

Provision for every specific need. Creative in form and often from an unexpected source.

Joy and tears-rolling-down-cheeks laughter to be found in the most unlikely places. Like the neuro-ICU.

Hope that’s more powerful than the darkest fear imaginable.

– – –

That’s the miracle of our year.

That’s the miracle of Christmas.

We were in desperate need. Love came down. He saved us.

From our family to yours, we wish you a very Merry Christmas.

– – –

“He hoped the people saw him in church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant for them upon Christmas Day to remember who made lame beggars walk and blind men see.” Dickens (of Tiny Tim in A Christmas Carol)



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2 thoughts on “December 23rd

  1. ” Recovery from trauma happens in inches, not miles.” These words sailed straight to my heart. I’ve been in those hospital rooms with loved ones….I am still healing. I took a deep breath of relief as you reminded me that my recovery isn’t a race…it’s a journey that is woven into my life.

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