In my previous post “The Unthinkable,” I told about the day of our car accident which resulted in Mark’s Traumatic Brain Injury. When the unthinkable happens it’s easy to get caught up in the “what ifs.” What if Mark hadn’t gotten the job in Ogden? What if we had stayed in bed as I was tempted to and postponed our home search for a day with better weather? What if we’d stayed with the realtor or skipped lunch? What if Mark was driving instead of me? There are plenty of “what ifs” to think about, but that doesn’t change the reality of what happened, and I know it’s a waste of time and energy. I suppose it’s human nature to wonder if I’d done things differently—would life be better? Wallowing in regret only leads to discouragement and depression. My grandma used to call it “having a pity party.” When I recognize my brain is taking me to a pity party I refuse to go.
If it crept up on me before I realized it, I leave the pity party by concentrating on the positives: I am so grateful we survived the car accident and were able to raise our two children. I’m so thankful they weren’t in the car with us because they might not have survived. I’m grateful for the people I’ve met and the experiences I’ve had since the car accident.
When I look for the positive, my eyes are opened to the good things I wasn’t paying attention to before. As I focus on the positive, I am consumed with appreciation for each family member and friend who has and still gives us so much love and support. When I think about the blessings, the experiences and the people we’ve met, I am in awe and my sadness turns to joy.
Our journey took a dramatic, unthinkable turn that day, a turn I did not expect nor could have prepared for. However, there is joy in this journey and at the top of the mountain there is a beautiful view.
So my tip for today: when you feel the “what ifs” coming on and your brain taking you to a pity party, refuse to go. If you’re already there, just leave by focusing on the positive and counting your blessings.
It’s Saturday, April 27, 1991. The alarm went off at 7 a.m. and as I wiped the sleep from my eyes, I turned off the alarm. I looked out the window at an early spring, stormy day, which only added to the desire to stay in bed. Lying next to me was my husband of twelve years. Mark was slender, tall, with dark hair, which was thinning on top. His handsome face was complemented by a dark, well-trimmed beard and mustache. He liked to defend his facial hair by saying he had to grow it where he could.
Mark had a terrific sense of humor, which was another one of my favorite traits. He was not only quick-witted but smart. He got straight A’s in college and passed the three-part test for his Master Electrician’s License on his first attempt which was uncommon.
At age thirty-five his career as an electrician was going well. He loved his work and couldn’t imagine doing anything else. His new dream job of just a few months was located in Ogden, Utah, about 60 miles from our home in Sandy. The hour-long drive each day to and from work became tiresome quickly, so we sold our home and were looking to buy a new one closer to Ogden.
After a stressful, long week of driving to Ogden every day with Mark, I just wanted to stay in bed and rest a little longer. But we had a major decision to make this day. The closing on our Sandy home was scheduled in three weeks. Our goal was to meet with the realtor and show Mark my three favorite homes and make an offer on one of them.
Mark anxiously got the kids up and after a quick breakfast, we all got dressed and rushed out the door to our Hyundai Excel. Our two children—Christopher, eight years old and Katie, seven—were sending the day at their grandparent’s house while we completed our house hunting search. We dropped them off on the way.
We arrived at the Realtor’s office and he drove us to three different locations around the Ogden area. We looked at my three favorite homes. Each one was nice and by lunch time we were still uncertain which home would be best. We decided that Mark and I should go to lunch and discuss our options and drive past each home one more time. We told the Realtor we would definitely get back with him in a few hours to make an offer on one of the homes.
As we finished our lunch, Mark suggested I drive since I had spent the past week with the Realtor and was more familiar with the area. He handed me the keys. Back in the car, we put our seat-belts on as we always did. We drove first to a home in Uintah, and then headed west to Hooper. After driving past the second home, we headed east towards the third home which was located in Ogden. We were driving on a country lane and stopped at the sign on the intersection. Mark pointed at a subdivision across a main four-lane road in front of us.
“I think the home is just over there,” he said while looking down at the Realtor’s list to double check the address.
I pulled forward, not realizing a full-sized pickup truck was coming from the right, and unfortunately the intersection was not a four-way stop. I don’t believe Mark ever saw the truck that hit his side because there wasn’t even time for a gasp. The truck pushed us across the intersection and into a power pole which crushed the area just behind my seat, which left both sides of the car smashed. I realized we were pinned in the rubble and immediately I thanked God that the kids were not with us.
Mark was in the passenger’s seat when the accident happened.
Drivers side where power pole hit
Mark, still seat-belted in the passenger’s bucket seat, was forced behind me by the impact of the truck. I don’t remember the powerful blow his head obviously gave my chest and right shoulder as he was forced behind me by the impact. All windows were broken and gone. The hatchback door was pushed open by the collisions on both sides, and Mark’s tools were scattered all over the road. Even though I couldn’t see Mark’s face, his complete silence told me he was unconscious.
I was aware of many people around the car trying to give assistance.
“Are you ok?” they asked.
In shock I said, “Yes,” but realized something was definitely wrong with my shoulder or collarbone because my right arm was hanging abnormally and I really struggled to breathe.
Anxious people, trying to help, reached through the empty window frames for Mark. I couldn’t believe the murmuring I heard.
“I can’t find a pulse,” one said.
And another; I can’t find one either.”
One was so bold to say, “I think he’s dead!”
Since Mark was pushed directly behind me from the waist up, all I could see were his strong hands resting on his thighs where he had been holding the Realtor’s list. I gently held his left hand and prayed silently and more sincerely than I had ever prayed before.
Please Lord, let Mark live. I can’t live without him.Please let him live.
An answer to my prayer and a sign to me that he was alive, I heard a quiet gurgle from behind me.
My struggle for each breath made me wonder if I would live. I thought of our young children, we have to live for them! Keep breathing, don’t die and don’t pass out. Please Lord, help me breathe, help me stay calm and alert. It was fearsome to have to concentrate on each breath.
I was aware of the paramedics and police approaching our car with a big crowbar and saw. One EMT asked me if I was okay, as he pried open the door.
I said “yes”, too shocked, too sick to show any emotion. I was unnaturally calm and I knew it. I felt I was having an out-of-body experience; like I was watching all these people administering to us rather than being in their midst.
“Can you walk to the stretcher?” the EMT asked as he helped me out of the car.
“I think so, but what about Mark?”
“We have another ambulance for him.”
“But he isn’t even out of the car yet, I can’t leave him.”
“They’ll get him out. We need to get you to the hospital.”
I am sure the stretcher was just a few steps away, but it felt like a long distance. I looked back at our unrecognizable car with many people around it working to get Mark out. In this unthinkable moment it was impossible for me to realize just how drastically our life would change and what we had expected would not be fulfilled. Nor did I realize the grace and love I would see in other people and the blessings that would be ours because of it.
This day effected me like no other and hopefully changed me for the better.
The words of “Beautiful Heartbreak” perfectly express how I feel about this day.
1) If it feels wrong, don’t do it. Usually, when I do something which doesn’t feel right it ends up being a disaster.
2) Say “exactly” what you mean. Communication can be frustrating and sometimes I wondered why the other person didn’t understand what I meant to say. When I analyze what was actually said, I realize I didn’t use the proper words or maybe I was trying to sugar coat it or danced around the meaning, which left a false impression. Other times I just didn’t know exactly what was meant until the conversation was over. Maybe those are the times it’s best to be quiet and just listen to the other person.
3) Don’t be a people pleaser. It is enjoyable to please others, but when words are just said and not heartfelt, it’s lost pleasure and becomes bothersome. When you hear “we should get together sometime” or “let’s do lunch” from the same person every time you run into them, it’s lost its meaning.
4) Trust your instincts. Remembering this can save grief and regret later on. My best results come when I listen to the inner voice and trust my instincts.
5) Never speak badly about yourself. Sometimes I do this in an attempt to be humble, but it doesn’t build self-character. On the other hand, when I hear someone else doing this I feel uncomfortable and don’t know how to respond, wondering if they’re looking for compliments or sympathy.
6) Never give up on your dreams. I feel uncomfortable using the word never, however it’s true that if you don’t dream it, you won’t achieve it. Some dreams just need adjustments along the way while achieving them.
7) Don’t be afraid to say “No”. It’s not possible to do everything, therefore saying no is better than saying yes and not doing it.
8) Don’t be afraid to say “Yes”. Sometimes “no” is the easy way out when asked to do something we’ve never done before. When we say yes and stretch outside our comfort zone, we learn and grow.
9) Be KIND to yourself. It’s easy to judge ourselves without understanding why we can’t accomplish what others do. Often we compare our imperfection to someone else’s perfection, not realizing their circumstances or the time and effort they’ve put into perfecting this skill. Because we’re usually striving to be a better person, it’s difficult to accept our own shortcomings and mistakes. It’s important to be the best you can be, while forgiving yourself and learning from your mistakes.
10) Let go of what you can’t control. A lot of energy, time and emotion can be wasted on things out of our control. Progress is best made by focusing on what we can control.
11) Stay away from drama and negativity. I usually avoid this by not listening to talk radio or watching much television, but I don’t stay away from people I care about because they are going through a rough time which is causing them to be negative.
12) Love. There’s a difference between love of self and an excessive love of self. A balanced love encourages us to love others equally. I undoubtedly cross over the line sometimes, but try to be aware of it. I know I’m happiest when giving genuine love to other people and realize that’s when I feel the most loved.
The spring season is the transition from winter into summer. It’s a time of growth and renewal of life; whenplants and trees which have been dormant for a season regain life and begin to bud into a lush, green, beautiful plant. The timing is perfect for the event of our Savior’s resurrection. Springtime is usually my favorite, however in 1991, it was a lost season because Mark literally slept through it in a coma after our horrific car accident.
I was grateful Mark appeared to be in a safe and sheltered place, unaware of the hospital surroundings, while I struggled to hold myself together. Helpless to make Mark better, I sat next to his bedside in the Intensive Care Unit at MacKay Dee Hospital in Ogden, Utah. My right arm was in a sling and I wore a brace for my broken collarbone, but I hardly noticed the pain—it was nothing compared to my broken heart and worry. Mark, lying perfectly still and quiet, was unaware of the loud noises from the monitors, or the shunt inserted at the top of his head draining excessive fluid from his brain. A feeding tube entered his nose and ran down the back of his throat into his stomach, which would later be surgically placed directly in his stomach. Other tubes were placed to empty his bladder and bowels. The hardest tube for me to observe was the one located in an opening in his neck through his trachea to provide an airway and to keep his lungs clear of fluid. The vacuum sound while the secretions were sucked out through his tracheotomy made me cringe every time, but Mark laid peacefully in a coma, unaware of any of the tubes that kept him alive.
Mark was comatose for three months and most of the time I felt like it was a blessing because he had so many health issues to overcome. Besides his Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), he had broken ribs, a collapsed lung, and infection in his liver. For circulation and to prevent blood clots, Mark laid securely strapped on a bed unlike any I’d ever seen. This bed tilted to the right side and gradually moved to the left, taking three minutes for each continuous rotation. Most of the time, Mark seemed oblivious to the fact that I was there or of any other visitors that came. It was nearly impossible for me to focus on T.V. or a book, so generally I sat by his bedside in prayer, hoping to see some improvement while watching the monitors. Time passed slowly; all I could do was watch, pray and ponder. I thought about how we met and our dates, our wedding day, our home, and the birth of our two children. I thought about our times with special friends, family members, and vacations. I relived all the fun and important events as the video recorder in my head played back the past fourteen years we’d known each other.
We lived in Sandy, Utah, which is sixty miles from Ogden. I couldn’t leave Mark alone to go home, it was too far. I imagined he’d wake up and wonder where he was and what was happening. After a couple of long weeks with no sign of improvement, my family came up with a plan. My brothers, Mick, Don, Steve and brother-in-law Klint, each picked a night which worked best for them, drove to the hospital after work and stayed with Mark until the next morning. A Ronald McDonald House close by was available where they could rest and shower before going to work the next morning. This allowed me to go home on the weeknights to be with our two children, Christopher and Katie.
During the long three months Mark was comatose I wondered, where is he?I could see his body, but often his spirit felt absent. Peace radiated from him and there was a glimpse of heaven I felt in his presence.What will he be able to tell me when he’s conscious?I was certain it would be something special. I longed to hear his voice. There were some days when I felt his company for a short time and on a few better days our spirits were able to communicate through thoughts. I would talk to him and hear his reply in my mind or feel his comfort. It was an impressive, angelic form of communication and I cherished those moments, but I had no control over when or how it would happen. It was an unforgettable experience.
Often, I wondered if Mark was uncertain in which place he belonged or if he wanted to be in heaven, but felt obligated to stay. After six weeks I was exhausted and worried he might be hanging on to life for me and the kids, so I told him it was all right, we’d be okay without him. I didn’t know how I would manage, but felt if it was his time to go I would and could accept it. It was difficult to communicate this heartfelt message, but I didn’t want him trapped here only because I couldn’t let him go. It was a turning point for both of us and I believe Mark lives because he chose to. It would have been easier for him to give up the fight, but I’m so glad that wasn’t his choice. A few days after this experience there was a slight improvement in Mark’s infection, so I arranged for an ambulance to take him from MacKay Dee Hospital to Western Rehab which was located in Sandy, Utah and close to our home.
Mark’s ability to regain consciousness was a slow and gradual process which took several more weeks. At first he would occasionally answer yes or no questions by blinking his eyes once for no and twice for yes. We tested him often with obvious questions. As he improved he would whisper a word or two. One day I showed Mark a picture of Christ and asked him if he’d seen Him. He quietly said, “Yes.” Months later when he could talk in sentences he told of his experience, which he has written down.
“Just before waking from my coma, I thought I was walking the length of a long white hallway. Standing at the far end of the hall was another man about my same height. I say this because neither of us had to look noticeably up or down to look directly into the other’s eyes. He had a full head of pure white hair longer than shoulder length, and a pure white beard that was chest length. I presumed that man to be Jesus Christ. Thinking I had died and would be in His proximity for eternity, I walked up to within a few feet of Him and stopped. I asked for the location of Heavenly Father. He then pointed up and over His shoulder with His thumb toward the door behind Him and said, ‘In the next room.’ I reached around Him and opened the door. Before seeing anything in the next room, I awakened from my coma. I wish I’d known then how short that meeting would be; I would’ve liked to have spent more time with Him.”
As Mark related this experience to me, I knew it was true. During his months of unconsciousness, I knew he was in a special place feeling peace and contentment. I believe there’s more to his experience than he remembers and appreciate the comfort this memory brings to him. It brings comfort to me also; not only does it reassure me that Christ is real and knows each one of us, but I believe that the doors were Mark’s choice and the door he chose brought him back to me. He loves to relate this experience to whoever will listen. Remarkably he tells it using the same words. Since his TBI, Mark has short term memory loss, meaning he can’t remember who he’s told or the words he used. Nevertheless, he uses nearly the same words each time. This confirms to me that Mark’s experience was real and he was given the memory of it and the words to share it, not only to bring comfort to himself, but to touch the lives of others.
By this experience and others, we know Christ lives! He is resurrected. We will return to His presence, where joy, peace and comfort will be found. We were blessed to survive the shocking car accident and we were blessed again by this marvelous experience. We share it along with a beautiful rendition of our favorite hymn in celebration of His resurrection. Happy Easter!
Three reasons I’ve heard why people who don’t like to drink water: 1) It doesn’t have a taste and if it does it’s stale or doesn’t taste good. 2) To get a drink you may need to stop what your doing and then later it makes you need to go to the bathroom. If your trying to get a project done or driving a long distance, this may seem too time consuming. 3) I’m not thirsty. It’s hard to remember to drink when you’re not thirsty or you might not realize you need water even though at least six glasses is recommended daily. I saw this and thought it was a great reminder of it’s importance. Mark doesn’t like to drink water and often forgets that he needs it anyway. I printed, laminated and put the above chart on his bathroom mirror as a reminder. Since water often makes him choke, I’ve found that if I squeeze half of a lemon or lime in his glass of water he can drink it better because it gives it a taste and then he actually enjoys it.
In July of 1983, my mother and I took a road trip to Wyoming to visit my brother, Mick, and his family. From Wyoming, we all traveled to South Dakota to see Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Monument, Jewel Cave and to drive through Bear Country. It was a wonderful trip despite my constant suffering from car sickness and fatigue. Mom did all of the driving and I found it nearly impossible to stay awake. Christopher was with us, but at seven months old the ride put him to sleep also. Mark and Dad couldn’t join us on this trip due to their work schedules. Mom must have felt deserted. She kept waking me up and telling me I was missing the beautiful scenery along the way, but I was nauseated and exhausted and as much as I wanted to enjoy the sights, sleep always won the battle.
When we returned home the sickness didn’t end so I went to the doctor. Being pregnant was the furthest thought from my mind. I just had a baby and he took 3 years to get here. I was shocked and unprepared for this possibility which made for a difficult pregnancy mentally, physically and emotionally. The delivery wasn’t easy either. Our daughter arrived fine, but the placenta had grown into the uterus and I hemorrhaged, losing a lot of blood resulting in an emergency surgery and blood transfusions.
As usual, after a storm the sun always comes out. The joy of its presence is enhanced because of the period of darkness. The warmth and light are brilliant and appreciated. This is definitely how I felt about Katie when she came into our world on April 14, 1984. She was worth any sacrifice or discomfort I ever had and I can’t imagine my life without her.
When we brought Katie home from the hospital, Christopher, who was sixteen months old, was thrilled. While sitting on the couch with Katie in my arms, I held her out towards Christopher to introduce them for the first time. Christopher lovingly and gently put his arms around her and in his little boy voice excitedly said, “Oh baby.” It was if he already knew and loved her. He welcomed her into the family with open arms. Miraculously, I don’t remember him ever being jealous of the attention she received.
Since Katie’s birth I’ve loved to sing to her, You Are My Sunshine. It so adequately expresses the way I feel about her. I really don’t know what I would’ve done without her sunshine, especially on those gray sky days. When Katie turned eighteen, Mark and I changed some words and added some stanzas and gave her this poem along with an afghan I crocheted for her. Today we add another stanza.
Everyone has those days where they feel like giving up. It might be caused by being overwhelmed with a project, or after having a bad day. It might be after you get a bad report, or grade in school, or at work. Sometimes it comes during an intense work out, or hard diet to follow.
Life is like a roller coaster, with its twists and turns and you can’t predict what will happen next. Life can beat you down, but in order to succeed you need to pick yourself up and try again.
On days like these I have a favorite poem I like to read that’s framed and hanging on my wall. I keep it in my exercise room for inspiration in my workouts, but when I just need uplifting I know where to find it—in this poem.
When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.
Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about,
When he might have won had he stuck it out;
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow–
You may succeed with another blow.
Often the goal is nearer than,
It seems to a faint and faltering man,
Often the struggler has given up,
When he might have captured the victor’s cup,
And he learned too late when the night slipped down,
How close he was to the golden crown.
Success is failure turned inside out–
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far,
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit–
It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.
Five important points from this poem:
Rest if you must, but don’t quit. Rest can bring clarity, renewed energy and perspective.
Within every failure are lessons that must be learned to achieve success in future attempts at the same or other endeavors.
Failure doesn’t mean that your attempt was a loss, but that you may have made a few mistakes that made you come up short of success.
Success is the opposite of failure which can be turned inside out.
Failure and success are closely related. There is always hope of success because most often you need failure to learn how to achieve success.
This poem encourages actions and deeds that lead to success. So, next time you are up until midnight writing or studying, feeling overwhelmed, or enduring a tough time, imagine yourself facing the “victor’s cup” in the end. Give yourself something worth working towards and think of these words, ” I must stick to the fight when I’m hardest hit, It’s when things seem the worst that I mustn’t quit.”