In a Heartbeat

Wedding Invitation

Wedding invitation picture

I heard a knock on my apartment door. I was expecting Mark, but still asked, “Who is it?”

“It’s me,” Mark replied. I opened the door to see my tall, dark and handsome boyfriend holding a bouquet of flowers in a vase. I welcomed him into the apartment I shared with a friend, Lori. He handed me the flowers with a note. I set the flowers down on the kitchen table to read the note:

“I Mark Wilson, being of questionable mind, but sound body, ask you Barbara Breitling to marry me.”

With anticipation and a grin, I noticed he was reaching into his pants pocket and pulling out a small box.

Now in all the fairy-tales the man bends down on one knee to ask for the lady’s hand in marriage. Since I wanted a fairy-tale wedding and marriage, I thought it only appropriate to have that kind of proposal.

“Aren’t you going to get down on one knee,” I asked. He dropped down and reached for my left hand. I gladly gave it to him and he placed a beautiful diamond ring on my finger, which was a perfect fit. So our journey began with the official proposal on May 2, 1979.

We had dated for two years and decided to make our engagement short since June is the best wedding month. Fortunately, my mother is a pro at organization and party planning. She also had experience with helping my sister and two older brothers with their wedding days. As an anxious bride, I thought six weeks was plenty of time to prepare for the biggest party of my life. To complicate matters, we wanted the wedding and reception in my parent’s backyard, so on top of the regular wedding preparations we had a yard to dress up.

Mark and I were raised in two different religions so we thought my Uncle Wayne, who was an LDS bishop at the time, should be the ceremony officiator. This was the first of many decisions. My aunt Lorna, who worked at a bakery, decorated a beautiful three-tier cake. My cousin, Melody, who worked at a craft store did mine and three bridesmaid’s silk bouquets along with five corsages and five boutonnieres for the rest of the wedding party which included my two oldest nieces as flower girls. There were bridemaid’s dresses to sew and mine to buy. For the men, tuxedo’s to rent. A photographer to hire and wedding invitations to have printed and mailed. We had refreshments to order and asked four close cousins to help serve them. Mom and Dad rented an organ and my brother-in-law Klint played the wedding march along with love songs throughout the night to add romance to the atmosphere. We also had some special musical numbers which were sung by a family friend and talented cousins. The two I remember best were the “Hawaiian Love Song” and “We’ve Only Just Begun”.

Scan0053It was the greatest wedding and reception I’ve ever been to thanks to the hard work of parents, family and friends who helped pull it together in just six fast passing weeks.

Our honeymoon is an awesome memory and we were definitely on top of the world. We spent our wedding night in a nice hotel in Salt Lake City and the next six nights were spent camping at Zion’s and Bryce National Parks, and the Grand Canyon. We had a wonderful time and fell in love with the beauty of Southern Utah while exploring the parks for the first time together. Even though the planning of everything was stressful, it was an exciting, blissful time of life. No other memory can compare to the wedding and honeymoon and then it’s back to real life.

Setting up a home together and learning to live with one another brings challenges. With work, school and a new home, sometimes we struggled to make ends meet. Three and a half years later our son came; add another sixteen months and our daughter joined our family. Children bring happiness along with added responsibilities and adjustments.

Two months before our twelfth wedding anniversary the car accident happened and the world as we knew it fell apart. Our life dramatically changed, adding physical and mental health issues. Thus far, we have survived it all which gives me faith for the future. This month we celebrated our thirty-fifth wedding anniversary. It’s hard to believe that much time has passed. Our two children are grown and creating their own families. I remember how time consuming they were when they were small and now we have to beg, borrow and steal time with them, and we cherish every moment. It’s strange—I don’t remember growing older, so how did they get to my age? Thirty-five years sounds like a long time, but it went by so quickly.

One day Mark asked me if I knew then what I know today, would I still marry him? My reply was, “In a heartbeat.” Sure, I would write a different love story by changing some events in our lives if I could. But I wouldn’t change the love we share. Our marriage is nothing like we’d planned, expected or could possibly comprehend. It’s been a lot of hard work, forgiveness, juggling responsibilities, patience, and tolerance on both of our parts. Would I still marry him? Yes, in a heartbeat!

Best wedding ever.

Wedding Cake

Scan0048

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scan0060Scan0054

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scan0047

 

Parents

First kiss

 

 

 

 

 

Scan0049

Scan0050

Scan0061Scan0051

Learning By Example

Watching You Grow

I thought Joyce Maynard’s quote went well with last Sunday Story, Dad Creating Beauty After Tragedy – Part II. Katie said, “My dad has taught me the keys to happiness through his example. He chooses to be happy by having a sense of humor, being productive, forgiving, grateful and maintaining hope.

 

 

A Father’s Job

Image

Joy of DadIn Katie’s Sunday Story, Dad Creating Beauty After Tragedy – Part II she states, “We were quietly eating when I looked around the crowded room and realized my dad was the only person there in a wheelchair. I wondered if that ever bothered him. My thoughts were interrupted when my dad sat up in his chair with a big smile on his face and declared, ‘I’m the luckiest guy here!’

‘Why?’ I asked.

He replied, ‘Because I’m sitting next to the two most beautiful women in this room.’ Dad’s so busy looking for the good in every situation he doesn’t have time to notice the bad.”

My favorite trait about Mark, is that he always looks for the good and is so complimentary. He rarely complains and loves to uplift others, especially the ladies!

Mark’s nickname for Katie is Princess, and he treats her as such. Before Katie and Eldin’s engagement, Mark gently reminded Eldin that he calls Katie Princess. Eldin understood Mark’s meaning and what he expected of him. Eldin replied, “I agree, she is one.” Fortunately, he hasn’t disappointed us in their eleven years of marriage and we are grateful he treats her as one.

Dad Creating Beauty After Tragedy – Part II

Continuation from June 15, 2014, Dad Creating Beauty After Tragedy.

Written by, Katie Wilson Ferguson

1997 – Katie & Mark in Jamestown, VA.

Age fourteen was an especially rough year for me. Dad had been in a wheelchair for half my life due to a traumatic brain injury from a car accident. He started having seizures, which always scared me. His memory was getting worse. I felt frustrated when he couldn’t remember the name of the school play I’d been rehearsing for and talking about, but he could describe the swing he had as a child in detail.

My parents always talked and acted as if Dad would regain all his abilities, but at age fourteen I started realizing life wouldn’t go back to the way it was before the car accident. I was angry with God and felt He abandoned us. I was grateful He spared my dad’s life, but I didn’t understand why He didn’t make Dad all better. He was working hard to regain all the abilities he once enjoyed. I felt my dad deserved more.

Mark  Katie in Zions National Park

1998 – Mark &  Katie in Zions National Park

About this same year, my family was driving to my cousins wedding reception and got lost. The stress of trying to find the venue and running late led us to argue. We finally arrived at the destination feeling tired and ornery. We were just in time to join the other guests in watching the bride dance with her dad. I looked at my dad sitting in his wheelchair and was overcome with jealousy. My heart broke as I thought I wouldn’t be dancing with my dad at my wedding. Emotion flooded my eyes with tears and I ran out of the room and into an empty elevator. As soon as the elevator doors closed, I lost all control and sobbed. I escaped back to my family’s van and hid there for the rest of the reception.

I regularly babysat two neighbor girls ages seven and ten. While babysitting one summer afternoon, we walked to my house to get something and they met my dad for the first time. While walking back to their house, the girls asked me the same questions I often heard. “What happened to your dad?” they asked. I thought back to when I was seven, and explained my dad’s brain injury the same way adults had explained it to me back then. “My parents were in a car accident, and now his brain has a hard time telling his muscles what to do. That’s why it’s difficult for him to walk and talk and do the things most of us get to do without much effort.”

The girls asked how old I was when the car accident happened. The seven-year-old became especially intrigued when she realized I was her age when it happened. She asked, “What happened to you?”

“I wasn’t in the car accident. I was home with my brother and babysitter.”

“No. I mean what happened to you after?” She wanted to know how the car accident affected me.

I don’t remember how I responded, but her question caused me to reflect on how my family had been served by so many people. I thought of how my brother and I stayed with our grandparents and extended family often while my dad was in the hospital. I had my own toothbrush at Grandma and Grandpa’s house and at my aunt and uncle’s house. My toothbrushes at both houses had my name written on with nail polish. This was a small thing which helped me feel at home in someone else’s house. When we stayed with my aunt and uncle, my cousins read to me from the book “Charlotte’s Webb.” This also helped me feel at home since I was use to my dad reading me bedtime stories.

I have seen so much goodness in people because of my family’s experience. Some of my parents’ neighbors have generously given their time to help my dad with exercises on a regular basis – some of which have been doing it for more than seventeen years.

Twenty-three years after their car accident, we are still blessed to have love and support from family and friends. I’ve been surrounded by angels my entire life, many are disguised as human beings.

The biggest angel of all is my Mom. She has been my dad’s full-time caregiver and his biggest advocate. At one point during my childhood, she had three jobs to support our family while raising two kids and caring for my dad. I’m so proud of my mom. I used to say I wanted to be like her when I grew up. If I ever do grow up, I can only hope to have the strength and determination she has. I am grateful for all the years she has served and loved my dad. I don’t think any person can truly understand all the sacrifices she has made over the years. She has prayerfully fought her battles with grace and wisdom. I think my parents’ relationship is far more impressive than anything I’ve heard from a fairytale or seen in a movie.

2003-Katie  Eldin with Mark and I

2003 – Katie & Eldin’s Wedding Reception with Mark and I

After I had been married for about a year, my parents met me for lunch at a restaurant. We were quietly eating when I looked around the crowded room and realized my dad was the only person there in a wheelchair. I wondered if that ever bothered him. My thoughts were interrupted when my dad sat up in his chair with a big smile on his face and declared, “I’m the luckiest guy here!”

“Why?” I asked.

He replied, “Because I’m sitting next to the two most beautiful women in this room.” Dad’s so busy looking for the good in every situation he doesn’t have time to notice the bad.

DadAndMe 2013

2013 – Katie and Mark

My dad has taught me the keys to happiness through his example. He chooses to be happy by having a sense of humor, being productive, forgiving, grateful and maintaining hope. My dad once said, “Adversity is the exercise that strengthens the muscle of character.” I think my dad’s muscle of character has Hercules strength.

Thank you Katie for sharing more of your story. Teenage years are hard under the best circumstances. I’m sure your dad’s health and your mom being overwhelmed with responsibilities added to your stress. I’m grateful we all survived those hard years. From this article I learned a lot about your feelings and appreciated your honesty. I am proud of the resilient person you are and the sunshine you bring into my life as well as others. I’m so lucky you’re my daughter!

My Father Didn’t Tell Me

MyFather (2) Our daughter, Katie is a graphic designer and owns Graphic Forte. She designed this saying along with many others shared on Thursday Thoughts. She shared her story last Sunday, Dad Creating Beauty After Tragedy. I appreciated her story and that she realizes not only did the scene of her life drastically change by the car accident, but so had her dad’s. He is a survivor of a traumatic brain injury and she has learned much from him. I’m so grateful she has memories of her dad before the accident. I use to worry the kids would not remember their dad as I did because of their young age.

Katie states, “As a seven-year-old child through adulthood I saw my dad use his tragic and life-changing disturbance to create a new kind of beauty.” She learned important lessons from him, not because he told her, but through his example.

She learned, “the value of perseverance as he pushed through strenuous therapy as he learned to feed himself and speak again.”

He showed her “how burdens can be lightened by having a sense of humor. He often told people the scar on his stomach from the feeding tube he had was really a second bellybutton, which made him ‘twice the man.’”

I now understand the benefits of taking our children daily to the rehab center. Not only did the kids grow from Mark’s example, but the kids encouraged him and gave him reason to work hard at regaining every ability. Mark’s rehabilitation was a family affair and in an unusual way, or at least one we wouldn’t have chosen, it made our family closer than we might have been otherwise.

I know we continue to benefit from Mark’s example—actions do speak louder than words.

We’re looking forward to the next Sunday Story and reading how the transformation affected Katie’s life throughout her teen years and as an adult.

Dad Creating Beauty After Tragedy

1987- Katie wearing her dads coat following him on a log walk

Written by, Katie Wilson Ferguson

When I was a child, I saw a few episodes of “The Joy of Painting,” featuring the famous landscape artist, Bob Ross. I thought the skinny white painter looked funny with his big brown Afro. His thick beard barely moved as he softly spoke about the different techniques and tools he used to paint. His serene ponds and lakes mirrored colorful trees and majestic mountains textured with highlights and shadows.

Just when his paintings seemed perfect, he’d slap dark paint down his canvas. “No!” I’d holler in my head. “What are you thinking?” He disturbed the tranquility he’d just created with what seemed like an ugly mistake. He added highlights to the dark line, creating the texture of bark. He pushed his brush loaded with green paint against his canvas, creating speckles of leaves. He gradually turned the dark line into what he called a “happy little tree.” He transformed his canvas with a new kind of beauty.

I don’t think life is ever picture perfect for anyone, but my early childhood was close. I grew up with two loving parents and a brother 16 months older than me. I was blessed with a healthy body and a comfortable home.

1990- Mark climbing Mt. Air

1990- Mark climbing Mt. Aire

1982 - Mark Snowmobiling

1982 – Mark snowmobiling

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The four of us loved dancing, biking, hiking, snowmobiling and three-wheeling. My dad was my favorite person to ride with on the snowmobiles and three-wheelers. He drove fast and took jumps even with his little girl’s arms squeezing his waist as she squealed behind him.

Mark with Christopher and Katie 1991 Just a few days after waking from his coma.

Mark with Christopher and Katie 1991
Just a few days after waking from his coma

The canvas of my childhood was transformed almost two weeks after my seventh birthday. My cousin was babysitting my brother and I while my parents were house hunting. The phone rang. When I got on the phone, I heard my mom’s voice crack. I could envision her chin quivering as it does whenever she starts to cry. “Your daddy’s hurt,” she said.

I learned my parents were in a car accident. I didn’t know the extent of my dad’s Traumatic Brain Injury at that time. But if my mom was scared enough to cry, then so was I. I cried a lot that night.

Days later, my mom sat at the kitchen table with the two of us kids. Her right arm was in a sling. She had my brother make a paper origami-like box, something he’d recently learned in school. She explained how a pickup truck hit our family’s small Hyundai on the passenger’s side where my dad was sitting. She pushed in one side of the paper box as if it were a replica of the damaged car. She explained the impact of the accident pushed the car across the intersection and into a light pole. She pushed in the other side of the paper box, indicating how the pole smashed the driver’s side of the car, just behind the driver’s seat where my mom was sitting. The impact caused my dad’s head to hit the inside frame of the window and then swing to his left and hit my mom’s right shoulder, shattering the right side of her collar bone.

I later asked my mom if the man driving the pickup truck was in jail for hurting my dad. She explained the accident was a mistake. Nobody meant to hurt him. All I knew was my dad was in a hospital instead of home with his family. I thought someone should be punished for that.

I didn’t get to see my dad for the first six weeks he was in the Intensive Care Unit because my mom thought it would be too scary for her little kids. That was a wise decision. He lay comatose in a rotating bed. He was hooked up to tubes and machines, which made unusual noises. One of those tubes was a shunt in his head to relieve fluid on his brain – something no child wants to see.

My mom decided it was time for us to see our dad after his condition became more stable and the shunt in his head was removed. He was still comatose, but I was excited to finally see him. My excitement shattered when I walked into his room. The man I once saw smash his finger with a hammer without shedding a tear lay helplessly unconscious. Tubes connected his lifeless body to machines. He was dependent on technology and the care of others. It was my first time seeing him vulnerable.

I was scared. I recognized his face, but how could he be my dad? My dad was strong enough to lift me onto his shoulders so I could see parades over large crowds. My dad did sit-ups every night with his toes tucked under the couch as I sat on it and counted his sit-ups aloud. My dad killed spiders for me and read bedtime stories to me. I didn’t want to go near the lifeless body in the hospital bed.

1987- Mark and Katie Rafting at Mirror Lake

1987- Mark and Katie rafting on Mirror Lake

1986 - Mark carrying Katie

1986 – Mark carrying Katie in his usual way

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1987- Katie and Mark having fun in the pool.

1987- Katie and Mark having fun in the pool

1986 - Katie teaching her dad how to walk on the beam.

1986 – Katie teaching her dad how to walk on the beam

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That night, my brother and I slept at my grandparents’ house like we often did after my parents’ car accident because Mom stayed at the hospital. My grandma prepared the sofa pullout bed and tucked us in under the covers. Instead of singing us lullabies, she quietly played the piano on the other side of the room. I slipped into         dreamland.

I dreamt I was sitting in the same bed I had fallen asleep in while wearing the same pajamas. My brother was sleeping to my right. When I looked to my left, I saw my dad standing – yes, standing – at my bedside! He looked tall and handsome in his Sunday suit. He didn’t say a word to me, but his warm smile soothed my fears and I was no longer afraid of him.

My dad was in a coma for three months and hospitalized for eight. He came home just in time for our family to spend Christmas together. He was in a wheelchair and dependent on my mom’s care.

1992 – Chris, Mark, Katie

While growing up, some friends asked me what it was like having a dad in a wheelchair. My brother and I helped my mom dress and care for my dad, especially when he first came home from the hospital. I learned how to help around the house and be more independent at a younger age compared to most of my friends. Our family could no longer dance, bike, hike and snowmobile together like we once could.

The scene of my life drastically changed, and so had my dad’s. But like Bob Ross transforming a dark and ugly line of paint into a “happy little tree,” I saw my dad use his tragic and life-changing disturbance to create a new kind of beauty.

He taught me the value of perseverance as he pushed through strenuous therapy. He learned to feed himself and speak again. He liked to say P.T. (physical therapy) really stood for “pain and torture.”

1992 – Mark kissing his little Princess

He showed me how burdens can be lightened by having a sense of humor. He often told people the scar on his stomach from the feeding tube he had was really a second bellybutton, which made him “twice the man.”

My dad (who wasn’t expected to live) not only survived, but thrives with a positive attitude. I’m blessed to call him Dad.

Next week, I’ll share how this transformation affected my life throughout my teen years and as an adult.

 

Thank you Katie for sharing your story. You and Christopher have been our inspiration. Your encouragement and love kept us striving to do better and to never give up. While searching for the pictures to use, my “chin was quivering, just as it does whenever I start to cry.” My heart truly broke the day the accident happened. Not only for your dad but for you and Christopher too, but as you so elegantly reminded me—it’s a beautiful heartbreak. I’m so blessed and proud to be your mother!

HAPPY FATHER’S DAY TO ALL THE GREAT DADS! I’m lucky to have one and to be married to another. I’m grateful for all the men in my life.