Now and Forever

Convertible 2

June 2014, two men struggled to get Mark into our friends convertible, but it was a great ride and memory now. 

In just one moment, our life’s journey took a drastic change and now I can’t help but relate our life as before or after April 27, 1991. In my mind it’s like I have two filing cabinets, one holds memories of before and the other after the car accident. Much love is contained in each cabinet, however the two different lifestyles did changed our relationship. The one constant is as Carole King sings, “Now and forever, I will always think of you.”

I still miss the way things were in my before cabinet and enjoy reflecting on the files contained there. I have to smile at the possibility of my mind embellishing those twelve years of memories, because most of the files hold an easier and happier way of life.

Anniversaries have a way of making me reflect. Because it will be twenty-five years in just a few days, I realize my married life after the accident cabinet holds more than double the files of my before cabinet. To lift my spirit I’ve set my sights on writing about the positive aspects contained in my after cabinet, which I consider blessings.

I’m glad Mark and I survived the accident which could have taken both of our lives. I’m grateful our children weren’t with us when it happened. At the young ages of seven and eight, they appeared to be more resilient and accepting of our new lifestyle than they might have been if they were teenagers at the time. Their childlike belief that all would be well kept us working towards their expectations.

I’m thankful the accident happened before we moved instead of after. I’m grateful for the advice and insight of others to stop the sale of our home. This unfamiliar road would have been so much harder had we been attempting to get settled in a new house while seeking new friendships. I appreciate the love and support we felt from our Sandy neighborhood. The benefits of Mark returning home to a familiar place surrounded by familiar people proved to be immeasurable, especially with his short-term memory problem.

There are unexpected advantages to Mark’s memory issues, such as not recalling the pain and length of time in rehabilitation. I believe his poor short-term memory has saved him from depression. He is fun to be with and works hard to accomplish things which used to come easy. His example of patience, endurance and the constant expression of appreciation encourage me to do and be better.

We’re fortunate Mark regained consciousness after three months of being comatose and remembered the most valuable things in life—faith, family and friends. He retains his determination and quick-wit. He enjoys making people laugh and reminds me that bringing happiness to others brings joy to oneself. He teaches me what’s most important in life and encourages me not to worry about all the other stuff.

I appreciate of the wonderful people we’ve met since our accident and their positive examples. They are mentors who give me strength, courage and faith that I can succeed in my caregiving journey. I’m grateful for all those who have shared a part of their stories as guest authors on Uniting Caregivers.

We’re happy to live in a wheelchair accessible home which provides comfort and conveniences, making our life easier. We’re fortunate to share our home with my parents who are willing to help in every way they can.

We’re lucky to have friends who love and encourage us. Friends who made our move to Draper easier. They welcomed and helped us feel comfortable right from the start. We moved just five years after the accident and we were still adjusting to a new way of life. Their warm reception and support made our new pathway bright.

I’m privileged to have parents and siblings who are generous with love and service. We’re blessed they live close by and we can call on them at any time. If possible and needed, we know they’d come at a moment’s notice to assist in any way they could.

I’m fortunate to have the acceptance and love of Mark’s family and although they live in other states, we know of their concern and care for us. I’m thankful for cell phones, email and social media, which bridges the distance and keeps us connected.

I’m blessed to be a part of a large extended family where cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews are involved in our lives. We cherish our relationship with each one and I’m grateful for their love and loyalty to family.

Looking at all these files of blessings, I realize our life has turned out just as it should for our own personal growth. Our journey may have taken an unthinkable turn on April 27,1991—one I wouldn’t have chosen, nor expected or could have prepared for. However, joy is found in the after the accident cabinet. I believe happiness can be now and forever because Mark is a part of me and I will always be with him.

Our Happy Place

Hip QuoteTwo months ago today Mark had his second total hip replacement surgery. Out of the three most common replacement surgeries, hip, knee and shoulder, we’ve been told the hip replacement is the easiest to recover from. We saw many people during his seven weeks of in-patient rehab days who healed a lot quicker than Mark, even with a knee or shoulder surgery. It’s hard not to get discouraged. This is when I realize having a short-term memory problem is a blessing that Mark inherited from his traumatic brain injury (TBI). He lives in the moment, which is what I’m trying to learn how to do.

DadsRightHipDadsLeftHipThe pain of moving joints, muscles and tendons which have been cut and were not in good condition beforehand seemed at times unbearable. Mark’s ability to make his body move is difficult with his TBI under normal conditions, but throw a surgery in the mix and it’s nearly impossible. However, he persistently works hard to please the therapists and me, doing all that is asked of him, even when he doesn’t feel like it. He has made remarkable progress for his circumstances. When I liken his abilities to before surgery and not another patient, I am thrilled with his progress.

Often right before or during a painful stretch, Mark’s therapist would say, “Go to your happy place.” To that Mark would reply, “My happy place is any place other than here.”

Wanting to be helpful, I started naming vacation spots which hold wonderful memories. “How about the beauty of Zions, Bryce and Grand Canyon; remember the thrill of seeing the parks for the first time on our honeymoon?”

“I just want to go home.” Mark replied.

My thoughts moved to the gorgeous State of Washington where Mark grew up. “I love Deception Pass and the San Juan Islands. I look forward to our next trip there, how about you?”

“Home is my happy place so take me home.” Mark pleaded as the painful stretch continued.

As a wife and caregiver, I want nothing more than for Mark to be better. My world has revolved in this endeavor for twenty-five years next month. In the first few years after his TBI, it was a race against time because it was believed that the greatest amount of progress would happen in the first year and then slow down and plateau within the following couple of years.

Subsequent years we continued seeking for improvement with foot surgeries on both feet to correct foot drop and toe tendons cut to release curl to make standing possible. Also he’s had previous hip surgeries to clean out the joints for improved movement and a Vagal Nerve Stimulator (VNS) implant to help control his seizures along with the various surgeries in the beginning which saved his life. All told, Mark has had fifteen surgeries since the car accident.

Mark turned sixty last November so the path of our journey seems shorter than it used to, which adds a new dimension for recovery importance. It’s evident to me that striving for improvement is a lifetime pursuit. But this is not the life we’d planned and there is a certain amount of grieving that happens over the loss of dreams and honestly some dreams are harder to bury than others.

I’m human and some days I run out of patience and energy. I want Mark to be better now, but recovery is still happening. We are no longer in an in-patient facility, but are now engaged in out-patient therapy. I’m finding it hard to get into a regular routine with the interruptions of driving to and from the needed therapy sessions daily, preparing meals, managing prescriptions and doing the regular household chores. These are the responsibilities I was relieved from while Mark was at the rehab center. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to be home, but I’m looking forward to these common tasks becoming second nature to me again. Feeling overwhelmed makes me wish for a far-away trip, a vacation from health concerns and worries. However, the TBI and physical limitations go with us no matter where we are—so there’s really no escape.

Backyard (2)

Backyard – My happy place.

At the same time, I’m grateful to be home where we have our privacy and some control over our own time. I appreciate the beautiful place where we live, which was custom built to meet Mark’s needs. For us it is the most comfortable and peaceful place on earth, designed to make our life easier. The openness and wide hallways make it possible for Mark to maneuver in a wheelchair. The large shower which Mark can roll right into and a bathroom sink he can roll under creates independence. Even outside we have cement sidewalks around the backyard so we can enjoy the outdoors together. We are fortunate to live in such a house and we have awesome neighbors too. Whenever I feel sad about the places we can’t go, I remember, there is truly “no place like home.” We are grateful after nearly eight weeks of being away to finally be back in our “happy place.” We couldn’t be more thrilled that the surgeries are finally behind us and given a year to heal, I’m certain Mark will be entirely pleased with his hip replacements.

Where is your happy place?

Happy Valentine’s Day

Valentine2According to Wikipedia and the Catholic Encyclopedia there were at least three early Christian saints by the name of Valentine. It is said that the first St. Valentine, a Roman bishop who lived in the third century, held secret marriage ceremonies for soldiers in opposition to the Roman emperor. Claudius II believed married men were more emotionally attached to their families and didn’t make good soldiers. He prohibited marriage to assure quality soldiers and ordered the execution of St. Valentine on February 14th after he healed one of the soldier’s daughters from blindness and is said to have signed a card to her, “Your Valentine”. His devotion to God and commitment to supporting love and marriage is a remarkable example.

In England, by the eighteenth-century, February 14th evolved into an occasion which lovers expressed their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering sweets, and sending greeting cards known as “valentines”.

For Mark and I, the traditional Valentine’s Day symbol has become three heart-shaped balloons with the sentiment “I love you” written on each one of them. They proclaim our feelings plus remind me of the overpowering relief and joy I felt with Mark’s first words to me after our car accident.

Excerpts from my article written March 9, 2015, “Love Ya Back”

Bath bed

Bath bed

Part of my new routine included helping the nurse’s aide bathe Mark. I wasn’t expected to do this, but I wanted to. It was important to me that he knew I was always close by and involved in every aspect of his care. It took two people to slide him from the hospital bed onto the bath bed, which was on wheels. Mark’s naked body was covered in warm blankets. He was secured to the bed with two safety belts, one around his chest and another around his legs, for the ride to the “bath” room. The bed was hoisted into a large bathtub with jets. After nine weeks of sponge baths on his hospital bed, he seemed to enjoy being immersed into the water.

One night in July, after his bath, I cut his hair and shaved his cheeks. We were alone in the bath room. All clean and well-groomed with no place to go except into bed, I stepped back to take one more admiring look at him and said, “I sure do love you!”

Ever so softly, I heard, “Love ya back.” These were his first words in ten weeks and I wasn’t sure I heard them right.

Tears filled my eyes as I moved closer and cupped his cheeks in my hands, “Did you just say love ya back?”

He looked at me and said, “I love you, I love you, I love you.” Each time was slightly louder. I knew he wanted me to be sure of what he was saying and he said it with all his strength.

Exhausted, he closed his eyes. Did I imagine this? No, it was real. I felt his jaw move with my hands and he said it three times, looking straight at me. Without another person in the room, there was no witness. Ecstatic, I wanted to shout to the world that Mark had spoken and recognized me, but I feared they’d doubt me. I didn’t want anyone to squash the joy I was feeling, so I chose not to share this grand news—at least not yet. After helping the aide get Mark back into bed and getting the kids from the playroom, I left the hospital elated, keeping this blessed moment to myself for fear no one would believe me.

Excerpts from my article written March 16, 2015, The Roller Coaster

Enthusiastically, I walked down the hallway of Western Rehab. I was anxious to see Mark and wondered what new words he might say to me today. After hearing him say, “Love ya back” and “I love you,” three times the night before, I was hopeful he’d be even more alert this morning. The hallway seemed longer and brighter and I couldn’t get to his room fast enough. I was tempted to run down the hallway as our children often tried to do, but since I wouldn’t allow them, I decided it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to do it either.

To my dismay, I walked into Mark’s room and the nurse told me he had a fever and his heart rate was fast. He had an infection and the doctor was investigating the source. They pulled the catheter from his bladder and replaced it with a condom catheter in hopes the infection would clear up. Mark was totally unresponsive that day. Even when the kids came to visit that night, there wasn’t the usual blinking of his eyes to their yes and no questions.

We thought the intravenous antibiotic must be working because the following day when my mom brought the kids to the hospital for a visit, he was answering some of their questions with the routine blinks of his eyes. When they kissed him good-bye, he surprised each one with a soft, tranquil, “I love you.” Overjoyed by words which are so often taken for granted, the kids skipped out of the room wearing ear to ear grins, each holding Grandma’s hand, while Mark slipped back into his deep sleep.

I love you

2016 Valentine’s Day at Rocky Mtn. Care

Those three words spoken three times to me and to both of our children two days later were the fuel which got us through Mark’s next fight with phenomena. “I love you” is always wonderful to hear, but we often forget the power behind it.

Three heart-shaped balloons professing “I love you” mean more to me than flowers, chocolate or jewelry. I would appreciate any one of them, but the memory and the recognition that came with the “I love you” said three times with all of Mark’s weakened strength reminds me of the electrifying power it gave me nearly twenty-five years ago. Today is a great day where we are simply and quietly celebrating our commitment to love and marriage.

How do you acknowledge your love on Valentine’s Day?

I look forward to Christine Scott sharing the second part of Laura’s Story on Tuesday.

The Dreaded Phone Calls, part 1

Information DeskApril 27, 1991

My parents anxiously rushed towards me “Are you okay? What happened?” they asked.

I told them about the car accident and how Mark was unconscious and was now in surgery getting a shunt to relieve pressure on his brain.

The receptionist pointed us in the direction of the intensive care waiting room and Mick spied a phone in the hallway near the waiting room. “I need to update Dianne and she can let the rest of the family know what’s going on.”

“Please do,” Mom replied, “We’ll be in the waiting room.”

“I want to call the kids, but I’ll do it when Mark’s out of surgery,” I said.

Dianne, called her daughter, Linda, to let her know it would be a late night with our kids. She also called my only sister, Rosanne, and my brothers, Don and Steve, to inform them of the details of the accident and our condition.

While in the waiting room, Mom and Dad noticed how uncomfortable I was with every breath.

“I think you should go back to the emergency room to make sure the doctor didn’t miss another problem. I’ll wait here in case the neurosurgeon comes while you’re gone,” Mom said.

“I don’t want to miss him.”

“If he comes, I’ll make sure he finds you in emergency to update you on Mark’s prognosis.”

I nodded in agreement. Dad grabbed a hospital wheelchair from the hallway and quickly wheeled me back to emergency room.

“My daughter’s breathing is uncomfortable,” he explained to the nurse at the station. “Could you make sure there’s not another problem?”

“Sure,” the nurse replied as she took the wheelchair and wheeled me in for more x-rays, then back to another room where my Dad and I waited to hear the results. Time seemed to be passing at a snail’s pace, but finally a doctor arrived with the results of the x-rays.

“Your lungs are clear and your heart is fine. There are no broken ribs. Your pain is coming from your collarbone, which is broken in two places, and the extensive chest bruising. The nurse will bring you some pain medication for now and here is a prescription to fill later.”

“I can’t take any medication,” I said. I already felt foggy and was afraid it might cloud my thinking. “I need to be alert so I can understand what’s happening.”

The doctor raised his eyebrows and looked at me skeptically. “Well… your choice, but in case you change your mind…” he said as he handed me the written prescription.

“Thanks,” I replied.

Dad wheeled me back to the I.C.U. waiting room.

“Hasn’t the neurosurgeon come yet?” I asked Mom.

“Not yet”

“I should call Mark’s mom,” I said. How do I tell her that Mark is not expected to make it through the night? What words would ease the blow?

Wanda lived in Vancouver, Washington about 785 miles away. Mark adores his mother and never uttered one negative word about her. She’s smart, witty, soft-spoken, and devoted to her three children. Mark was her only child for ten years and he enjoyed the undivided attention. I respected Wanda and appreciated her influence in raising such wonderful man. Now I was afraid she might reject and blame me and I felt she had every right to do so. Feelings of guilt and remorse about the car accident filled my soul.

Dad realized my anguish and offered to make the call, but I wanted to — or at least I felt like I should be the one to tell her. Dad pushed me in the wheelchair from the waiting room into the hallway to a small cubical with a phone sitting on a desk with a chair. I looked at the phone and feared I’d fall apart. I didn’t have the strength to pick up the receiver. Disappointed in myself I asked Dad if he’d make the call for me.

When there was no answer at her home, I remembered Wanda told us she was going to Arkansas to visit her parents and brother. I didn’t have Uncle Glynn’s phone number, but I did have Mark’s sisters phone numbers in my purse.

Being the big brother, Mark felt protective and proud of his sisters Karen and Jerrie. Even though they were only ten and eleven when he moved to Utah with his employment he kept track of them the best he could long distance. It was obvious he cherished both of them. Karen married Mark Ray almost two years prior to the accident and we had just been to Washington in November for Jerrie’s wedding to Jon. I was worried how they might react to this devastating news.

I sat in the wheelchair next to Dad, listened to his conversation with Karen about the accident, and then heard him ask for Glynn’s phone number. Without saying another word, he picked up the receiver again, dialed 0 to talk to the operator to have the long distant call billed to his home phone number.

I nervously listened as I heard Dad introduce himself to Glynn, whom neither of us had ever met, and then ask if Wanda was available to talk to. Next I heard Dad recalling the accident details and grim prognosis the doctor had given. He told her Mark was in surgery getting a shunt to relieve the pressure from his brain and that we would update her after the surgery.

I sighed with relief—Mark’s family now knew and seemed to be handling the news in their usual gracious way.There was one last dreaded phone call to make and I cringed at the thought—our young children still didn’t know.

The last Wilson family picture before the accident.

Mark Ray, Karen, Wanda, Mark, Barbara, Grandparents- LaFaye, Norval                                   Jerrie, Jon, Katie and Christopher – The Wilson Family – November 1990

Next week’s Sunday Story will be part two – how I tell Katie and Christopher.

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!

The Unthinkable

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.

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Mark was in the passenger’s seat when the accident happened.

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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.

 

Count Your Blessings

November is the perfect month to count our blessings. Mark has a wonderful ability to recognize blessings that have come from the car accident which left him wheelchair-dependent, living with seizures and speech impairment, all due to his traumatic brain injury.

Mark says, “The accident has improved and strengthened my emotional well-being. I’ve learned not to be hurt as easily as before by comments made by other people.” People often say things without thinking. Mark chooses not to take offense but rather makes a joke of it.

Other blessings he counts from the accident: “patience with myself and others whom I have to wait on to get their help; my differences make more of an impression, so people remember me easier; my sense of humor has improved (at least in my mind); I have gained many special friends through work and volunteers who come to help me; and the best parking places for our van.”

Because of Mark’s speech impairment, when he talk’s people look at him more intently – to understand what he’s saying. He counts this as a blessing and appreciates those who look him square in the eye and not off somewhere else.

The most fun is when he counts the blessings of his short-term memory problem. “I don’t remember an argument; I can read or hear the same joke over and over again and it’s still funny; I enjoy redoing the same puzzles.”

What a wonderful example he is: counting the blessings in his adversities and letting them strengthen his character. Just one reason why I love him so.

Adversity- Nov.