What a difference a year makes. One year ago tonight, I was still trying to catch a deep breath after tucking the kids into bed. The contents of the day were only starting to settle in…Jason and I had made a daunting drive home on icy roads a few hours earlier, the same day I took the scariest call I’ve ever received.
It had been a late breakfast kind of day for the kiddos and me–we were still spooning through oatmeal at the table when I heard a text alert go off from the kitchen. I’d missed a call from Jason, so I listened to the six second voicemail I still have saved in my inbox and called him back. I could hear the sirens of the ambulance in the background, and while I tried so hard to keep a clear head through our conversation, my mind raced to a million places. Jason was being rushed to the hospital, where I’d find him in Trauma 1 in the ER later that afternoon.
He’d been an hour and a half away from home (and just five minutes away from his destination) when he was hit by a pick up truck that spun and slid directly into him, throwing him into a guardrail. Jason had gotten out to help someone on the side of the road, and was not in his vehicle at the time of the accident. I tried to organize details in my head…”he knew how to call me…he’s talking…he’s breathing,” while he told me that he was being taken in for scans of his back and legs. When I asked him what hurt, he responded hesitantly, “I’m ok…I’m fine.”
“He’s paralyzed,” I thought.
We were only able to talk for about a minute, and getting off the phone, the only real information I had was the name of the hospital where Jason was headed, and that he was alive. Even then, it was very hard not to imagine the worst, and all of the ways the day could go from there.
I made a few calls to ask for prayer, contacted the hospital and tried to figure out what I should do next. Our kiddos were too little to take along to the hospital, and I wasn’t in good shape to drive. In that next hour (and without my soliciting the help), a friend drove from her job as a nanny (charge in tow:) to care for my kiddos so I could get on the road, my mom and her husband jumped in the car from Chicago to head our way, and Jason’s co-worker canceled the rest of his day to pick me up and drive me to the hospital. It was crazy-humbling to watch all of the pieces fall together around me while I ran around the house, trying to pack a bag of random items I thought we might need. Even my contact at the hospital went above and beyond to stay in touch with me and to keep me posted with the minimal information she could provide.
Arriving at the hospital was surreal. We went through metal detectors and security guards before being ushered back to the ER where Jason was resting. I had no idea what to expect at all.
Honestly, he didn’t look like himself at first glance. But he smiled and was talking, and I hesitated to ask him what he could feel and couldn’t, so relieved to see him and be there, and so nervous about the next step at the same time. Test after test came back. No internal bleeding. No fracture to his leg. Nerves firing. So many things had gone right, even though a lot was still very wrong.
The hospital hesitated to release Jason that night, but we kept thinking about our little ones at home and the fact that we could get back to the ER in a hurry if need be. In retrospect, maybe we shouldn’t have wanted to make the trek home then, but as we attempted to settle back into the little blue house at bedtime that night, it felt amazing to be here. Together.
It was a week before Christmas, and Christmas suddenly looked nothing like we’d planned. It was horrible and traumatic and painful (for Jason) and hard, but he was home. My kiddos had their daddy. He was in and out of deep sleep on various medications, and struggling with memory and clarity through the holidays, but Henry and Eloise didn’t process all of that. They just knew daddy had been hurt and that he was going to get better. And every time I looked at him, I wanted to cry.
When you feel like you’ve had your own Christmas miracle, it’s hard not to get weepy at every turn.
As I look back on it, there are many beautiful and redeeming things about that unexpected day, the greatest of which is that Jason is here with us, alive, today. He is not paralyzed. He did incur a head injury, memory loss, a broken nose, plenty of bumps, cuts and bruises, and a reoccurring vision of a truck speeding at him in no time flat. By nature of his blacking out several times, he doesn’t completely recall the events of that morning, but we know a few important things:
- Jason prayed for protection over his drive as he left the house that morning
- Minutes before his accident, the kids and I prayed for his safety as he traveled
- There is good reason to think he might not be here today if any one small thing had changed in the moment he was struck by the truck
- Jason’s being “OK” and able to come home from the hospital (on restrictions and heavy medications, but home) that same night is nothing short of a miracle
- We can’t think for a moment that our lives here are not finite…and that they cannot change in a split second. Ours did, and we were reminded in a very humbling way that we are not promised days on this earth by any stretch
Looking back on this past year, there are many other takeaways from December 18th, 2014…all valuable, and too many to list here. We hobbled through the holidays less than gracefully, trying to make our way through the impact of a head injury and all of the trauma that comes with getting hit by a truck.
Jason found renewed purpose in being alive after such a close call. I found renewed purpose as his wife and as mom to our kiddos. We spent Christmas Day in the ER in Chicago, after new symptoms raised flags and Jason needed medical care. We spent New Year’s Eve blinking hard at the closing events of 2014 and the way we’d begin the year ahead.
One event led to others, as is always the case, and I’m convinced that 2015 is largely the sum of many lost and wandering days and many incredible days combined. Everything has felt more raw this year, more real. It feels good to turn the page on this anniversary of sorts, and to high five each other in gratitude for what it’s all meant. Surely we have been changed for better and for worse, but we have also been guided and cared for and have seen God’s hand in many places.
For all of this, we are thankful.
Perhaps last year has a lot to do with why I’ve felt so burdened to pursue a graceful December this time around. Just one more stretching and growing thing that’s come from a year ago today…
Here’s to this coming Christmas, and to all that it will hold. I pray that the season will shine favorably upon each one of us, and that the unexpected comes only in pleasant and graceful ways.