I can barely remember the Christmas after the car accident. It had been 5 months; right about the time when life slows down enough to feel how everything has changed but is still too foreign to take it all in. I was so new to being paralyzed that the world around me seemed to halt, too, all except for the emotions and the overpowering sense of loss. I was back in high school but was forced to give up many of the things I loved, including parts of my memory (the result of a head injury), my independence, and my sense of self.
That Christmas, my family had been “adopted” by the fire department and neighborhood block watch. They gathered food and supplies for my family and raised money to cover medical expenses. Devastated by the affects of the car accident, we had little energy or money to focus on anything but just being thankful that we were still a family. By far, the first year was the hardest.
We got through it, though. Through these ten years, we’ve learned that still having each other means so much more than “surviving”. It means that we have a shoulder to cry on when things get tough, a hand to lift us up, and arms to give us that much needed hug of encouragement. Every Christmas, especially, we remember the gifts of friends and family, and of the strangers who made sure that we got back on our feet, even if we might not be able to stand, literally, on them.
This Christmas will be the first Christmas in these new shoes for at least 2 families I know. Statistically, 12,000 individuals across the nation will be “celebrating” the holidays from a seated position for the first time. Some will walk again, many wont but all will feel what many of us veteran SCIs have felt- The weight of the first year. If I have one gift I can give to those 12,000 families whose lives have changed this year, it is the knowledge that things do get better. We may not be able to put a bandaid on and heal the past but we can work towards a brighter future. And for the friends and extended families of these individuals and families, please give them a little bit more encouragement in this trying time. Your support will be felt exponentially!
Ten years later, we are a stronger family and stronger individuals than we have ever been. I am a pretty independent quad; my parents are both going strong; and my sister, the world traveler, well, I hear from her every once in a while (when she’s not on a ship, exploring the ocean floor 🙂 ).
“Sooner or later life breaks us all, but with courage, hope and the support of people who care, many become stronger in the broken places.”