Sunday, December 21, 2014

Touched by Angels


      Each week as I ready for blog writing, I let my topic come to me as I go through my every day activities.  Not knowing until I was in church this morning, sitting, listening to the homily, I had  to look down for my eyes were whelming with grateful tears as I remember my first church visit four months after our collision.  Yes, this is what I should share today as the holiday season is among us, as we sit, look back at all we are grateful for and bask in all that we are given.  At the suggestion of a wonderful high school classmate of mine, I want to bring up how each one of us can be someone's angel, right here on this earth we live on. 

    Easter was late that year, April 24th.  Our priest suggested that I wait to come to church until my pain lessened and I became more mobile.   Unable to drive or attend many of my families activities,  unable to stand being cooped up any longer, I asked my husband to take me to mass.  Rolling me into church, I could feel warm eyes on me, although welcome, I felt small in that wheelchair, stripped of my independence.    Dragging my bottom from the chair to the hard, wood bench, I cringed.  I had forgotten to bring a seat cushion.  Weighing around 110 lbs, there was not much padding for my sore tailbone that I had been sitting on, without relent, for many months.  One of our daughters finally gave me their coat to ease my discomfort and stop the grinding sound that came from my constant fidgeting.  

     With that taken care of my ankles started talking to me, before long they were barking and by communion, howling.  Since they are elevated most of the day to relieve the pressure of my injuries, an hour of hanging down has caused deep aches and a pounding each time my heart beat.  We all know that Easter mass is a tad longer than a normal Sunday devotion.  Admitting silently that this was not one of my best ideas, communion commenced, meaning we were close to ending.

     I sat on the right side of church, in the front row, at the end of the pew, farthest from the aisle.  I had not heard or absorbed a single word of mass since entering the church.  Concentrating solely on increasing my comfort and berating myself for being impatient with my progress, I had lost the purpose of even attending with my family. 

      Keeping my head down as parishioners received the Eucharist, I felt the first soft touch on my right shoulder.  Gently smiling, I
covered this man's hand and nodded thank you.  Lacing my fingers together, I laid my clasped hands in my lap as another hand gingerly touched my shoulder as they passed by me, another patting, another squeezing, another caressing, another and another and another. 

      Each one of these wonderful angels spoke volumes to me as they moved past.  No words, just touch.  Soft, compassionate, reassuring shoulder embraces.  This was not sorrow or pity from what had happened to me.  This was normal people being sent as angels to comfort.  One hot tear fell from the corner of my right eye and then one more.  As more parishioners moved past me, more tears fell.  I could not lift my eyes for fear of completely collapsing emotionally.  So many hands that I could not count touched my heart.  

     With nothing to wipe my eyes, I sat there, slightly bent, watching the tears fall from the contours of my face to the fabric of my pants as the line moved forward.  My face was hot from the cascade of emotion sliding down my cheeks.  Silent sobs racked my chest in even increments as I earnestly kept them from escaping.   Unable to hide what was transpiring within me, my soaked eyelashes laid on my cheeks for the remainder of the hour.  

     Incapable of succeeding exclusively on my own, I accepted the help of others for the first time that I can cite.  Beholden with gratitude at what God asked these individuals to do that day and their willingness to accept has been the foundation of my successful rehabilitation.  Never knowing when we will be called upon, we should live gratefully and selflessly all year long instead of growing a soft heart only near the holidays or when tragedy beats on our door.  It did not matter that I heard no words recited from scripture this day, He said everything I needed to hear transmitted through your touch.  

  It is said that if angels exist, they have wings and halos above their head.  That they only show themselves when we reach so deep within ourselves that we touch a place we never knew we even had.  

But I see angels every day and they look just like you.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

He Helped me Answer my Own Question

     I wrote about this day many months ago waiting for one of my children to be released from practice.  I stored it in a notebook I carried with me to write down my random thoughts.  Several months ago, I tore it out of my notebook and discarded it, knowing I would not share this experience for fear of what others would think.  Fear of others rejecting the brilliant hour that turned my torture into something elseSomething that changed my perspective and eased the hurt from that deep bruise that was imprinted into my heart since December 29th. 

     Three months I had been lying in a hospital bed in my living room with the same question running into and invading every thought I had.   It wasn't even a conscious question at this point, I couldn't control its interference in my life.  I visioned it as someone terribly annoying poking me in the shoulder every half second, not stopping when asked.  " Am I going to be okay?" it vibrated fiercely . 

      Each day for three months I spent my days with this question alternating with my body begging me to stop the pain.  "AM I going to be okay?" *PAIN!* "Am I GOING to be okay?" *PAIN!* "AM I GOING TO BE OKAY?!" ***PAAAAINN!***  No rest, no reprieve. It was maddening!

     A weekday afternoon as I lie in that bed, I grew weary of watching tv.  I cannot focus enough to read, it is painful to write, I tire of my own thoughts.  Closing my eyes, I drift to some meditative state.  Still hearing voices from the television, still knowing my surroundings, that blasted question even intrudes my thoughts here.  For Gods sake, just leave me alone for a bit. 

     Sensations.  Odd sensations come over me.  I am smiling.  With my eyes still closed, a big easy smile spreads across my face.  I don't understand it but I love it, I want more.  A feeling slowly washes over by body. I had been cloaked with a calmness and it swaddled me as a mother swaddles her infant.  

     Peace.  It was splendid peace, warming my body, mind and spirit.  With a trust so unbelievably complete, I knew the answer to my unending inquiry.  Yes.  Even if I do not walk well or ever again,  I will be just fine.  If that means living life in a wheelchair, I will be just fine.  Our girls and I had survived and that is all that I cared about.  Vivid, clear thoughts were mine.  Heaviness lifted its weight from my heart and it began beating again in earnest.

     My world inside of our home stopped as if Mother Nature had stopped time, except for myself.  I was in a whirl wind, everything around me was blurring as my mind whipped with comprehension, with awe, with disbelief.  He wasn't here with me, I did not hear him say the words, but he let me feel my answer.  He was allowed to let me know I was going to be okay.  He was allowed to let me feel peace.  It was him, the man who hit me. 

     I sat up in bed, overcome with emotion and exploded into tears, heart wrenching tears as I held my head in my hands.  I sobbed submissively, "I'm so sorry." "I'm so sorry you died."  " I'm sorry you died and I did not, I don't know why, I'm sorry."   I could not picture his face because I did not know what he looked like.  I did not know his life or personality, but I felt his heart this day.  It felt like this was a way that God let him help the person he caused so much pain for.  He was sorry.   

     He was finally at peace.  I don't know what that meant, but I knew it as well as I knew my own name. 

     It was the first time I had addressed him.  Acknowledged that he had changed my life.  Now he had changed it twice in a matter of three short months.  I know the reality. I know the explanations and excuses of everything else that this can be.  I was dreaming, it was effects of the pain medications I was ingesting, it was my own mind wanting something so badly that I imagined it.  

     But what does it really matter?  I had found what I had been searching for.  My spirit was at ease.  That question no longer haunted me.  I don't care what it was, I loved what it did for me.  I choose to believe because it grants me peace, courage and composure.  I choose to believe.

     I do not wish this pain or these struggles to be in my life.  I wish I could learn these lessons in a less tragic way, but this is my path now.  My journey.  God does not leave you on Earth without a reason.  I have asked him a few thousand times what am I supposed to do for him, what is my reason for being saved because when I look at my car, at the scene, it does not look as if anyone should have survived that.  

     I have heard his silent wishes and this past week, in a room full of three hundred plus people, I finally accepted.  I smirked as I said, "Well you ornery son of a gun." HE says, " Do the thing that you have been most afraid of your entire life." 

 Speak. Up. 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

There were Angels all Around Us

     I can only speak from my perspective when I relay the delicate details of my memories, but in conversing with our children, they feel as strongly as I do about how each one of you who helped in any way has been an Angel sent to us.  

     There are few memories from my extrication and transport, but those few seem like such large remembrances.   There were people surrounding our car, helping keep the girls and I calm while waiting for the emergency crew to come to our aid.   Per my husband's communication, he arrived in record time and he skidded our truck to a halt in front of our scene. There was only a fire truck and a few cars on the highway.  Jumping out of the truck as his vision was tunneled only to see our white car, he regarded that the air bags blocked his vision of us as he hurried towards the passenger side.  Speaking with our girls he calmed and reassured them as the ambulance crew started to assess the situation.   Looking at the passenger side of the car, he thought, "Okay, this might not be too bad", then as he rounded the back of the car toward my side, he was shocked by the devastation staring back at him.

    Kneeling beside my window in the frozen grass, he lifted the airbag and asked, "Carey...... are you doing okay?"   At the sound of my husband's voice I felt my resolve shatter.  I was trying to stay so strong for our girls.   " It hurts so bad" I whimpered softly, but no tears could come with this cry as I was in shock.  I could only see an outline of him, but every part of me felt his presence.  He filled me with words of confidence and affection and moved back to the passenger side as the paramedics began to remove the girls from our demolished car.  I floated in and out of consciousness for the remainder of the extraction. 

     Feeling fairly calm this entire time,  I knew that my husband was able to comfort the girls so I had given into the darkness waiting to claim me.  Firemen and paramedics continuously woke me and I was able to give yes and no answers.  My personality is usually mellow and that seemed to stay true with me during this traumatic occurrence.  I'm sure if I could have formed the thought, I would have surmised that acting like a raving lunatic would have gotten me no where except being told to quiet down so the firemen could get me out more quickly.   

     As customary, I sat quietly and answered when spoken to.  I remember very little of this process.  I do remember once looking out my window and my gaze landed on my husband and my Dad, standing by the railroad tracks.  My vision had been only in black and white when I initially awoke, now my vision was again in color.  They both had their hands in their pockets and were staring at me with solemn faces.   Anguish for them consumed me.  I reassured them I was fine and not to worry, but that I was grateful they were both there.   

     They didn't respond, I discerned after a few moments that I hadn't actually spoken the words.  I was speaking novels in my head but the words were not emerging from my mouth.  I tried to show emotion through my eyes but by this point I was incapable of accomplishing much on my own.  I knew because I was in shock that I had that hollow stare and hated that they had to witness this from someone they loved.  I allowed my eyelids to fall shut. 

I believe the 'health care' training I've received helped me

understand the phases I was going through and how I needed to respond.  I also was consoled at the thought that at least one person out of all of the emergency crew would have to know me personally.  I didn't recognize any voices, but they were fantastic in how they handled me.  They were firm and direct when asking me questions or disclosing what action they were taking next, yet extremely consoling and supportive.  Never once do I remember any derogatory words, yelling or anything that would make me panic.  They were professional and compassionate in their work.  I will forever be grateful for their demeanor as a team.

     In the midst of cutting the car apart, one of the firemen advised me that they would have to remove the roof off the car.  "Okay" I acknowledged.  The next thought that entered my mind was sarcastic and I chuckled as I reflected to myself, 

"Well Greg's sure gonna like that!"  Like it really mattered, right?   It is amazingly odd how our minds work. 

      During the extraction, there was always someone to the right of me in the car, soothing me, quieting any fears I had.  Having this person there since my husband was unable to be near me as this transpired was essential.  After the roof was removed my husband leaned over the hood of the car and told me the ambulance was leaving and transporting the girls to the hospital in Rolla.  

     He asked me what I wanted him to do.  The girls couldn't be alone!  I told him to follow and take care of them and I assumed I would be following them shortly in my own ambulance.  I'm sure he had already come to this conclusion.  He translated that my Dad was going to stay with me so I wouldn't be alone and that Dad would give him regular updates of my progress.  I was comforted at the thought that he was still going to be there with me.  My husband's position was appalling .  

     He watched his family being separated from each other.  I did not follow them to Rolla.  We were taken to two hospitals in totally different directions.  He was being forced to make a decision to leave me, not knowing how severe my injuries actually were.  His strength is admirable, but his situation is not envied.

     I remember very little until I was pushed into the ambulance. 

Immediately paramedics cut off my clothes and when the woman had to lift my right leg I couldn't help but to moan out in pain.   I vaguely remember the Emergency Room sign as I was being wheeled into the hospital in Sullivan.  They performed CT's and many xrays and I remember nothing.  Having been conscious at some point when my Dad arrived at my bedside, I relayed in a childlike voice, " Daddy, I broke both of my legs".   Funny how tragedy makes you revert to childhood endearments.   

     As I was being pushed back into the ambulance the woman paramedic was overly apologetic to me.  She delivered the news,stating, " We can't fly you out because it is too foggy.  I'm so sorry, but we have to drive to Barnes Hospital and it's going to be a long, rough ride."   Moaning my disapproval I begged, "I don't care, just give me some medicine so I can go to sleep."  I believe that is just what happened next.  There is not even a vague recollection of that ride to St. Louis.

    By this time Dad has given my husband the news that I miraculously did not have brain damage or organ injuries.   My bone damage was severe, but I would survive.  

     There are angels all around, wrapping their beautiful wings around us in our time of need, disguised as ordinary people, living ordinary lives.  Most of us believe in angels, but have you ever thought of that angel as You?