It was just an everyday morning… driving to work… enjoying the beautiful day with my car window down… enjoying the farmland of Lancaster County. I even noticed the car coming toward me.
What I didn’t know was what was happening on her side of this story. She also was driving to work… she was a home health nurse on her way to a visit at the home of one of her patients. This was her first appointment, so she was looking for an address on a mailbox. The part of the story where all this commonplace activity fall apart was that when she found the address, she turned left into the driveway… what she forgot to do was look up to see if there was oncoming traffic before she made that turn. And that brings me to the memory that will live with me forever… as that home health nurse simply looking for an address hit my car head on. When my car came to a stop, I was in the yard of that family, right amid their flower gardens. I was still conscious… I remember that initially I didn’t hurt… they call that shock… but then I looked down and realized that one of my legs was cleanly broken, I couldn’t see anything just below my knee. And then the pain started. The woman who lived in the house came to the car… the doors couldn’t be opened, but my window happened to be down… she asked how she could help as we waited for the ambulance and at my request she started to put cold water on my forehead – I was starting to pass out, and I feared that if I did, I would not awaken. The nurse in the other car was not injured… how is that possible I wonder now, remembering the severity of the collision? It just is… we don’t get to pick and choose who gets hurt and who walks away from accidents. So why I do I share this traumatic event? I suppose it’s because I’ve learned many lessons, both about myself and about life in general… here are a few…
Yes, tragedies and crises sometimes happen, but we have an inner reserve of strength that is deeper than we realize… but those crises call up that strength, and we find an inner power to sustain us.
I survived two broken legs in that accident, and a month in the hospital with many blood transfusions and countless rounds of physical therapy after major surgery. Wow, that hurts again even as I write it, but the key word is I ‘survived’… I believe my faith sustained me.
Sometimes one must have pain and difficult times before healing can begin. I remember screaming in pain when I arrived at the emergency room of the hospital, and a nurse trying to calmly tell me that I couldn’t have anything for the pain just yet. Why? Why? Why? A very important lesson to remember… without the pain, those caring for me would not be able to identify how badly I was injured, and which parts of my body were affected… it was the pain that led to my eventual diagnosis, surgery and healing.
Depending on others comes more easily to some than to others, and for me it was difficult. In the hospital, I didn’t want to have someone help me with the most basic of my human needs. But coming to rely on others, although a hard lesson, has given me a life time of opportunity to learn that we all need someone, at some time, for some reason to rely on… and what a special gift those people are to us.
Coming home from the hospital brought the long process of recovery… confined to bed and a wheelchair… again relying on others (my family) for meals and care. But what a joy I found in the love of my family… patiently preparing meals, patiently helping with my care (hmm… maybe there’s a reason why they call us a ‘patient’!).
Eventually healed enough to head back to work, I found a new emotion surfacing… I didn’t want to get back in the car again… and I certainly didn’t want to put myself on the road again. I had to dig deep within me to trust, to move forward. I had to say, over and over, ‘I’m okay, I can do this’. I’m guessing that many of you can identify with those feelings? But through that experience of starting over, I learned perseverance… keep trying, you’ll get your confidence back sooner than you think.
Joni Eareckson Tada, who has spent the last fifty years of her life in a wheelchair as a quadriplegic following a diving accident, wrote… “I have an interesting perspective on depending on others. I think it gives people a chance to serve. And I’m not so much big on independence as I am on interdependence… giving people the opportunity to practice love with its sleeves rolled up.” Maybe that’s the best life lesson to learn… depending on others for needed support doesn’t make us weak, in fact it makes us strong, because we can strength from those who love and care for us.
So, there it is… my life experience from many years ago, and lessons learned… hopefully you can relate to some of them. And hopefully your life experiences will not be as painful, but maybe they will be all of this and more… my wish for you is that you will find strength when you need it, endurance to ‘stay the course’, and bravery to move forward to whatever the next path on your life journey is. Relating to the title of this blog, my life ‘vessel’ certainly cracked as a result of this experience… and I think that ‘crack’ has helped define who I am as a person today… thank you for listening… I look forward to hearing some of those life experiences with each of you… take care…