I think we all know that life isn’t a fairy tale. Life doesn’t guarantee us a happy ending just by virtue of us living. Sometimes, bad things happen to good people – and more perplexing, sometimes good things happen to bad people.
But, if there is an overarching theme to many of these posts, it’s just called being human. All we can do is the best we have with whatever situation life has thrown at us. You know that whole “make lemonade” expression.
Now, while I do happen to enjoy some sweet, cool lemonade, the process of making it can try a person’s patience. Because often what those people who are advising you to make lemonade have neglected to say to you is that your life after is going to be (sometimes drastically) different. I’ve written before that the hardest part of accepting a disability or impairment – temporary or otherwise – is that you’re not the same person you were one week ago, or three months ago, or seven years ago. Becoming accustomed to this new state of “normal” is where I suspect many people with acquired impairment taste the bitterness of this whole process, understandably so.
At least, it’s how I’ve felt at points during this process.
And yet, tonight I find myself writing about gratitude.
Last Tuesday, I taught my first therapeutic riding class since the accident. Since the accident occurred on the last day of the spring session, I actually didn’t miss any classes. All the girls I had been teaching returned, so we all “got back on the horse” so to speak. After that class, I had a special surprise waiting for me. One of the first responders to my accident was waiting to say hello. He told me that the rest of the first responders would also like to see me at some point.
That point came tonight. I had just finished my class, and they hadn’t arrived yet, though I knew they were coming. As the horses walked into the barn, I heard the unmistakable sound of an ambulance (fortunately without the sirens!). Single-file, a group of people walked down the sidewalk with smiles on their faces. Just seeing these people made my heart sing. Nearly all the first responders and EMTs from my accident had come to visit, just to say hello.
While Paul and I wrote them cards, anything I could say felt so inadequate. Yet, the responders continued to tell me that just seeing me was enough. The entire experience felt so surreal. I found myself bathed in the strongest feeling of gratitude I have ever experienced. Words are not enough to properly express my thanks to these people for saving my life.
I tend to write using a lot of humor, and that gets me through most things in my life. I tend to amuse myself a lot, which I guess is not a bad thing. But tonight, I want to put aside the humor and just say this:
The first responders from the Orange Grove Fire Department and EMTs saved my life. Plain and simple, I would not be here without them. They were in and got me out in less then ten minutes. When I was having trouble getting breathing and staying conscious, they stabilized me. Through their efforts, I was able to get to UNC quickly so I could have the surgery I needed to save my life and preserve my ability to recover.
Most impressively, they really cared. They kept up with my progress and checked in for updates. I know that so many times, they work so hard but don’t know the end result of their efforts.
So let me go back to beginning of this post – the whole happy ending/make lemonade, etc., part.
This process is not over for me yet. I have a lot of work left to do. And there have been times when I just wanted to break something. Yet, something has also changed in me. No, I’m not perfect. I can still be impatient, get stressed when I shouldn’t, worry about things I shouldn’t. But, I haven’t lost sight of the fact that all of this is because I’m HERE. I’m alive. Because of these people and the team at UNC, I have the second chance to live my life.
Last year, my dad had his stroke IN the hospital and still died. Yes, BAD things happen. But because of this, I am reminded not to ever take anything for granted. My dad had so much life left. So many things he could have done. I am determined to live my life in turn and the time I’ve been given. Because of these first responders, I have more time.
I cherish being able to do the things I love and to love the people I do.
My gratitude is immeasurable.