- characterized by elegance or beauty of form, manner, movement, or speech; elegant:
Griever – noun form of grieve
Synonyms of grieve
- lament, weep, bewail, bemoan; suffer. Grieve, mourn imply showing suffering caused by sorrow. Grieve is the stronger word, implying deep mental suffering often endured alone and in silence but revealed by one’s aspect: to grieve over the loss(or death) of a friend.
Grieve. It’s a word you think you know, even understand. Until it’s yours. You have seen it displayed in the movies. It may even bring you to tears. The person’s pain becomes palpable. In the early days, I remember going into Glen and my closet, surrounding myself with Glen’s things and grieving with large gulps of air and no sound, making sure that no one could hear their echoes ricocheting off the walls of my hallowed out heart. One particular time, Christmas day of 2011, I remember suddenly smiling to myself, thinking, “this would make a great, powerful, moving scene in the movies.” That was all I had known of grief at this level. Suddenly it was mine. And I didn’t really know what to do with it.
You quickly learn that there are all of these ways that people think you’re “supposed” to grieve, most of which are so impossible. You want to be all of those things. You want to grieve quietly, peacefully, with grace and kindness, with a sound mind and rationale but three years and eight months out, I’m still finding that grief is messy. Grief truly has no rules until you set them. We have all been in situations where we just wished we could set or change the rules.(I know I’m not the only one.) :) In grief, the last thing you want to do is make the rules and then subsequently follow them. Let me tell you, that no one wants to write the “How to Grieve” manual.
For two reasons.
One, it means they have known grief. Intimately.
Two, It means they have grieved long enough and hard enough to feel like they are starting to understand grief.
There are many things I have learned about grief. I will share the the one thing that I have found to be the most important: it’s good, even necessary to set some rules for yourself.
No rules, means so boundaries. No boundaries is a very dangerous place to live. It’s good to say that I know that grief makes me do this thing that is not good for me. (That “thing” may be one certain thing or many things and it is different for all people.) I know that thing is not good for me so how can I not do that thing? What can I do to prepare myself when I feel that coming, when I know that is what’s going to happen? Once you’ve done that one thing, whatever it may be, enough times, at what point can you really say that you’re not responsible for that behavior.
My “thing”? Pushing people away. Saying things I regret. Not allowing people to help me. And trust me when I tell you that this “thing” has happened more than I’d like to admit. I suddenly feel embittered, perhaps cynical is a better word. Don’t try to touch me. Don’t try to comfort me. You don’t know how this feels. You don’t know the depths of the pain I am feeling.
My grief is not graceful. Ha. It is not beautiful or elegant. And yet, I have to grieve. It looks ugly sometimes and from the outside in, I am sure it looks confusing. I want to be in charge when it comes. I want to follow my own rules. Then grief hits and it is so raw when it comes. It’s so raw and much of the time it feels like warfare. That is the part of grief that is so difficult; you never see it coming and all the sudden you feel a way that you haven’t felt for months or maybe years. It is overwhelming. Alienating. Combative. Despite those feelings, I don’t want my grief to hurt other people. My grief cannot become a weapon. My grief is not a tool to use, however, it is a process which I must go through.
This past week the grief monster reared its ugly head. And for one of the few times ever, it started in my son. We got ready for bed. We read our book. He sang along as I sang the same two songs I have been singing to him for years. We prayed. And then he looked at me with such hurt in his eyes and said for the second time in his life, “it’s not fair. Alana has two dads. And one of them is still living.” And he began crying. Tears that I could tell hurt. The kind of tears that had been welling in his eyes for a long time.
“Yes, Uncle Mark is still alive. And we keep daddy in heaven alive in our hearts as much as we can. We talk about him, tell stories and look at pictures and videos of him.”
Silence. Silence that I let sit and didn’t fill. And through tears, he said, “but, mom, I don’t remember. I don’t remember him. I want to remember.”
In that moment, my chest imploded. I mean, seriously?!? I didn’t want to be the strong one who had to help him grieve. I didn’t want to keep the smile or cheeriness in my heart. I certainly wanted nothing to do with being graceful. I wanted to get angry. Angry at God for making my son have so much hurt in his 6 year old heart. Angry at God that he had to take Glen before Cameron could remember his touch, his smell, his laugh. At this moment, in the midst of my deep sorrow, I realized that graceful and griever can in fact exist together. This moment is when graceful grieving has to appear. For my children, I can, in fact, be a graceful griever. I can let them grieve wildly and as needed, while I can keep it together beautifully.
I said to him, “do you want to look at the Disney book?” About 5 months before the accident, the kids and I surprised Glen with a trip to Disneyworld for his birthday. After he passed, I made the kids a book of our Disney trip. Cameron and I have “read” this book a countless number of times. There are very few words in this book, but he has the stories I tell memorized. “Mom, that’s where you lost your glasses… Aww look at me and sister… daddy had me on his shoulders…look at me jump to daddy.” Every time we go through this book, it’s almost more than I can take. However, the joy in his face, makes it all worthwhile. When we were done, he wanted to see more pictures. I grabbed the ones from his dresser and we talked about them. Then all of the sudden, I had an idea. Cameron has slept in his daddy’s t-shirts for the last 3 ½ years. They are all University of Georgia ones that I had pulled out right away for him. When I eventually went through Glen’s clothes, I saved a bunch of shirts to maybe make a quilt one day. I don’t know why this idea occurred to me at the time, but by the grace of God, I specifically saved all of the shirts that he was wearing in the pictures I had of him with the kids. Those tubs are one of the things I have always carefully moved so I would always know where they were. I told Cameron I wanted to go get him something very special, hoping that I would find it. I went in the basement, opened the first tub and was shocked, once again, by how his smell could still be that strong after all this time. I dug a little, and there they were, the shirts that he and Cameron were wearing when we visited Disney. I cried a little. I knew I couldn’t let myself feel all that was happening yet. I had to grieve gracefully for my son, for his mind, for his heart.
I walked in his room and pulled his shirt out from behind my back. A tiny little tie dyed shirt and told him that it was his. “It’s so small,” he said. “I know, love, you were two,” I said with a smile. “Do you think daddy’s was bigger?” He shakes his head yes. “A little or a lot bigger?” He smiles and does his arms far apart. Then I pull out his daddy’s shirt from behind my back and say, “who do you think wore this one?” A smile spreads across his face. “My daddy”. There is no amount of money that could buy that smile, that moment, that peace. I will remember that moment for as long as I live. There was the book that we had looked at so many times with daddy wearing the red and black tie-dyed shirt and now that same shirt was in his hands. Daddy became real in a way that I can’t explain. I know he will never remember, but there is a fine line between remembering the trip and remembering him through all of the stories. He put his own shirt on one of his stuffed animals and put Glen’s shirt on. I sang to him for a little while longer and he was out.
It was a wonderful moment, but it would be dishonest of me to say that night ended there and we all woke up happy and shiny the next morning. That night didn’t end for me in a “unicorns and rainbows” kind of way. Hence, MY first rule of grieving was defined: process the wave of grief alone. Do not just shove it down. Express that sorrow by yourself. Cry until you just can’t anymore. Then allow other people back in. Here is why I have defined this rule for myself.
I walked out of his room, sat down on the stairs and let out everything that had been building in my chest. You don’t even know you can weep that violently or loudly until it is happening. I kept it together for almost an hour and I had to let it out. My mom and best friend were sitting on my couch and I know that it is not easy to watch. My mom was completely right in loving me and telling me to come there and not wake Cameron. And I didn’t want my son to hear, so I took a deep breath and pushed it all down. I shut down really. Which is NOT what my mom was saying. She was saying to come sit with her and instead of realizing I should just go spend a few minutes alone, grieve on my own, I pushed it all down. And as I have said before, anything kept under pressure, is bound to explode.
And explode I did. Verbally. To my boyfriend. At my boyfriend. He tried to give me a hug. “I’m fine.” “Everyone’s life is better if I just don’t grieve.” “Everyone’s life is better if they think I’m fine.” “I shouldn’t hurt this much anymore.” “I’m fine.” “You don’t need this.” “You don’t deserve this.” Combative. Cynical. Embittered. There is total loss of control in that feeling and you want to know why you can’t do better and why you still feel that way, and why you don’t feel better.
My rule: Your own grief is not felt gracefully. It’s okay. Your grief is okay. Feel it on your own. Experience it on your own. Don’t take it out on others. Process it and don’t wallow in it. When you are ready, receive the love that so many are wanting and willing to give to you.
I am not a graceful griever. But for moments of time, for my children, I will always be a graceful griever.
November 21st, 2011 … I have awoken 1,230 times without you since that day. That was the last time I saw you breathe. Felt your heart beat. Held your hand in mine. That part of it hurts every day. Every single day. Without you, has been long. When someone you love dies, your love for them never dies. Ever.
In the beginning, I woke up sad, defeated, hopeless, lonely and those feelings used to make me weak, paralyze me. Somewhere along the way, though, I began to wake up differently. I know it didn’t all happen in one day or one moment. It has been gradual and I have had to fight like hell to keep going. I fought for us. I fought for them and now that I think about it, I fought for me. At some point I finally started fighting for me, for my life. Now, I wake up happy. I wake up grateful. I wake up with expectation and excitement in my heart once again. And I want to tell you all about it. I want to tell you about Alana’s triumphs and her struggles. I want to tell you all the things that Cameron does that are just like you. Tell you when your son makes me laugh so hard I cry and your daughter dances so beautifully, my heart is absolutely still. I want to tell you when it’s hard and I’m not doing my best job. And I want to tell you that I’m happy too, and yes, tell you that I’m in love. You were my best friend and I know that you would want to hear that part too. I am in love and even more importantly, I am loved. I am loved by a man who is patient and understanding and knows that the two of you are not in a competition. You are “the love that was” and he is “the love that is”. Neither title makes the other one less important. I am blessed. Abundantly.
This song hit me today. Freed all of these thoughts from my heart. Made me smile. Oh the stories I will get to tell you one day. I want them to be good. I want to have lived well and I know that you want the same. So until I see you again, Glen, know that I am holding onto my memories and I will tell you all about it when I see you again. I love you.
It’s been a long day without you, my friend
And I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again
We’ve come a long way from where we began
I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again.
It’s Saturday morning 10:21 and I’m having my first cup of coffee. My first cup and here is what has already happened.
1) 7:30 I slept in. Me. It may have only been 7:30 but I slept until then. Amazing.
2) 7:31 I prayed. That’s how I start each day. Sometimes it’s simple. “Lord, thank you for another day.” Other days, like today it’s a bit longer. This week has been long. Snow day that was too cold to stay outside for more than a few minutes. Sick child. Tired mommy. Dreary February sky that I am doing everything in me to not be sunk by. Cameron’s first fish died after only a few days. Long night of crying, weeping really, and discussing death with a five year old who knows the finality of death too well. Amazing the insights that a five year old has and can receive when lying in the safety and stillness of their own bed. Trix (the fish) remained in the tank for a day and then I had to discuss what would happen to his body if we left him in the water any longer. Cameron decided that after school we would send him to his forever home. Thank you, God, for Finding Nemo and the understanding that a toilet leads to more water where his body could safely continue to decompose. After school, I hear him in his room while I’m getting him a snack and he comes into the kitchen with Trix in his hands!!! As with everything in his life, potty training, talking, saying goodbye to paci, when the boy makes up his mind, there’s no going back. I tried to remain calm that my son had just reached into his tank and gotten the fish with his hands and said, “mom, I think a little part of him came off.” We took him to the toilet and said goodbye and flushed him down. As it’s spinning, I start washing his hands with him, silently hoping that the fish does not spin back up. Please, Jesus. Please. Flush complete. No Trix. Thank you, Jesus. Your mercy is my joy.
3) 8:07 Reading some verses, my devotional, checking FB, reading some articles. Cameron came in and welcomed me with the most wonderful and sincere hug and kiss.
4) 8:14 We put Cameron’s new fish, Trix and Cupcake, in their new tank. This time I did everything I was told, got the water ready, the temperature right and these fish are going to make it. Please let them make it.
5) 8:47 Alana wakes up and comes into the kitchen. We all have some breakfast.
6) 9:00ish I switch the loads of laundry. Cameron folds his. I clean my kitchen, take out the trash, recycling. Get Alana’s fish tank updated so we don’t have any problems there either. This morning is wonderful.
10:15 I take this picture. They are still playing happily. I make coffee and go in the family room to listen to music and write. I can’t believe my good fortune.
I begin writing about how the morning is going. How wonderful it is and how it is just what I needed. I plan to write something really fantastic about mornings like this being the glue that holds a mom together. The weight of being a single parent weighs on me at times. This article on the 5 Toughest Single Mom Struggles was ringing through my head all week. I try my hardest to be strong, carry on and keep fighting, give myself the grace that all moms deserve. This week it was difficult and I was tired. Like really tired. The kind of tired where you have fantasies about leaving it all and going to a sandy beach somewhere and never looking back. Then simultaneously feel extreme guilt about it because you don’t really ever want to leave your children but the beach and quiet and feet in the sand…I digress. Moms are often in need of the very same things they are tirelessly giving their children; love, affection, words of affirmation, recognition, a mere thank you. When you’re a mother of young children, single or not, those moments do not occur often. But when they do, it is beautiful. When those moments occur, all the little pieces of your heart that are cracking, threatening to break you, are smoothed out, glued back together. I get through the fish story and the few pictures then I sit back and breathe in this moment. And then…
Yelling, screaming. Me having a voice-over moment: “nooooooooo…” (fist in the air in disbelief). I am somehow not at all surprised when this rare combination of factors leads to the perfect storm:
10:34 A violent storm hits my living room. Alana has been struggling. Being a 9 year old girl is confusing and hard. Guys, you can take my word for it. I’ll take your word that it is also difficult and confusing being a 9 year old boy. Hell, being a human is difficult. Anyway, there is screaming and destroying of forts and hitting. The perfect storm. I listen for a moment. Alana begins to head for her room. I say, “You both better be here, standing in front of me before I get to 10.” And I start counting. It works. Then the stories and yelling began, “he said, he did, she said, she did.”
Here is sort of what happened next…”Whoa guys. That is enough of that. What happened?”
Wrong question, mom! The yelling begins again. I raise my voice and tell them to both stop because I am not going to yell over them. I tell them that every action has a consequence and I want to find out what action started this chain of events. Fast forward a few minutes, realize that Alana started the whole event and they both reacted inappropriately. Alana says, “So you’re telling me that we were having a perfect morning until I ruined it?” And I think about protecting her, but then decide to tell her the truth, “yes”. Well that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I grabbed my delicious caramel macchiato coffee so it wouldn’t spill while she lost it. :/ Drink a few sips. Wait. In a break, I went a step further. “You asked me a question, I told you the truth. You don’t want to hear what I said, because it is true and you don’t like it.” Some more screaming, throwing pillows, this time narrowly missing the coffee cup. That puts me over the edge. “That’s it, Alana! Cameron! You both have completely forgotten how to cope. We have to cope with our anger. Remember this? They have used this poster that we made at counseling since 2012. It used to be posted and it was everyday language in our house. I read it to them. Then said, “I want to hear your version of what you did. When one of you is talking, the other one is to remain silent. That does not mean I believe everything the person is saying, I am just listening. Then you will have your turn and I will listen to you. And somewhere in the middle of the two stories, mommy will discover the truth.” Cameron went first, “we were playing a game and Alana hit me on the check.” Cue Alana’s anger and screaming she didn’t do that etc. Voice over of me: Oh, hell naw. What I really said: “Alana, that. Is. Enough. It is his turn to talk. I did not say I believed him. I did not say he was right. I am just listening. When he is done I will listen to you.” (Alana hiding behind the chair and throwing pillows in the background. At least it’s a healthy coping mechanism and far from the coffee). Alana tells her side and I eventually help her see how her behavior instigated all of this. While she is quietly processing, Cameron with that bottom lip stuck out says, “after the fort, I was going to ask you to do a craft. But now I don’t even want to do one. I feel droopy.” The glue that smooths. Alana and I talk about how she doesn’t feel like she is being heard or getting her way. How do you tell your daughter that this will always happen? Somehow I do. We have an incredible conversation about coping and that it is hard but necessary to learn how to deal with her feelings. How my job is to teach her how to do that and she is blessed to be learning that now. That some kids never learn how to do that and as you get older, the actions and the consequences are much more serious. We all sit for a minute. They genuinely apologize to each other and go rebuild the fort.
11:11 Both kids have a snack and I come back down to finish writing. Still only half way through that cup of coffee.
Today is a very sad day… Post from November 21st, 2011.
Three years ago today my dad wrote the above post. I found out about the devastating accident that had occurred, remembered holding my children for the first time since November 4th and said goodbye to the man I loved for the last time. It was a beautiful day of firsts and a difficult day of last goodbyes. I just recently talked to Michelle about the details of that day.
You are beautiful, inside and out. So so very beautiful. Your level of unconditional love and devotion reaches depths which others will never understand. You were a pillar of strength in my fight for normalcy. Please know, that I understand. I know. My life is richer and better because you are in it. I love you so incredibly much.
Michelle has been so self-controlled and selfless in refraining from sharing details that I have not asked about. When we recently discussed this day in 2011, I was humbled and awed again at the details she shared. Thank you to everyone that was there that day. Thank you for lining the halls with love. Thank you for loving him, loving me, loving all of us.
As my dad mentioned in the above post, I can not speak for anyone but myself. All of us who knew Glen have grieved in different ways, our own ways. I can do nothing but share my story, so that is what I will continue to do. Without a doubt, it is a story of heartbreak and tragedy and pain, but there is more to my story, to my life. So I will tell you what today is.
I awake each morning with gratitude. Sheer gratitude to be able to awaken. The funny thing about tragedy and loss when it hits so close to home is that you want so badly to go back to the way things were. You fight to go back and then eventually you stop wishing you could. Somewhere in the middle of the depths of grief, you stop wanting to go back. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my life. It would be nice to rewind the clock and live that life again, but I can’t. The reality is that life is not the way it was and never will be again. I have accepted that. I have accepted that and vowed to live fully, to love fully, to embrace life the way I am certain that Glen would expect me to. We all get to decide how we deal with loss and with grief. And this is my peace to make with my loss. I feel as though I was living life well, but now I feel like I’m living life honestly.
My heart aches with familiarity, for the things that once were. My heart mourns the possibilities of the things that will never be.
As a people we underestimate the vastness of change, even when we see it coming. I made the decision to move home. I knew that change was coming. I tried to prepare the best I could to come into a community that was once my home but feels like a foreign land. A land which I am traversing with a new perspective. Cameron continues to have trouble with change in routine or unmet expectations. We are constantly working on it but some days I want to just join him. Tell him he’s right. That the world is shit sometimes. Shit shit shit. And then lie on the floor for however long it takes us to get back to giggling. But because I don’t want him going to Kindergarten and saying “this is shit. Shit shit shit”, I hold my composure together. Listen to the everyday moments and interactions that fracture his little heart, swallow my pride as he points the finger of his disappointments towards me and then lie on the floor for however long it takes us to get back to giggling.
Change is constant, consistent. Change is consistent. That statement is an absolute paradox. If something is consistent then how can it change? Change occurs with consistency. The last three years of my life have been marked by this consistency of change. Many of these changes have involved involved loss. Sometimes I picture my life in my head like a stock market exchange. All these counters and tickers always changing with far too many inverted red triangles next to certain parts of my life.
Coming home is a change which has comfort, yet somewhere along the way I allowed myself to believe it was defeat. I can’t do it in Georgia. What is wrong with me? I don’t work. All I have to do is take care of my kids. And I can’t do it. How am I worn out by this? Defeat planted it’s seedlings of failure in my brain and anything planted under perfect conditions will grow. Moving home provided the perfect conditions for defeat to take root.
Being asked what brought me back
Being asked if a job brought me back home (thinking in my head, “why yes, the job of surviving every day”)
Being asked what I do and telling people I stay home because I am disabled with a traumatic brain injury
Watching people try to process how and why I am unable to work or qualify for disability
Having to disclose that I was also widowed three years ago in the accident that caused my brain injury
Watching the shock and sadness register on others faces
Trying to explain all of this in three sentences or less
Beginning to ask myself why I can’t work
Why I can’t live a life without an addendum or footnotes
Why I can’t just live a normal life
Those conversations and the vastness of unpacking are all the water, soil and sunlight that the seedlings of defeat needed. Defeat is all encompassing and once you start to let it in, it takes the very life out of you. All of those tasks that were already difficult become nearly impossible. Getting your children up again, having to be a morning cheerleader again, feeding your children again, packing lunches again, picking your kids up from school again, unpacking lunches again, playing, feeding them again, entertaining them again, breaking up a fight again, feeding them again, (I mean seriously, I have to feed them again?) Parcheesi before bedtime again, reading that Geronimo or Harold book again, singing those same songs again, falling into bed defeated. Again. Sleeping. Starting the day all over. Again.
A couple of weekends ago, my perspective was transformed. Defeat was overthrown and I realized that moving home was an act of faithfulness. An act of believing in the more that God has for myself and the kids. An act of faithfulness in giving my children the best support that I can, giving myself the best support. Returning home was an act of acceptance that I can’t do it by myself and that’s okay. It has to be okay.
At the church I was visiting, Pastor Manion was talking about the faithfulness of Samuel. Excuse my basic summary but Samuel was appointed a prophet by God and was a judge in Israel. His faithfulness was showed many times as he ruled the land fairly, calling Israel to repentance and eventually appointing the first two kings of Israel. His life was marked by sameness, by routine. – 1 Samual 7 ” 15Samuel continued as Israel’s leader all the days of his life. 16 From year to year he went on a circuit from Bethel to Gilgal to Mizpah, judging Israel in all those places.” He would always go home to Ramah and then he would do the circuit again, Bethel, Gilgal, Mizpah, Ramah. Again. Bethel, Gilgal, Mizpah, Ramah. Year after year. Devoted, faithful to the circuit in his life.
Samuel was a man. But as Pastor Manion was reflecting he kept saying, “there is a faithfulness that says, ‘and then she got up and did it again’ ”. He would preach some more, then say, “and then she got up and did it again”. This wording struck me. Samuel was a man, but in the repetition of his example the use of “she” spoke right into my heart. God was calling. “Do you hear me, Sandra? That’s you, Sandra.” Life is challenging and a bit ubiquitous, but He is reminding you to get up every morning and do it again. Faith in action is being my best self even when I want to quit, being at peace with the sameness of each day, knowing that true living, true beauty comes amidst the regular. And if I forget to live in the every day, beauty will pass me by.
So over the last few weeks, I have marveled in the sameness of each day, of each moment in my days. Under the weight of change, I slowed to be present in the sameness and true beauty has been taking form. My heart has found its home. My heart beats in the steady rhythm of a peaceful life. Beats with love and laughter. Pain and victory. Understanding and acceptance.
My heart beats with familiarity, for the things that are.
My babies are 5 and 9. Each day, I am so tired at night that when they are having trouble falling asleep and saying they are scared, I am less than sympathetic. I am exhausted. I am frustrated. Sleep deprived. And I don’t remember what it feels like to be 5 or 9, scared to fall asleep alone. Or scared of the nightmares that may come. Then it occurs to me, I do. After the nightmare I had recently, I was reminded of how terrible nightmares can be and how having someone’s hand to hold just makes it so much better. Or in Cameron’s case last night, a turtle to hold. Yes, he fell asleep like that. <3
I am a vivid dreamer and I remember my dreams. I dream every night and usually remember them. However, since Glen passed away, although I have continued to dream vividly, I have only dreamt of him 5 times. The first dream was very early on and please remember I was on a lot of meds at that time. :P It was sort of like a Sandra Walker remix of a Quentin Tarantino film. Think Pulp Fiction with less drugs, less swearing and more music and dancing. Needless to say, I woke up wondering what the hell I had just dreamt. And why my first dream about him was that! It was a little disappointing, though highly entertaining.
The next dream which he was in was a very meaningful dream. He was here and everything was the same. The accident had happened, but he had decided to come back to be with us. He was back and I was blissfully unaware that the dream was going to end any differently. We were so happy and then all the sudden, he said he had to go. I was crying and begging him to stay and he just stoically stood there and said, “Sandra, you are okay, babe. You will be fine. I have to go.” I woke up with tears in my eyes and wanted so badly to go back to living that dream. It was clear that even in his absence, he was encouraging me to keep moving forward. There have been two other dreams that were not significant in any way other than that he was in them. And then there was the nightmare.
He left me. We were married. And he left. Out of nowhere. He left for “her”. He was this cold, uncaring version of himself that I have never seen. He was mean. He wouldn’t talk to me, wouldn’t explain why he left. He was just gone. In my dream, I just sat in our house, “the little green house”, and cried. Shocked, confused, destroyed. After waking up from this nightmare, I spent the day trying to just let it go, but feeling overwhelmed by sadness. Thankfully, I was with my mom and dad, who understood why it was so upsetting and helped me through the tears each time they returned. It felt so incredibly real. He wasn’t here to laugh it off with me, hold me tight and kiss the worry wrinkles in my forehead away.
The dream could have meant a lot of things, but here is what the dream meant to me. The first dream of him leaving was highly emotional, but comforting. He told me I would be okay. However, I may not always be the best listener the first time I am told something and Glen knew this. So here I was in Michigan, having this nightmare and at the end it was as though he told me, “this isn’t real, babe. Don’t make it hurt like this. I’m not leaving you and you are not leaving me. You can move home. You are okay, babe. We are okay.” Over the last month, several things have occurred that have given me the freedom to move home, despite not knowing I was waiting for permission. It was something I considered in the very beginning and I could not be more grateful that I did not go then. I had many lessons to learn and experiences to go through. Now, though, I am ready to dive into this new start for the kids and me.
It may seem trite or unbelievable, but in the days that followed, I believe I came full circle in my healing. I feel that two years, six months, and 15 days after the unimaginable happened to me, I saw the light of a new beginning.
After that nightmare, I was reminded how scary and real they feel. So instead of being exhausted by their nightly fears that are sparked from the realities of what they saw and experienced, I can ease their fears. When my babies come to me afraid, I can tell them to crawl in. That I’m here. That I am real. My love is real. That daddy loves us and we are okay. How do I know? He told me.
“I’m so depressed”
“You broke your iPhone? That’s depressing”
“Stop acting so depressed”
“This weather is so depressing”
We all use the word. We all know the connotation. But let’s talk about the medical definition.
The Merriam Webster online dictionary defines Depression as “a serious medical condition in which a person feels very sad, hopeless, and unimportant and often is unable to live in a normal way.” I specifically have been diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder which is “a mood disorder having a clinical course involving one or more episodes of serious psychological depression lasting two or more weeks each with no intervening episodes of mania.”
I have Major Depressive Disorder. It is moderate. It is chronic. It is referred to as unipolar depression as opposed to bipolar, because there are not manic episodes, only major periods of depression. The symptoms of Major Depressive disorder can not be attributed to physical illness or normal bereavement. Having Major Depressive disorder is very different from having a case of the “blues”. I am in no way discrediting how difficult dealing with feelings of depression are, however, I seek to raise understanding of how having Major Depressive Disorder is not the same as periods of feeling low.
We are all so uniquely and individually made. For whatever reason, something in my make-up causes me to be prone to depression. Let me be clear that it is no one’s fault. My parents are incredible and loving and wonderful. My depression is no one’s fault. I can remember as far back as 4th grade, having suicidal, self-deprecating and self hate thoughts. They were short lived and passed but as I got older, they took hold. My parents were doing all the right things, I was in counseling and beginning medication. Despite their interventions, it still spun out of control. During my sophomore year in high school, my depression and self-hurting had taken over and I was hospitalized for 5 days. I will never forget what being there felt like. Locked in. Away from my family. Being monitored 24 hours a day. Finally stopping. Stopping and looking at myself and how the way I was living life was not working. It was not living. For the first time in a long time, I felt safe. I don’t remember the worker’s name, but I remember that he sat at my door the first few nights and I finally felt like I was safe from my worst enemy, me. In group therapy, I witnessed the hurts of others, the deep hurts. I related and it was scary, yet I also was comforted knowing that other people were experiencing feelings like I was and that with help we could get better. When I left, I walked shakily to my parent’s car and I vowed never to go back to that place of existence again.
The reality is, though, that depression can be difficult to manage consistently. I was pretty stably medicated from the age of 16 to 29. That doesn’t mean there were no dark times but they were more the result of unclear boundaries in my life and bad choices such as stopping taking my medication or resisting therapy. Since the trauma of losing Glen and sustaining a brain injury, I have been diagnosed with Major Depressive Order, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Quite a mouthful. I am not textbook on any of my diagnoses, but there are parts of me in all of them. After the accident, when I attempted to begin my psychiatric medications again, my doctor warned me that they may not work because after a severe traumatic brain injury like I experienced, the brain is forever different. I’m grateful that he warned me because they sure were no longer the right medications. 6 months post-accident, after a bad reaction to a new medication and a failed second attempt of a return to work, I went back to the place of existence that I had never wanted to go again. With all that I was dealing with, the lows persisted. Once the lows start, I feel powerless to them and the out of control feelings that come with them. I don’t choose the lows and I don’t want them, but once they start, I feel I have no strength over them. I feel that I am fighting a war that I will never win. I began attending partial hospitalization (day program) at a mental health hospital here is Georgia. Although it was not lock down and I left each day, it was still a shocking place to be. In order to be discharged, I had to discuss my medicines and I had to have a psychiatrist in place. I have continued to work with her and I still go once a month to her. My medication is still not right (but we’re getting so close) and unfortunately there is no way to know but try and the transition periods can be pretty bad.
I would like to share what an episode a year ago looked like for me. Something triggers me. The “me” that is the usual me is gone in an instant and once I’m gone, I lose myself and I don’t know how to come back. This degree does not happen often, only a handful of times in my life. However, when it does, it is scary. Not only for me but for those around me. Here is an example:
That night last April was dark. The night I stopped holding on to the strings and just let go. That night I closed down. The Boston Marathon bombing had occurred and it set something off in me. My kids were away for the night. I was alone in my house. Alone. I began drinking wine, not with casual sips but with hungry gulps of desire and longing, desire to drink myself into numbness and longing for comfort. I wanted to drink myself into not caring. And so I tried. Not to care. But it didn’t go that way.
While I drank, a concerned friend came over. I told him the story of my life. I talked about all of my mistakes and felt sorry for myself. I accused myself of Glen’s death. Said it out loud for the first time. I explained that I caused Glen’s death. That his support of my marathon training had put us in that place, at that time and caused us to be in the accident. I believed I was telling the truth. I talked about how everything bad that I had ever done and how losing Glen was punishment for all of those decisions. I had done this to myself and I deserved to be miserable. Love wasn’t meant for me. I was married then divorced, married and then widowed. I was clearly missing something that God was trying to tell me. I clearly just needed to be alone forever. Forever. Alone. I screamed. I yelled. I yelled I wasn’t worth it. I would never be worth it. I would never be worth it. I wanted to be alone in my misery. Now he knew the story. Now he could leave. Against his wishes, my friend left. I really didn’t give him any other choice.
Once he had left, I sat and looked at the sofa table behind my couch. Three tall rectangular glass vases were lined up on it. The vases were filled with rocks and had bamboo sticks that made them even more tall and foreboding. I began to realize that their presence had been silently tormenting me the whole night. I moved closer and studied the three glass vases which I had gladly invited and moved from the old house. I now felt they were jeering at me, mocking me with their vitality. I had loved them at the old house. Now they tormented me. They were still living, still alive, long after Glen took his last breath. How was that possible? I was mad at them, for their life and their growth, for everything that they stood for that Glen no longer could be. I decided it was time to throw them away. I picked all three of them up, feeling the weight of my pain and anger in my arms. I took them into the garage and placed them beside the trash can. I knew I wasn’t going to just leave them there, perfectly intact, while I was a shattered remnant of my old self and my old life. I turned back. I was not okay and they were thriving. Glen was dead and these stupid plants of his were alive. I was not sober, I was not okay. I sat down on the floor next to them. My phone vibrated in my pocket:
Pick up my call
— I’m slowly getting worse. I don’t expect you care
Why u getting worse?
Why can’t you stop?
— I don’t want to
— I don’t need another thing in my life that I’m a fuck up at
— I have enough of those
— Just making it through the day without wanting to hurt myself and then without actually doing it is all I have the energy for
I threw my phone aside. I didn’t want anyone to save me from this. I tipped one of the vases over with my foot, barely cracking it. Unsatisfied by the tiny crack, I stood up and picked up the one that I had tipped over. I felt the smooth edge where the vase had chipped and then with all the rage in my little body, I threw it to the ground. It shattered, little pebbles and little pieces of glass scattering across the ground of the garage and I breathed, a new breath. I sat down in the middle of this mess that I had just made and although it was quiet, it felt loud. It was loud and messy and it wouldn’t stop and I just wanted it to stop. It was loud, I was loud. The sounds escaping from my body were raw and angry.
I feel up until this point, I was cycling through survivor’s guilt and grief. Besides the drinking they were healthy expressions of accepting and expressing my grief, but it didn’t stop there…
I punched at the ground, my hand beginning to bleed. The sight of blood did not give me pause for concern. I wept at how stupid living was and how mad I was at Glen for leaving me. How badly I just wanted to go and be with him. I breathed in the truth of that statement. Then I picked up a piece of glass and pondered making my heart hurt less by hurting my body. The powerlessness took hold and I relapsed. I had been a cutter in my teenage years, I knew this feeling of release well and I wanted that. I wanted to throw caution out the window and all the pats on the back and hugs and “oh, Sandra, you’re doing so well” and “Sandra you’re so strong” and all the coping skills I knew and all the things to live for and people to please and not disappoint and just focus on how I really was doing, horrible. I wanted to focus on my broken heart and broken life. I wanted to stop the pain in my heart by controlling my pain. Controlling where it hurt and how much it hurt. I knew better but I didn’t care, I just wanted to feel in control of my life for one second. So I cut my arm. Then I cut it again. And again. In that very moment, when all rationale has been lost, there is no outside of you. There is only what you feel and nothing else. I was not thinking of the consequences of these actions or how they would affect other people. I just wanted to be in control of my life for a moment. Then suddenly I realized that I didn’t want to be there. Dear God, I didn’t want to be there. I needed to live and thrive. Somewhere in those actions my world came back and I laughed at myself. Laughed because I knew it was so stupid. Deep inside I knew better and knew that there was a reason not to cut again, not to cut deeper. A reason, or maybe two, that I was still needed here.
This realization snapped me out of that dark place. Suddenly, I was everything I didn’t want to be, sitting in the middle of a mess that didn’t look like it could have possibly come from me. Ashamed of falling back into that self-hurting behavior and somehow feeling like an idiot in a room all by myself, I stood up, went in the house and wrapped my arm. I got a broom and a bag and started cleaning up the glass. I swept everything up and put all the pieces and the other two vases into the trash. I finally let go of the idea that by keeping Glen’s plants alive, I could somehow keep Glen alive. I began realizing that sometimes to move into the future we have to leave things in the past and accept new realities no matter how much they hurt. The bamboo was alive; me keeping the bamboo alive was not keeping Glen alive. I was done with the cutting. I am thankful for that, but this episode was not over yet.
I moved to the couch and I sat. Numb I suppose, not really knowing what to do next. I saw my long abandoned drink, so I continued drinking. I drank with a thirst that was unquenchable. The thirst of pain so alive and real and then I got this text from my friend:
Did you cut yourself?
— Scratched myself
— Not cut
— Like there’s a difference
I sat on my couch with my insecurities, my shame, my hurt, and my reality and then a knock at the door. My friend had come back. I showed him the cuts so he wouldn’t worry but the hurt in his eyes was so apparent.I am thankful that he came back. I am thankful for his grace and thankful that he was there to take care of the mess I had become that night. I was coming down and at some point I got sick. He helped me to the bathroom while I got sick. He then helped me into my bed and I slept. My bathroom and my house were clean the next morning for which I am eternally thankful. My house was clean but there was a heavy fog of shame and silence and regret.
I didn’t really talk for a few days after that. Thankfully, I went to counseling and the healing was able to begin. A few weeks ago, I felt myself going to that place again. I wrestled with the feelings for several hours, but this time I reached out. I reached out to the amazing friends and family who surround me. I have no idea what it is in us that makes it so difficult to ask for help when we need it most. Finally, though, a breakthrough. I swallowed my pride and admitted that the depression, with the grief and brain injury is more than I can handle. I have finally released myself of the stigma of mental illness and accept it’s realities because life is too short to try and fight myself. I have been living with depression for a long time. More than half my life. I accept me for who I am and in accepting me, I am free to be real with myself and with others.
I recently read the most beautiful blog entry, ” ‘Conceal Don’t Feel’ Disney’s “Frozen” and the stigma of mental illness” by Genevieve Simpson. She beautifully compares the stigmas of mental illness to Elsa’s “condition” in the movie.
“Unfortunately, the stigma of mental illness creates shame in those suffering from it, which, in turn, creates silence, which perpetuates stigma because people are afraid to even talk about it (as I was, before hitting the “share” button on my first blog post.) As I have seen, with the overwhelmingly positive response to my own blog, as more and more people come forward and tell their stories about their struggles with mental illness, I do believe the stigma can and will (slowly) fade away.
The conversation needs to be ongoing. The silence needs to be continually broken.”
She makes several beautiful points, 2 of which I would like to highlight.
“4. ”Conceal. Don’t Feel” turns out to be Elsa’s mantra. (Um…yes. I could write a blog entirely on the subject of trying to “control” one’s condition in a society that doesn’t understand it.)
5. Elsa learns to shut everybody out of her life, even those who desperately want to connect with her. (That song “Do You Want To Build A Snowman” slays my soul!!! I can’t tell you how many times I have felt unlovable and incomprehensible so much so that I’ve locked myself away from the people that care about me. I honestly still do this. Everyone trying to love me deserves a trophy and a spa day.)”
My thoughts. First, number 5…
The hiding out. It happens and it’s true. I feel like there are people singing through the door of my life, looking through the keyhole and as much as I want to say “yes” to their invitations, I just crawl back into my bed. Leaving my bed, my house feels scary and uncertain and why would I leave where I am safe? So I sit, with my back against the door, longing for interaction but not feeling strong enough to breach the world outside.
Do you wanna build a snowman?
Come on lets go and play
I never see you anymore
Come out the door
It’s like you’ve gone away
Please, I know you’re in there,
People are asking where you’ve been
And now the beauty of number 4…I remember watching Frozen for the first time in the movie theater and crying during the Let it Go scene, yes shocking I know. I could so relate to the emotions she was expressing.
Don’t let them in, don’t let them see
Be the good girl you always have to be
Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know
And then the change…
Well now they know
Let it go, let it go
Can’t hold it back anymore
I don’t care
What they’re going to say
Let the storm rage on,
The cold never bothered me anyway
It’s funny how some distance
Makes everything seem small
And the fears that once controlled me
Can’t get to me at all
It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me
I’m never going back,
The past is in the past
Let it go, let it go
And I’ll rise like the break of dawn
Let it go, let it go
That perfect girl is gone
Here I stand
In the light of day
Let the storm rage on,
The cold never bothered me anyway
Acceptance of your shortcoming and your imperfections, feels like this song. It’s invigorating and allows your self-awareness to flourish. I’m not advocating recklessness, rule breaking, or self-indulgence. I’m advocating, becoming self-aware, accepting who you really are and being unafraid.
Perhaps we are all a moment away from letting something go and living the life that is waiting for us. The question has to be, what are you holding on to and what would happen in your life if you let it go and started living?
The days have been hard lately. So very hard. I’m tired again. Tired of not understanding my brain injury as well as I would like, tired of answering people’s intrusive questions about whether or not “you think you have healed as much as you’re going to” or if “I think I will ever be back to normal”. The answer to the first one is I have absolutely NO idea, no one does, but statistically 2 years is a pretty good indication of where I will be forevermore. I do know these things; I can walk, I can talk, I can think and I can love. I know that I can’t do these things; I can’t work, I can’t maintain a solid schedule without running late and becoming overwhelmed, and I can’t live by myself successfully. I have lived alone for the first time since the accident for the last several weeks and I would love to say that I’ve done it with ease and I’m killing it. But I haven’t, I’m not and it’s slowly killing me. My dad will be coming to stay with me very soon and I am so incredibly grateful.
To the second question, I am “back to normal”. This Sandra is my normal. My normal will never be the same normal as before. My new normal will always have something missing from it and I am okay with that. I have to be. There is no other choice.
The days of my new “normal” are hard, though. They are the kind that stop you in your tracks. Literally. I spend time each day just sitting at the top of my stairs, thinking through the day and mustering up the energy to see it through. If something is thrown into my daily routine, it is never easy. The extra trip in my car or unexpected time on the phone, exhausts me. I need to take a nap each day, even when I try to make myself believe I don’t. I need thinking breaks and quiet. I don’t want them, I need them. If an ambulance siren is loudly resonating in the air, my eyes instantly fill with tears and my heart beats faster. I don’t remember the accident at all, but I believe my body does. I know that my body does.
Lately, I have been most tired of keeping it together in front of my kids in those deep, dark moments of grief. I have always been open with them about the grief and how it comes so quick and that it is okay to be sad. However when we are all in that place at the same time, I’m the one who needs to hold it together. I’m the adult and man that sucks. Seriously. When your son’s heart is breaking, all you want to do is break with him, lie down next to him and totally fall apart. Roll around on the ground, kicking and screaming in hopes that it will make the grief leave your body. Tell him that all of this is stupid and awful and unfair and maybe throw in some anger directed at life and at God. Instead, you take a deep breath, give him a second, and then gently rub his head as he begins crying. You ask him if he needs anything and when he says, “I just want to see him”, you choke back the tears and say, “I know baby, me too, can I hold your hand?” A few minutes pass and then he is ready. He knows he can’t see him. But it just helps to say it. To wish it out loud. Then he gets up and we finish the flowers, trace his name with our fingers and say “bye”.
We leave these moments. We go back to life. Some would say that we go back to normal, but that’s not true. These experiences are our normal. My children walk around with these scars each and every day. They are strong children. They are resilient children. They are happy children. But they will forever be different. We all will be.
The old flame. Most everyone has them. The nature of dating is that we learn about ourselves and learn about others and either decide to start dating, keep dating or stop dating.
The problem comes when we don’t extinguish the old flames. There are probably great memories with that person. You shared a period of your life with them. There is also a reason or many reasons that they are exactly what they are, a PAST flame. They are now a part of your past and wherever you are in your present life, those memories are a part of your past. Social media has opened up a world for past flames to rekindle.
I recently watched “Flattered” from the Pressure Points marriage series, created by Phil Stevens. My son and I were extras in the film and I knew the subject matter and never really thought much about its relevance in my life. It was not until I saw the complete film that I realized how much this paralleled an event in my life. I was brought to tears remembering what had happened. Although I was widowed two years ago and cannot get his permission, I am confident that Glen would not mind me sharing our story about how a past flame almost came in between us and the unconditional love that saved us.
The Pressure Points Flattered
During the summer, I was visiting home in Michigan and because of work my husband was unable to come with me and the kids. We talked every day and were in constant contact. I was on Facebook one night and I saw that an old flame had liked another friend’s picture. Enter my first mistake, I wrote him and just said “hey it’s been a long time. You really working in Michigan?”
A conversation ensued. One that I felt was harmless. At some point he said something like, “I have always wondered where you were and how you were doing. I’m glad that you are doing well.” I felt him pushing into the past and tried to just make a comment like “yeah you cross my mind every now and again. How are you doing these days?” We went on to talk about families, work, and faith and he complimented me a few times and I just said thanks not thinking any more about it.
Later that night, an email from my husband…
“I was planning on surprising you with a massage for tomorrow afternoon/evening so I called your mom and left a message for some spas. After not hearing back, I figured I’d shoot her an email on FB… your account was still logged on when I opened it. I then thought it would be “cute” to leave a status saying how madly in love you are with your husband only to come across some suspect conversations with you and some dude.”
We trusted each other and always left Facebook open. We had nothing to hide so we never logged out. For a lack of better words, he was furious. I knew he had dealt with infidelity before and knew that those experiences had broken his spirit. I swore that I wasn’t even thinking like that. I told him that I had talked about my marriage and being happy and about my faith. That is how I saw the conversation. Glen saw something entirely different. I read the conversation back from Glen’s perspective and saw it totally differently. There is no way to describe the way that my stomach bottomed out. The idea that I had caused Glen to question my devotion to him was the ultimate betrayal and I have never wished to undue something more in my life.
Glen’s email was forward, straight to the point and did not attack me in any way, but explained how furious he was that I would put myself in a situation like this.
“Either way it’s clear he has feelings for you (“gorgeous”), and part of me thinks you might have assumed that when you emailed him…At this point, I’ve got so many emotions stirring in me right now I honestly don’t know what to think…my heart is in my stomach right now. Not only do I feel disrespected, but I’ve always looked at our marriage as sacred and I feel like you gave away a little piece of it today.”
I honestly don’t know what my intention was in reaching out to him. It doesn’t matter. I had put my marriage in question over a past flame who had no bearing on any part of my current life. The aftermath of it was incredibly painful and incredibly beautiful. Yes beautiful in the way that Glen handled the situation. I am so grateful to have experienced love and life with a man that gave me grace, forgiveness and protection from myself. I realized that being “flattered” by a past flame was not at all the motivation for saying hey to him, but it was a dangerous starting point perhaps to feel “flattered” and to feel noticed when I had a husband that was already doing those things each and every day.
“I’ll never be able to recreate the memories or fun times you had back in college… Life with me is filled with paying bills, changing diapers, old carpet, broken fences, etc…while not glamorous I KNOW none of these dudes would do a better job at being a HUSBAND that will love you like I do…faithfully and hand in hand in Christ.”
Speechless. How right he was. Any fun time in college was far outdone by SingStar battles with my husband, SEC football games, and trips with my family. Hell, every day was better with Glen. Being on social media alone makes us susceptible to these types of interactions. I can’t control what others say to me, but I can chose who I interact with and why. I am grateful that my husband did not just act out. I am grateful that he brought it to me and addressed it. I am grateful that he gave me grace in the interaction and I am grateful to be able to bring this issue to the forefront through Phil Stevens’ Pressure Point Marriage ministry. If you are always seeking and never serving your spouse, it is destined to fall apart. We can all be self serving. We can all allow ourselves to be “flattered” by past flames or we can communicate with our spouse. Love each other well and when a past flame comes to the surface, because they will, communicate with honesty, with grace, and with love. Please take the time to watch how easily we can be the demise of our marriages/relationships, but how unconditional love and open communication can bring you closer together and make you stronger than ever.
Things that have not changed in 2013
1) I still gag when I clean my ears with Q tips.
2) I still don’t like to shower every day. I mean, I’m physically able to now, but I still don’t really like to.
3) I sing everywhere, the grocery store, the gym, the doctor. There is really no place that is off limits.
4) I break into the robot everywhere as well. Just be prepared if you are with me and don’t be embarrassed. There is always a beat in my head.
5) I still love and eat cheese, chocolate and lots of bread.
6) I am still awesome.
Resolutions for the New Year
1) Keep being awesome
2) Be Brilliant
3) Love others well
These are my resolutions. These are attainable. These are deeply thought about and intricately me.
For some background, I’m a widow. Widowed at 30, deeply and madly in love with my husband and with two young children. Now at 32, I’m in the dating world. I haven’t really dated since my early 20’s and now as a mother, widow, and traumatic brain injury survivor, I’m dating and I’m somehow supposed to know how. At this stage in my life, I don’t have time to play games or act like I’m in my early 20’s. I’m a grown woman, who has known love so deep. I am a mother of two of the most precious and resilient children.
Recently I was intrigued by someone and him by me. Games ensued, though, and I’m far from being in a place where I have the flexibility, spontaneity, or patience to play games. That once was exciting. Now, I’m a straight shooter. In a recent text conversation he told me, “you’re really something else.”
“Why am I something else?”
“You’re just, I’m not sure, cocky”
My almost immediate response – “No I’m sure. Sure is different from cocky.”
“No I’m sure. Of who I am and what I want”
I’ve never been called cocky before and so it really gave me pause to think. Is that how people see me? Am I cocky? What do I do that’s cocky? And really? Cocky? What a crappy word. I do not think I’m cocky. At all. And I have now used that word enough for the next several years of my life so I will not be using it any more. To me, (word that shall not be named) means arrogant, competitive, self-seeking and may I repeat, competitive. My New Year’s resolutions are neither arrogant nor competitive.
In, 2014, I will continue to be awesome. I will wake every day and be awesome. Wake up -> Be awesome -> Go to Bed -> Repeat. I will not disappoint myself. I will be awesome. Not by your standards, not to compete with your awesomeness or be awesomer. I will be the best me that I can be and that is awesome. Then I will sleep and start all over again the next day.
In 2014, I will be brilliant. Again I will be brilliant on my own accord. Not more brilliant than you or any other person, not in competition with you, not in an attempt to be someone others think is brilliant, but I will be brilliant in my life. I will find the last pack of M & M’s in the back of the cupboard to add to our microwave popcorn on family movie night. I will make a treasure hunt with clues leading to a surprise for my kids. I will push beyond my own self to love others as well as I can. I will paint my kitchen again if I decide to. I will smile at strangers, hug strangers if they need one. I will be brilliant.
1n 2014, I will love others well. I will continue to do what I can when I can. It may not look like enough to you. It may look like too much but I will love others the way that only I know how. I will not compete to be the best at loving others. I will not compete to be the best friend, mother, daughter, sister. I will just do what I know best and authentically love others. Love others well.
These three resolutions are why I believe I am not (word that shall not be named). I am more than aware of my limitations and imperfections. I have made it through this past year encountering them, learning from them, and sometimes repeating them (sigh). However, I have done my best not to compare myself, not to assume that Tracey or Abby or Laura or whoever is doing it better than me. In 2013 through trials, life lessons, disappointments, celebrations, failures and successes I have found me. I have the best understanding of me that I have ever had in my life.
I am proud of me.
I am sure of who I am.
I am awesome.
And in 2014 I will continue to be awesome. Join me. :)
Here it is on Huffington Post if you care to see it there. I love you all and am grateful for your support and even more grateful for your awesomeness: In 2014, Be Awesome, Be Brilliant, and Love Others Well
You may begin to hear things through the rumor mill, so I wanted to take a moment to let you all know what is going on in my life. I am starting the process of moving home to Michigan.
There are a million things I could say. A million reasons to stay and a million reasons to move, but ultimately it comes down to one thing, I need to be near my parents.
For the last two years, I have always had a caregiver. My dad lived with me until June of 2012 and has come here on a minute’s notice since. My brother took over full time when my dad went home. Many of you are aware that my brother lives with me to “help out” but what you may not be aware of is that there have been days that he has held this house together. Singlehandedly. Held me together. He has been my caregiver. Never in my life did I think I would need a caregiver at 30 and at that point in my life, I was not willing to accept that fact. I acted as though my brother was just “helping out” as well. Oh how wrong a thought that was. Here is the only way I can think of to describe this feeling. My brain was working with a 5 gallon tank. I was using those 5 gallons every day. Accomplishing so much, learning to walk again, drive again, care for my children again. So while I thought I was taking care of everything, my brother knew that my life really required a 20 gallon tank and he was supplementing with the other 15. Over time, he has shifted the volume, allowing me to move to 7 and him to 13, me 9 and him 11 and so on. I know it has been difficult for him. He wants to provide all 20. When someone loves you that much and sees how hard you are working, they want to just make it easier. Funny thing is that all along he was not only filling my tank, he was trying to fill and maintain his own. There will never be a way that I can truly explain to him how much I love him and how much my children love him. But being my caregiver was not something he really signed up for and although I know he would do it forever if I asked, it is time for him to move into the life that is waiting for him.
With his eventual move from my home in mind, I have to make decisions that are healthy for me and the kids. That is where the brain injury comes into place. Brain injury is tricky. So unknown. So intricately individualized. I read a lot about brain injury. I think a lot about brain injury; the things I have done wrong, the aspects I feel could be better explained, the checks that I feel should be in place as you continue to heal. I recently read an article that said, “Brain injury is indeed the last thing you ever think about until it’s the only thing you think about.” How true this is to my life. A brain injury doesn’t fit well into any box.
One of the most common side effects? Brain injured patients are often stubborn as all hell. Well, when regular stubborn Sandra met brain-injured Sandra, you can imagine the stubbornness that ensued. So what did I fight for? Normal. I was alive. I wanted my life back. Sure it would be new without Glen, however, I wanted everything else back. I wanted teaching back. Badly. All along that is what I fought for. Normal. Me teaching was what would make me feel normal again. The 2 attempts I made at returning were devastating to my mental health, devastating to my imagined normal. I have no regrets at all. Sometimes you have to attempt and fail at things to understand their place in your life. These failures are part of the reason I think about brain injury a lot. For reasons that I will not get into, my case was mishandled and fell in the cracks along the way. I NEVER should have been medically cleared to return to work 6 months after the accident. At the time, I did not know this though so enter stubborn Sandra. I told my doctors that I wanted to return and I was ready. It wasn’t a full return, just a gradual reentry. That is what I wanted and by the “looks” of things, I was ready to attempt it. Underneath the calm façade, was an erratic, impulsive, exhausted and did I mention grieving individual who was not ready to be making her own decisions. Here is where brain injury doesn’t fit into a box, though. The doctor cannot see inside my brain, so to a certain extent they have to trust me. Here is why I think about brain injuries all the time. Here is where I want to teach family members and friends to be healthy advocates for individuals that are nowhere near ready to make their own decisions, despite their assurances that they are ready. I do not blame my family or friends at all for this, but they needed to be receiving information on what was in my best interest at the time versus what I was wanting to do.
Overtime, I have improved tremendously. Many of you who have watched me from the beginning are aware of this. However, I still have severe symptoms each and every day. The most problematic one is short-term memory problems. One of the best explanations I heard was that the center (middle) of your brain is where all information flows in and is then sent out to different areas of the brain. Almost like a mail room. However, from the force of my brain going back and forth, those pathways were torn or sheered. So while I may look like I am understanding, my brain is taking in all the information but not distributing it to where it needs to go. The mail room in my brain is overworked and understaffed.
This photo describes it perfectly. What was once easy to understand and remember, has become increasingly more difficult. I may need to hear it again. I may need to hear it slower. I may need to write it down, set a reminder, tell you to remind me. I no longer can trust that my brain will remember, the little or the big things. Let me tell you, this crushes my self-worth. My 8-year-old watches me struggle with this and will remind me of things sometimes and I hate that. Hate it. Over the past two years, I have come to new levels of recognition and I am coming to this one finally, I have a brain injury. Haha. I know. Seems fairly obvious, but seriously I had to teach myself that I have a brain injury and not a broken leg. There is no time line for my healing and in some ways I will never be the same. I just wanted to be Sandra from before the accident who was wife, mother, teacher, model math teacher, PTA president…but now, that frightens me just to think of it. So I am embracing me now, learning more about the new me, living with all the joy of life that I had before, and what I’m going to “be” or “do” is this; I’m going to stay home with my kids, I’m going to continue to strive at working out my brain every day, and on the days when it all is just too much, I’m going to go home to see my parents. I’m going to drive that half mile and fall into the couch and weep or sleep and allow my parents to be the caregivers that I never knew I would need again. I can not be caught up in the “could have beens”. I’m going to live in the now, with a safety net, knowing that mom’s meatloaf and dad’s silent strength are a 5 minute drive away.
Here is a post I wrote on the Huffington Post. I shared it on Facebook but I know that the whole world doesn’t have Facebook so I wanted to share it here.
I love Glen.
I’m in love with Glen.
I’m still so ridiculously in love with Glen. I’m just as much in love with him as I was the day we were married. Perhaps more.
I’m in love with Glen -> that statement is what I have been struggling with as I have considered “moving on” in my romantic life. The term “moving on” is truly one of the most hurtful phrases that is used with widowed people. “Shouldn’t you be moving on?” “I’m glad to see you are moving on.” “It’s been almost _ years. I really think you should move on.” Those are not statements that you get to say to a widow. EVER. Those are things you might say to someone whose spouse left them or after a bitter divorce or a bad breakup. Perhaps. When the love of your life dies unexpectedly, in the midst of daily life, you never move on. My love for Glen runs so deep and so wide. I will never be able to escape it and I am finally ready to quit trying. So today, I surrender to it. I surrender to the reality that I will never be out of love with him. I am going to have great days and then I am going to have days where the absence of his love takes my breath away. This realization is a fork in the road where I have a choice. After not having a choice on many of the events in my life recently, choices are a big deal to me.
I can choose to never let anyone love me again. Choose to never let anyone in and believe that my baggage is way more than anyone would want. I mean seriously, a widow through a tragic car accident, a severe traumatic brain injury, two kids, unable to work or hold a fulltime job, and the list goes on. I have so many versions of that list in my head. I have tortured myself into believing many versions of that list. I could choose that option
I can believe that Glen knows I will forever love him and that falling in love again is something that he wants for my life. I have always known he would want me to fall in love again but as I have said before, knowing and doing are two completely different avenues.
My falling in love and subsequent being in love is more difficult than I ever imagined. Difficult because I am not the only one that still loves Glen. Friends and family saw how truly happy he made me. They want him back too, they want that back. At long last, the one truth I have come to terms with now is that no one I date will be Glen. Seems fairly obvious but seriously, I cannot date Glen and I may not date someone like Glen. People saw how happy that he made me and so naturally that is who they want me to be with again. At the risk of being obvious again, I will not be dating Glen. The time that Glen and I met was so perfect and meant to be. Our first marriages occurred in the same weekend of the same year and were over before we had a chance to believe in marriage. We had both been injured. Love had backfired on both of us. Our trust was broken. In each other, we found the assuredness and love that neither of us had experienced before. Our love was so very pure and it was no wonder that our lives intertwined so beautifully, so easily.
Now? Now I am different. Now I have seen what love and marriage can look like and my expectations are kind of high. Just sayin. I know that it is so difficult for people to see how I am different. But it’s true. I am not the same me. How could I be? I am me. Right now. In this moment. Isn’t that really what we all are anyway? A summation of every experience and every day and minute of our life up until that very moment? What happens next is up to us. Then we become the person we are at that very moment. You are not a result of everything that has happened to you – that is passive. You are a result of what you have done with all of the things that have happened to you – that is living. How you react, is up to you. How you react is who you are.
Therefore, today I am choosing to love again. I am choosing to believe in love. The man who will let me fall in love with him will be a man who understands loss, understands suffering, understands my ups and downs, understands that I am still in love with another man, and loves me all the same. A man who knows that I may not always be able to give him all that he deserves because having a brain injury is exhausting and all-consuming at times. I work at it, though, and my brain will continue to heal and the most important thing is that he will know that I will always try to give him all that he deserves. Always.
Today is one of those days.
It started last night as I tucked my sweet boy into bed. After reading, he asked me if I could pray for school. Every day. And I said of course, is there a reason why? He said no let’s just pray about school every day. So I begin praying and he stops me and says,
“What will happen to me if you die?”
“What do you mean, baby?
“If you die. If I don’t have anyone? Where will I go?”
All while tears begin to flood to his eyes. And I can’t say the usual parent answer of, “Mommy’s not going to die, baby” because daddy did and that would be a lie.
So I said, “you know all the people that love us and that we love? You will live with them. Like Grandma and Grandpa in Michigan. They could move down here and live with you.”
“But what if you die? I will have nobody left.”
It is taking every once of willpower not to weep in front of him as I am now while writing this.
I repeat, “you will live here, in this house and grandma and grandpa will come live with you.”
“I will still have this room and these toys?”
“Yes, baby, everything will be the same. Nothing else would change.”
Last night I sang him a few extra songs. Held his hand and let my heart shatter for his broken heart and the fact that he worries about things like this. When I left his room, that is when I broke. I had no body to hold me, to tell me it was going to be okay, and in that moment, the reality of being a widow hit fresh and new again. It’s an empty feeling and I would give anything just to feel his hand on my forehead one more time or his voice in my ear.
Over the night, my daughter got a fever and is coughing, it’s cloudy and raining on and off today, and the UGA game was an afternoon one. It is the kind of day that Glen and I would have spent inside, with friends, watching the Dawgs. Instead, my kids took a nap, I watched the first half of the game alone and then I slept on and off. The game was an interesting one and I could just imagine all of the things Glen would have been saying and that made me miss him even more. Then I woke up with a headache, and by now, I just want my partner, my caretaker, my companion, my love by my side. The reality hits again. He is never coming back. And that sucks.
Today is one of those days.
A video of a little girl being asked to clear the table and struggling with a “heavy bowl” recently was shared at my church. She makes comments such as, “I am not big enough” and “it is so heavy” as she is crying and falling on the ground. The bowl is clearly not too heavy and it really is amusing. Check it out…
As much as we can all enjoy the video, the toddler tantrum occurrence is a reality in the lives of parents every day. The thing that strikes me most about the video is not the girl, although she is a riot. The star of this video for me? The dad. The father who lovingly reassures her, lovingly encourages her and allows her to successfully complete the task on her own.
I laughed as I saw it for the first time, thinking of the number of times Cameron has said “my legs are tired” or “it is soooo far”.
In that moment, as parents, we have a crucial decision to make. Force or support.
For me, instead of forcing him into submission and being harsh on him, I have always felt that getting on his level and supporting him is the best medicine. I could force him to do what I’m saying. I could yell at him, I could scold him or make comments like “you are being ridiculous” or “get up and do it”, but I chose to remain calm and work with him until he accomplishes it on his own. Now let’s be honest here, that doesn’t always happen. First and foremost, if it is a dangerous choice he is making, force is the best option. Other times, well, calm is a distant second cousin: I’m tired or impatient and I snap. However, those times we both end up in tears. Angry tears, mad tears, frustrated tears. When I remain calm, though, he may still cry unbelieving tears and I may cry for him but they are transformed to tears of effort and success and accomplishment. They are tears worth crying.
Just as the dad does in the video, he first acknowledges her challenge and after encouraging her a few times, he eventually uses a firmer tone and she does it! She accomplishes the goal and proves it to herself amidst her dad’s joy that she can do it! She has just won a huge battle. All by herself. She accomplished the task that she insisted she couldn’t do. There are going to be many times when she comes upon “heavy bowls” in her life and this dad is perfectly modeling how to get through them. The 1:21 seconds that the whole episode took could have ended so much worse, with feelings of anger, disappointment, failure and helplessness. Instead, success.
I am certain that some of my tantrums looked a little like this girl. And although the bowl wasn’t really heavy, or, for me, the curb wasn’t really a big step down, in our minds it was a gigantic bowl and a cliff of a curb.
Here is how I know how the little girl feels. On November 5th, 2011 all of the things I had already spent 29 years learning were gone.
My family was in a horrific car accident that took my husband’s life and left me with a traumatic brain injury. Although certain things have come back with ease, other seemingly easy things have been “heavy bowls”. After waking, my first major challenge was following commands like sticking my tongue out. My mom sat and supported me for hours while I just kept trying to get my tongue out of my mouth. Although I have no memory of this (short term amnesia), from my mom’s retelling and knowing me, I am certain that I was frustrated. “Stick your tongue out” seems like a relatively effortless type of request. And yet, I had never ending failed attempts. One after another. Disappointment. Frustration. Then, I did it. Slowly, very slowly and not all the way out but I did it!! All of my mom’s encouragement, all of her support and I accomplished it. I am certain that there was joy in my heart that my mom will never know which gave me the first dose of the “keep fighting” attitude that I have held unto ever since.
The difference from the video, for me, is that the battles are occurring within myself. The support, however, was the same. Once I began to follow commands, the next challenge was getting me up and moving. A significant “heavy bowl” was getting up a wooden three step staircase in physical therapy at the hospital. So again like the father knew that his daughter was capable of lifting the bowl, I knew that my body had been capable of walking up steps. My thoughts were telling my legs to move, but my brain could no longer submit that message to my legs. Exasperation, fear, anger, disgust with myself even and then the gentle words of the physical therapist, “you can do this Sandra, just get up one step.” Not “come on Sandra, this is easy. It’s three steps. Come one.” Gentle encouragement through my frustrated tears, “you can do this Sandra, just get up one step.” That one step eventually moved to three and on the day of my husband’s funeral, the day after I was released from the hospital, I practically ran up about 7 steps because I was so excited to see friends from church. I got up, turned around, saw the steps behind me, and asked them if I just walked up those and they all smiled and said “yes”. My mind was blown, my brain was starting to make that connection again. The axon had been severed when the accident occurred, but through therapy and practice and practice, the connection was reforming. The best illustration I can give for this was given by my doctor at the hospital.
I have a Diffuse Axonal Brain Injury which involves sheering of the axons which are the pathways between the neurons in the brain. Many of the connections or “roads” in my brain were sheered – broken. For example, say that for my legs to move the message has to travel along the axon from neuron A to neuron B. The axon is sheared. There is no longer a complete road from A to B. Think traffic jam on the road. Now I can keep trying to go from A to B on that road, but I will hit the break, the “traffic jam” every time. Over and over and over again I can try the same old way and I did! Until I try to “drive” another road, I am going to meet failure. There are 3 processes that my doctor described to me. This one meeting with him in May of 2012 changed everything. It gave me power. It made me realize that my brain did not control me. I controlled my brain. For the brain injured patient, this is an epic moment.
Here are the 3 process that occur when you are healing: (remember I’m not a scientist so these are my understanding of of them with a little country music thrown in :P )
Unmasking – unmasking is similar to revealing or exposing back roads
You know how irritated you feel when you are in a traffic jam? Now come on and admit it. :) Irritated was my nice word for how some of you feel.
Now imagine if that happened all day long. Every day. And then suddenly you discover (unmask) a back road and you are moving again. You are free to get on with where you were heading. Imagine sitting in that traffic jam for days or months, waking up everyday in the same old jam and then one day, Bam, you are free. Yeah, unmasking those connections feels that good!
Collateral Sprouting – now this one is a bit more difficult to explain
An axon is sheared, several axons are sheared. Axons can sprout though. Intact axons being used for other processes can sprout. I have loved this one because my brain is sprouting! There is such celebration in new life. :) The new sprouts can allow for the movement from Neuron A to neuron B to occur albeit differently. I went to neurolaw.com for this definition:
collateral sprouting – Intact axons located near damaged areas may sprout to reestablish connections with, and in place of damaged areas; cannot be assured that the new connections function exactly as their damaged neighbors did.
Axonal Branching – and this one is almost impossible to understand without research. :) This process seems similar to sprouting but it is more significant and the axon will continue to branch until it joins another branching axon. Then it may continue to branch after that.
ALL this to say, we all have “heavy bowls” in our lives. Something that is so difficult to us that other people can not even begin to understand. A “heavy bowl” which people may self righteously judge us for. Remember those steps I ran up at church? Yeah. Well getting down them? That was a whole different challenge. Going down stairs was about 10 times harder. I needed assistance on getting down. But you just went up the stairs. You must be faking. You must not really need help.
That day, I did need help, despite that it looked like I should be able to do it. So I pray that when you come to the day when the reason for your “heavy bowl” is invisible to others, I hope there is somebody there who will help you, encourage you, and love you. I hope that there is someone there who can rejoice in your successes and applaud you as you face your challenges. Above all, when your “heavy bowl” arrives, because it will, I pray for you the courage to keep trying, the courage to get up off the comfort of the kitchen floor and give it one more try.
In the current technological life in which we live, handwritten letters, notes are becoming a forgotten language. Thankfully, I was raised by the most phenomenal woman ever, who has taught me so much about how to love and value others. One of the most important things she has instilled in me is the importance of handwritten notes. When I’m visiting Michigan, she leaves me a note every morning and it’s the best part of my day. When she is visiting here, I never know where I’ll find a post-it note, but there is always one I find after she leaves to go back home. And I keep them. I keep them in my heart each and every day and I even keep some of them in my bedside drawer for those particularly hard days.
The other day, I found a book that I made for Alana just before she turned 4. I do not remember where I got the idea, but the idea was to put handwritten notes in it about the things different people know and love about Alana. I eagerly turned the cover page and there it was, a handwritten note to Alana from Daddy about all the things he loved about her…
And I cried. And laughed. And smiled. And wept. For our loss of this beautiful man and the joy of finding something so special. When I shared the book with her, I gave her space as she read each page and smiled. She finished and said, “mommy there are empty pages, lets fill them.” Love. Her. The book will be different because it won’t have a new page from Daddy, but it will have such valuable and important additions. She has told me that she wants an Aunt Michelle and Uncle Mike page, an Uncle Tom and Aunt Kalena page, and the page that makes my heart so happy, a Cameron page.
Here is the whole book
The beauty of raising our children is that, in many ways, they become who we help them become. It is a huge responsibility. We are their models, we are their guides, and through the last 21 months that has become more evident to me than ever. Often our children’s behavior is a reflection of our behavior, both the good and the bad. I have not been healthy for parts of this time, physically or mentally. I’ve snapped at my children more times than I want to acknowledge and seen them start to act like that to each other. And therein lies the beauty in parenting; as soon as I starting learning healthy coping skills and modeling them, they started too. We all have been through so much. It still brings tears to my eyes when I think about all their little hearts have felt and experienced. Every once in a while, we all need some reassurances that we are doing something right. On Mother’s Day this year, I received that validation; the handwritten note tradition is being carried on through my daughter and I am so blessed.
You’re my heart
You’re everything I needed
When I see you my eyes glow
Because you’re as beautiful as the snow
And another random note from her
Me. I can make her feel happier than she ever has before. Little old me. I get to do that.
My blessings abound.
8 things that you may not know about me, but I would like you to know.
- My brain is indeed still healing. Yes after 21 months, nearly 2 years, my brain is still healing.
- Brain injury rehabilitation takes a very long time; it is usually measured in years. It continues long after formal rehabilitation has ended.
- Please have patience with my memory. Know that not remembering does not mean
that I don’t care.
- Patience is the best gift you can give me. It allows me to work deliberately and at my own pace, allowing me to rebuild pathways in my brain. Rushing and multi-tasking inhibit cognition.
- The whole article is incredible, though, and I hope you will take the time to read it.
- Sometimes my son hits me.
- This sweet, loving, talkative, sensitive boy hits me. Some people might say that I let him, but that is not the case. What I do is work through his anger until he can stop from hitting me himself. Yes, I move away. Yes, I might stop his hand from hitting me, but I know that spanking him or putting him in time out immediately never helps him calm down. Those things make it escalate, those things lead to biting, scratching, throwing things and he has done all of those things to me as well. Sometimes I cry, he always cries. Inside of this sweet little four year old boy is pain and anger that I cannot even begin to understand. He misses Glen. He remembers. He knows he’s no longer here. At times, when that overwhelms him and he is tired or hungry, I am who he gets mad at. There is safety in that for him. I think he knows that he is mad at something, at things that he cannot control, sometimes just mad and I am the one person who can take it. I am the one person who he can direct that anger to and will still love him just the same at the end of it all. He is not a naughty child. I don’t know how many times I have been given the look that says “you need to spank that child” or “you are too easy on him.” No, in fact I don’t. I need him to get his anger out in a healthy way, I need to hold his trembling body after the fit is done, and I need to reassuringly whisper “it’s okay, baby, mommy loves you to Heaven and back, to Daddy and back.” That’s what I need to do. Here is who my sweet boy really is…we were visiting daddy and I look over and he’s singing “In My Life” by The Beatles to daddy.
- I just started showering daily about 2 weeks ago. Ha. Yup I did.
- Everything in my life has a back story now and there are parts of me that are saddened by that, but there are parts of me that see victory in the back story. Let me explain…I went from not even being able to use the bathroom, to having bedside baths, to having to demonstrate to the Physical Therapists (one of them male) that I could get from my wheelchair, over the tub edge, and onto the bath seat. I then went home from the hospital and had to shower on a bath seat with an adult present in the room and did this twice a week. Then I began trying to stand for short amounts of time again with an adult present, to finally standing the whole time with the bath seat for safety purposes, to just 2 months ago finally removing the bath seat and trusting my balance. When you are working that hard to take a shower, showering every day just feels like an impossible feat. So showering daily for me now, is a victory.
- I’m terrible at being alone. Really. Terrible.
- Ever since I was dating age, I have had a boyfriend. By alone, I do not mean the physical presence of a person. I love to go to movies by myself, or a meal, or coffee. By alone, I mean a person to share my life with daily. I love to share my life with someone, talk about my day, talk about their day, laugh about things that happened, cry when necessary. I love to love. When Glen died, I lost that person. I lost that person so unexpectedly and so quickly and it was terrifying. I am at the age where many of my friends are married. They have a person. And that didn’t mean they weren’t willing to be there for me, but it was different. My safe place that I had found in Glen was gone. I am so thankful to Glen’s male friends who took it upon themselves to call me and check on me, take me out to dinner and talk to me, let me cry if necessary. Thank you.
- I am vulnerable.
- We are all vulnerable. We all have vulnerabilities. They are not weaknesses. They are an area where we feel need and often seek to fill that need with the wrong thing. The weakness comes in that choice, not in the vulnerability itself.
- After becoming a widow and experiencing a severe traumatic brain injury in the same week, my vulnerabilities in life expanded exponentially. This is where the first thing I wanted to share comes back into play. Just after the accident, my vulnerabilities were dangerous. I was not allowed to be alone or to care for my children alone in the beginning. At this point I had lost my husband, my job, my ability to care for my children, my ability to run, my ability to go to the bathroom alone and I was vulnerable, impulsive, and emotional. I was self-centered, selfish, angry, and well, tired. Some days and moments of days I participated in my recovery, other times, I was anything but interested. My parents were basically dealing with a teenage girl all over again but worse. I was emotional, sensitive, impulsive and mean sometimes. As you can imagine, as a parent, it was difficult to watch. Never once did they give up though. When I began to want to make more decisions for myself, they cautiously watched me and allowed me to do so. As I mentioned, it was like having a teenager all over again. They let me make some of my own decisions, knowing that I may get hurt but lovingly knowing that I had to learn the lesson on my own. I look back on it all now and am once again humbled by their strength, grace and support.
- Today, I am still vulnerable. As I mentioned, everyone has vulnerabilities. However, today, with continued healing, I am able to make better choices.
- I have been on a lot of medicines since the accident. Some for physical needs and some for emotional needs.
- Around February of 2012, my anxiety was debilitating. I would wake up in the middle of the night in cold sweats with heart palpitations and tingling arms. I have had anxiety before and when it was bad, I would go for a walk or a run. Now, I couldn’t do that. I was still using a walker or a cane. My favored coping skill was gone. All of the things that I couldn’t control and now I could no longer control my own coping. My mom had returned to Michigan and as soon as she talked to me she booked a flight to come back. I wouldn’t leave my bedroom. I wouldn’t talk to anyone. I was mad, sad, alone and thought I would die from the anxiety. I went to the doctor and ended up being prescribed Ativan to be taken every morning and night. I really don’t know how to explain what a relief I felt after that first pill. Before I go any further, I want to say that I never misused the Ativan, I took it as prescribed but I did not know the power that the drug had. I knew it was a controlled substance. I had to go to the doctor each month to get a prescription. Honestly, though, I didn’t really know what it was. All I knew is that it made me able to function. In November of 2012, for some reason, I decided to stop taking it. I knew that it was always something temporary, but what I didn’t know was that although I was thinking that I no longer needed the drug, my body had a different story. I was sick. I was achy. I was paranoid. I was shaky. I had heart palpitations. After a few days of debilitating anxiety and panic, I called the doctor and she told me to take it immediately. I was addicted to a drug. All this time, I was addicted to this drug and had no idea. She recommended that I wait until after the first year anniversary of Glen’s death and the holiday season, and then go off. I was horrified. I was addicted to a drug. Addicted. I felt misled. I felt like someone should have explained it better. Turns out, they did. My memory was still very patchy at the time and my mom cried when she told me that we had talked about it. I cried with her and she said the words that changed my feelings about it, “Sandra your body was addicted, your mind wasn’t. As soon as you want to, you can give it up. You had to do what you needed to do to get through this stage. You needed the drug and there is no shame in that.” The next few weeks, I tapered off of the drug and on January 1st 2013, I stopped taking it. J I went without it for nearly six month and then during Glen’s birthday, Father’s Day and our Anniversary, I took it two different times. I took it the way it is meant for under normal circumstances.
- I love my life. I. Love. My. Life.
- There are bad days. There are bad hours. There are bad minutes. But overall, when I look at my life, I love it.
- I love writing.
- I write often. Not always publicly, but I write. Writing is cathartic. I feel like myself when I write. So I continue to write. Here are some thoughts that I spoke into my phone on March 5, 2012
It is often said, that ignorance is bliss and truth be told, it is not. All that ignorance does is hide the issues. It hides what is real in your life. Ignorance does not prepare you for life. Ignorance will not prepare you for what life will ultimately give you. Ignorance causes you not to know yourself. It causes you to think your life is satisfied by things that will never truly satisfy you.
Now tragedy, tragedy will suddenly reveal all of the things which were held captivate by your ignorance. You will quickly realize that tragedy is real life and that every life will experience tragedy in varying ways and at varying times. Truth tells us that all lives will experience tragic events. And ignorance does not prepare you for that. It does not make you stand firmly on the you that you are. When tragedy hits, the trap door on the stage of your life suddenly opens. You will have no choice but to fall and you may fall into untruth, into circumstances whose invisibility in your life, never made them untrue. You will suddenly have to face parts of yourself differently than you ever have before. So the question is, how do we come to know ourselves? How do we get outside the realms of what makes us comfortable, so that we can learn? It is possible to live our entire life inside our comfort zone, but what are we doing while we are living inside that ignorance bubble? How are we impacting other people’s lives? If we are honest with ourselves, the truth is that we will have very little influence or impact on the lives around us.
I want to share the journey with you. A journey of tragedy. A journey of reconciliation. A journey of forgiveness. A journey of love. A journey of what really experiencing life feels like.
Idiopathic Hypersomnia (IH) is literally translated to excessive sleepiness which occurs spontaneously or from an obscure or unknown cause. After the birth of Cameron, my daytime sleepiness became more concerning although it was something I had always known was problematic. I did multiple nighttime sleep studies in 2010 to rule out sleep apnea, periodic limb movement, etc. I passed that one fine and I next did an MSLT, a multiple sleep latency test which is done in the daytime.
In the MSLT, a person is given 4-5 opportunities to sleep every two hours during normal wake times. The specialist uses the test to measure the extent of daytime sleepiness (how fast the patient falls asleep in each nap, also called sleep latency), and also how quickly REM sleep begins. A positive MSLT (diagnostic for Idiopathic) is obtained when the patient did fall asleep with a mean sleep latency below 8 minutes in the naps, and had not more than 1 nap where REM sleep was reached (otherwise the patient may be diagnosed as narcolepsy).
My results in 2010 were considered severe and I began medication. Idiopathic Hypersomnia (IH) is a lifelong diagnosis and unfortunately because of the unknown origin it can be complicated to treat. It is one of those invisible illnesses that is debilitating, yet unrecognizable by physical symptoms other than habits that are often seen as lazy and unmotivated. There is no cure, only learning how to make it manageable. I was on the medication, Nuvigil, when the accident occurred and was surprised to find out I was on a different form of the med when I awoke in the hospital. Apparently excessive sleepiness is normal for TBI injury patients and I was on it for that and not for the IH. Since the accident, my body has been through a lot as many of you know. I had tried to go back on the Nuvigil shortly after the accident, but my body was not ready. After a year of difficulties with both sleeping at night and staying awake during the day, something had to give. With the cognitive and physical fatigue associated with the brain injury and the IH diagnosis, I finally went in to get retested and prove to my doubting mind that I did still indeed need to take the medicine.
I went in for an overnight study first. The overnight sleep study is to rule out sleep apnea etc. and also to make sure that prior to your MSLT you have had a solid night of sleep. A main indicator of IH is excessive daytime sleepiness despite a night of good rest. And boy did I sleep well! 8 and 1/2 hours of sleep!!! In one night! It was awesome. So if you sleep well, on to the MSLT. You are there for the day, from the moment you wake that morning until around 5:00 PM. You can do anything you want at the facility, watch TV, read, go for a walk, but you can not have caffeine or sleep without permission. :( 5 separate times during the day you fill out a questionnaire about how you are feeling and then you are asked to try to fall asleep. Each time you fall asleep, you are not permitted to sleep more than around 15 minutes. It really is like a slow torture for someone who falls asleep like me who falls asleep every time! As stated above, your sleep latencies (time you fell asleep in) are averaged together. Not only did I fall asleep all 5 times, despite my 8 and 1/2 hours of sleep the night before, I also had one occurrence of REM sleep (2 occurrences is a sign of narcolepsy). In addition to that, a sleep latency average of under 8 minutes is considered significant. My sleep latency average was 2 and 1/2 minutes with the sleep latency of my 4th nap beginning in 1 and 1/2 minutes!
Eek! Well Sandra, you do indeed have Idiopathic Hypersomnia and you will have to continue to adjust to that along with the cognitive and physical fatigue of the TBI. For your enjoyment, here is what I looked like.
“You have to laugh at yourself, because you’d cry your eyes out if you didn’t.” Emily Sailers
I share all of this for informational purposes. Not because I want pity or sympathy but merely to show that without asking someone specifically, you can never claim to understand them or know what it’s like to be in their shoes. If an outsider came to my house, they might think I was lazy, because I still try to take a nap each day. Even when my room is messy or my house needs to be vacuumed. Yet for me that is progress and from the 2 naps that were required when I first returned home from the hospital. Along with TBI, Hypersomnia is one of those disorders which people who do not experience it are sure that it could not exist. There are tons of articles out there, but I found this one on myths of IH very informative:
So before you presume to know how another person lives their life, consider all of the things that you may not know. Show that individual grace and when you do, you may be just the person they needed to interact with to turn their day around. Just the person that would validate how hard they have been working. Whether it’s grief, illness, pain, abandonment, disappointment, hurt, loneliness, we are all walking around with things about us that no one can see. Those emotions, those circumstances, those feelings are by no means an excuse to entitlement or bad behavior, but they are who we are and we can’t ignore them. The man holding the elevator and annoying you by slowing you down, maybe he’s waiting for his daughter to wheel herself into the elevator with her new wheel chair because she just wants to do something by herself. Maybe that driver who insists on doing 55 in a 55 with no passing lane, is driving for the first time since her husband died in a car accident. Maybe the woman in front of you at the grocery store who is disorganized and can’t find her debit card, just came from a benefit honoring her deceased husband. Then again, maybe not? Maybe they are just what you are presuming them to be. But who are you to judge, who are you to assume your time is more valuable, your life more important? You will never know. So in that moment, you can break their spirit or you can build it up with a smile, a kind word, a kind gesture. There is power in kindness and destruction in judgement. Be powerful.
I’m not sure what took me so long to do this, but I’m going to attribute it to one of those TBI things: the thought hadn’t occurred to me yet. I never thought of it and said, yeah maybe some day. I just honestly never thought of it. With that said my fingers are moving so fast and my heart is pounding with the desire to share this with you all.
My brother and I had a strained relationship growing up. Never bad, but never easy. Life threw some difficult things our way and we both handled them the only way we knew how. As you grow up, social groups are so divisive and my brother and I were both in many different groups and shared many friends, but also were at odds at times with our interests and hobbies. And because the world revolves around you when you are a teenager, we were both guilty of some pretty hurtful things said and done. After high school, my brother moved out to Oregon for six years and then to Chicago. Shortly after that, I moved to Georgia. So for the last 15 years we have not been in the same city. Our whole adult lives we have been apart and though we have both grown and changed into our adult selves, all of those long ago teenager feelings crept around.
Then Glen came into my life. Glen and his brother Michael were so very close and I know that it was difficult for him to understand why my brother and I did not have that. (Other than the whole me being a girl thing). The night of our first date, Glen and I ended up talking over drinks until about 1:30 in the morning. Around 1:00, I got a call from my brother. Glen asked, are you close to your brother? And I said not really so I knew that I should answer because something could be wrong. I answered and he just said, “Hey, what’s going on?” It was 1:00 in the morning and my brother was just calling to say “hi”? Long story short, all my family knew of Glen was that we had met on MySpace and now I wasn’t home on a school night and had to work the next day. My mom had conjured up all kinds of horrible stories and outcomes in her head and called my brother to call for her. Mom’s worries were put to rest, but I had never been able to put that question and answer out of my mind: “Are you close to your brother?” “No not really.” So over the next few years, Glen always worked on that. Never forcefully, honestly at times I didn’t even know it but I am sure that he wanted me to know my brother the way he knew and loved his brother.
Then the accident happened…
I have no way of knowing what happened over the next few weeks other than stories I have been told and things I have read. One thing I am certain of though, my brother is my hero. He dropped everything and drove down here with my parents the night of the accident. He did anything and everything that was asked of him. Updated Facebook day after day, answered all the hard questions, greeted visitor after visitor at the hospital, then held me when I cried, walked with me at the visitation and funeral when I couldn’t walk myself. He came on the night of the accident and he has been here ever since. He was in a stage of his career where he really needed to focus on it, network, follow leads and instead he came down here and dropped everything. I mean everything. He walked into a situation where no one knew what was going to happen. No one knew how long it would take for me to recover (and I’m still recovering). No one could tell him what the plan was, but since that moment he has said over and over that he is here until I am strong enough. Along the way, he became my confidant, our “butler” (the kids call him butler Tom in jest, but that’s another story), my adviser, my comfort on the difficult days, my children’s confidant, friend, role-model, and above all my best friend.
I honestly never thought that would happen in my life. As I said before, our relationship has never been bad, but best friend? I never saw that coming. In Glen’s absence, my brother has moved forward and fought and never given up trying to be everything that a sister who loses the love of her life, suffers a TBI, has to learn to walk again, has to learn to live again, could possibly ever ask for. Glen has shown himself in so many ways through this tragedy, but this thing with my brother, this new friendship has to be one of Glen’s greatest accomplishments. When he puts his mind to things, he does whatever it takes to see it come true and he has so beautifully orchestrated this one.
You are an outstanding individual. Your love of others and willingness to do whatever needs to be done is no little accomplishment. Through this whole process, people have been telling me how strong I am and I always point to my faith because that is what helps me every day. Last night, though, as we were talking, I realized that every time that someone tells me, “You are so strong”, I fell like they should have been telling you that. So Tom, you are so strong. So unbelievably strong. You have held my family together in the times when I just was not able to do so. Whether it’s taking the night shift with Cameron during those difficult days, painting Alana’s toenails, or taking Cameron for a much needed “boy’s night”, you have done it all. Every day. Every morning. Every night. Every moment, you have been so strong. There is no way I will ever be able to repay you for what you have done for me, for us. My children are so blessed to have you as a role model, a friend, a butler, and most importantly, an uncle. An uncle of epic proportions who will define for years to come what loving someone unconditionally will look like. One day they will understand how you came to their mommy’s rescue. How you came to their rescue. How you made life become normal again. How you helped us all find our new normal. I am forever indebted to you and I love you more than you could ever know.
Your little sister,
P.S. Now let’s go back to this first DMB song you introduced to me and jam! Love you!
I have thought about this post for several weeks. By writing this post, you may think I’m saying, “hey guys, you know how you were there for me and cared for me when my husband died? Well here are the things that I wish you really wouldn’t have said.” The truth is I do not feel that way. If you did say any of these things, thank you. Thank you for mustering up the words to say when saying anything feels inadequate. Thank you for continuing to encourage and support me.
I belong to a young widow and widowers group with people fresh in their journey joining every day. I have found the following statements to be universally brought up. The purpose of writing about this is to help you see it from the other side and gain insight and perspective on what to say in the future. Because, unfortunately, as is becoming much too regular of an occurrence in my life, death will touch all of us.
The aspect I find most interesting in this part of my journey is how in your greatest time of need, God somehow grants you the grace to handle other people’s pain and uncomfortableness with grief. I was not the only one hurting. I was not the only one who felt confused, shocked, speechless, as if my life had been completely high jacked. However, people would try to put their feelings aside and meet my needs. We all do this. We feel the need to say something, to acknowledge what has happened. Because dealing with death is awkward and uncomfortable, sometimes people will say some strange things. If you see me, ask me about some of my most interesting condolences. :)
Before you read the list, I would like to say that the operative word is NEW widow – 10 Things Not to Say to a NEW Widow. When it first occurs, everything is temporal, everything is in the moment, so there is no foresight being utilized in a newly widowed brain.
- I have listed each statement first
- is what people think they are saying.
- is what it sounds/feels like to a new widow.
Please read this with a sense of humor in mind. I am owning up to my honest thoughts about some of these statements and when all else fails, we all need to laugh.
- God just needed another angel.
- She’s a believer. That will give her peace.
- My honest reaction, like hell He does. To do what? He has a trillion of them already. I need Glen here. My kids need him here. Angel, schmangel…
- He’s at peace now
- He is with the Lord in Heaven and that is a peaceful thought
- Selfishly I want to know how that’s supposed to make me who is still here, feel any better? We were at peace before all of this happened. He didn’t go looking for peace.
- How are you doing? (in the slow, low, monotone tone)
- I am expressing concern and love.
- Seriously is that a question? Do you really want that answer? Would you like to pull up a chair or maybe a sleeping bag? I’m a widow. A widow with a brain injury. I’m facing a whole new world. My children have no father. I wake up every morning alone.
- Everything happens for a reason.
- There is a reason for this and one day it will all make sense.
- Yes it does. I don’t doubt His plan for one second. But now, at this moment, that brings me absolutely no solace. I mean none.
- I know exactly how you feel…(when my husband left… when I got divorced and had the kids alone…my husband travels for work…)
- Relating to her will make her feel good.
- You have absolutely no idea how it feels.. Those things are difficult too, but not the same. I don’t want you to EVER know how it feels.
- I’m glad to see you’re moving on
- Love and concern.
- I’m not moving on. I will never move on. I may be moving forward. And what does “moving on” imply? That I am dating? Is that the only way that I can show growth and healing by dating?
- Let me know if there’s anything you need.
- Love and concern and a willingness to help.
- (Awkward silence). The majority of the time, I have no idea what I need. Ask my best friend. Ask my family. Or best of all, tell me what you are going to do. Anything you can think of, I probably need. But the last thing I want to do is admit that. The biggest needs for me, grief and TBI combined: a meal, a nap, time in my house alone.
- At least you’re young…
- You can go on and get remarried and live a happy life.
- At least I’m young? Hmmm. Wow. I’m pretty sure that being young does not make this any easier. Every age of widowhood presents different challenges, but being young does not make it any easier. I was going to spend the rest of my life with this person and being young enough to be able to spend it with someone else is of no comfort at all.
- You’re doing the best you can do with your kids.
- You are doing a great job.
- This statement is obviously meant as an encouragement but I can promise you that it does not feel that way. I’m doing the best I can do. Yes, of course I am doing the best I can do. Unless my children are naked and running in the streets, scrounging for scraps, please tell me I’m doing an awesome job with my kids. It’s taking everything in me to get out of bed in the morning, let alone get my kids out of bed.
- I don’t know how you do it.
- I don’t know how you do it.
- None of us knows how we will handle something until it becomes our story. And that is what is so beautiful about life. We get to be the author of what comes next. It’s kind of like those Choose Your Own Adventure books that my brother was crazy about when he was little. Circumstances happen and then you choose a way to go, your reaction causes the path to change. Some endings are favorable and others are not. There is weight in good choices.
Me, the way I’m handling it? God. My faith. My weaknesses. My imperfections. My lessons learned. My tantrums. My children. My future. My love. My mistakes. And an occasional homemade wine spritzer.
If you got this far, thank you. Thank you for understanding.
Here is a short list of things that would work. But everyone is different, so these are my statements of comfort during my early widowhood.
- Honey, I love you so much.
- (I don’t really have an alternative to this one).
- How is physical therapy going? How is (insert an activity that you know I like or that we share)?
- I’m so sorry, this just doesn’t make sense.
- I have no idea how you are feeling. This is just stupid.
- I heard/saw (insert activity I was involved in). I’m so glad you had a great time.
- Hey I would like to drop dinner off on Tuesday or Saturday? What works for you?
- (I don’t really have an alternative to this one).
- The kids are doing so well. You are doing an awesome job.
- I don’t know how you do it. –or- I don’t know what to say. –or- This sucks. (This one is okay because I appreciate honesty and transparency over anything else). I appreciate when someone is just real with me and tells it to me just as it is. It gives me the freedom to say what I really want to say which is “yes this sucks and I don’t want to pretend that it doesn’t”.
I wrote this original post in March
There are just days I long to be understood. Long to understand myself. The depth of the experiences I have walked through and the ways it has changed me and continues to change me are countless. I could not have ever imagined what tragedy, death, and loss can do to a person. The trouble is that for me, I’m doing this on very uncharted terms. I am not the only person who has lost a spouse. I understand that and pray often for other people in my situation. But I often feel like I am the first person to lose their spouse and survive with a severe traumatic brain injury. I know this is not true, but there is a loneliness to this experience that I long to share with someone.
And I don’t feel sorry for myself. I just feel desperate for someone who can really say, “I have been there.” A person who really knows what obstacles and subsequent growth your brain goes through. There are the obvious ones: my brain could not tell my legs to move and through physical therapy and making new paths in my brain, I became able to send that message from my brain to my legs. Then there are the invisible ones; reasoning, planning, focus, decision making which have all improved immensely“Time won’t flyIt’s like I’m paralyzed by itI´d like to be my old self againBut I’m still trying to find it” – All Too Well – Taylor Swift
I believe I am who I was. The essentials of me, have not changed. I still love fiercely. I am still focused on my life, on succeeding. But there are these other things that I don’t so much have control over right now. And I’m not very good with loss of control. I want my brain to focus. I want my brain to be ready to teach. In moments like this I go to a place. A place I go every once in a while. Not often. But it is a lonely place. A sad place. A place where I cry out “why me?” “why now?” “why this?” And God is very deliberate in saying “why not, Sandra? Why not?”“Yes, but why me?” And again I hear His response, “why not?”In this moment I don’t feel anger or discouragement like you would think. I feel a sense of peace and of clarity. Why had I never asked myself that question before? “Why not?” Tragedies happen. Every minute of every day. I was not exempt. I am not exempt.
This is a song I was inspired to write as a gift to two beautiful friends of mine – Sandra June Walker and Billy Wilkerson. Some of you know their stories…and although they are different they share a common theme of facing adversity and tragedy with courage. I am inspired by the lives of these two lovely human beings. I was going to try and record this but I just didn’t want to wait to share it with them so I did a rough video recording at home. Thank you both for inspiring me as well as so many others with your honesty, courage, humility and gratitude. Your lives are gifts to so many. I borrowed the title of this song from a phrase I hear Billy and Sandra use often – “Forward Motion” – From my heart to yours…peace and love.Forward Motion (Billy and Sandra’s Song)by Dustin Ah Kuoi
See, when you speak, yeah your words carry much more weight, much more weight
You’ve faced a dark night but still your steady making your way
I’m cherishing the sun a little more as it brings in the day, a new day
And I think of you
People like you have a fire in their eyes
And a spirit like a phoenix or the rising tides of the ocean
I’ve got dreams still pushing up against my walls
And this fragile flesh and bone is trying to give its all
And you help me believe in forward motion
You inspire forward motion
Somewhere somebodies on the floor making friends with the end
They’re wondering if they’ll ever walk, ever breathe again
But you’re a living melody that fills the atmosphere with a light, with a light
To see, to hope, to feel again, to keep your heart engaged and alive
Every sleepless night, every tear you cried, every sad goodbye
I can’t imagine how you were hurting
Standing there where nothing was certain
Every warm hand
Every sweet word
Every present friend
All the fears that were heard in the air
My friend I wish you never were thereCHORUS
Awakening. Revival. Breaking Free. Release. Stretch. Expand. Reach. Explore. Awakening.
These are the words that keep going through my mind the last few days. I feel like a metamorphosis happened in my life. And because I am a word person and I love looking up definitions here are the definitions that came up:
(in an insect or amphibian) The process of transformation from an immature form to an adult form in two or more distinct stages.
A change of the form or nature of a thing or person into a completely different one, by natural or supernatural means.
With each of these definitions, I could dig in so much deeper. But I will spare you all my 15 page essay and give you my Kindergarten teacher understanding of metamorphosis of a caterpillar. J Here is what I feel happened in my life. In a nutshell.
After the accident, I was a caterpillar. That was the new me. My perspective was different. The world was new to me and it was scary, man was it scary. I now knew that hurt could occur on so many different levels simultaneously and nothing could protect me from it. I functioned and worked hard, I had never known any differently. However, part of me was doing just that, functioning. Wake up, daily tasks, eat, daily tasks, go to bed. Repeat. My heart would not fully open up. I was so busy relearning all of the things that had days before come so easily. Each day, I functioned. Each day, I worked hard. One day, I must have lain down. Not given up, but lain down and rested from being weary. Little did I know that as I rested, a change was continuing to take place, and all of my work was forming a chrysalis around me. My life was covered, protected, and happening, but no matter how hard I tried, I didn’t feel like I was a part of it. I could see it occurring but I couldn’t truly touch it or experience it. Along the way, I began to believe that my life was going to be like this forever. Much like the little caterpillar believes that he will never be anything else, I had begun to accept where I was in life. Just function. Just work. And when you accept untruth, you will begin to believe untruths. I began to believe that I would never be anything more than a brain injured person. A non-working, weak, tired, absent minded person. Thankfully, although I had begun to believe those things, my life was covered. So I stayed where I was and rested. Over the last few weeks, I began to stretch. I began to reach, expand and explore. I began to break out of my cocoon and the untruths that I had come to believe are no longer able to keep me captive. My brain awakened. I felt a revival of myself. I began to care. I know there seems to have been a lot of moments like this over the last 18 months. Yet somehow this time was different. I could breath. I could feel life. I could experience life. I could imagine a future. I’m not sure how else to explain it then to say that suddenly, after believing I was going to be a “caterpillar” for the rest of my life, I could fly. Suddenly, I became a butterfly. A beautiful butterfly.
God’s not finished with me yet.
If there is one thing that my brain has not stopped doing and perhaps has begun doing more of, although I didn’t think it was possible, it is thinking. Really. It sounds silly, but I think more. Maybe it’s because things take me a little longer to process. Maybe it’s because my thoughts have changed. Maybe it’s because my perspective has changed. Whatever the reason, I am happy to sit quietly in my mind and own my thoughts. Own my feelings, my actions, my words, the good and the bad. There is a risk of this behavior. A risk of sitting in the past, staying in the past, reveling in regret. However, there is also a blessing in this behavior. My blessing and enlightenment this week? Owning my words.
In the beginning of the brain injury, I had some very typical severe brain injury behaviors. It’s a good thing I was in the hospital the first 4 weeks and that my parents kept me under constant supervision over the next few weeks. Although we joked, I literally did not have a filter. Ha. Like at all. I called my speech therapist at the hospital some pretty interesting names (which I can share with you privately if you need to know). I have no memory of doing this and she was certainly not any of those things. She was an awesome person. The bitterness and anger is something that some people with TBI never lose. I was blessed to not suffer long term from that. But the language, oh my. I have NEVER ever sworn that much in my life! It would come out and I would look around like “did that all just come out of my mouth?”
As I have learned and studied more and more about brain injury, I have learned that an injury of this magnitude can cause physical, cognitive, social, emotional, and behavioral effects. In reality, my prognosis was bleak. The idea that I would one day be walking, feeding myself, talking, let alone blogging, was not even a thought in those first few days. My mom has described that they just wanted me to open my eyes. The longer a patient remains in a coma, or their LOC (loss of consciousness) the more severe the problems. Longer than 24 hours is severe, so although I was above that time range, given what they saw they were surprised with the time frame which I awoke. After talking with my mom recently, I learned that she was in the room with me the first time I opened my eyes. From what I’ve heard, I don’t think she was often not in my room. Amazing. Despite what the scans showed, I was responsive. Although I did not know where I was, I had my long term memory of things like my children’s names. Each day, the doctor would be surprised and ecstatic with my progress. As I mentioned before, the anger and bitterness only lasted a few days, my mom said my mood was good and I was nice and very talkative (shocker I know). :) I was able to recognize people and I remembered the day before the accident with clarity. All indicators that my recovery would be better than what was originally thought. I digress… Focus, Sandra, focus. :) … sorry.
Hearing and sharing these details helps me. It keeps me humble. The fact that my mom had to watch me take 10 minutes to try and stick my tongue out for the first time makes me realize that successfully running a mile pales in comparison. That’s not to say that I cannot care about running, but I cannot let it ruin me. I cannot be miserable. I have had to fight. Fight so hard. I have had to suffer. Despite that, I have had such happiness. I have had such bliss.
Back to where this started…owning my words. I have written before about what parenting means to me. It is such a huge and awesome responsibility. => Learning, Growing, Living with Intention
The second part of parenting, which became very clear this past weekend, is the power of the words I say to my children. Pastor Kevin talked about Wisdom for Words on Mother’s Day. He was discussing that as an authority, your words matter. “Whenever you have authority, your words have gravity.” He could have used the word weight there. Essentially what he was saying was that your words have influence, that they weight our children, with either positive, encouraging words, or weight them with negative thoughts. Yet as I began to really think about gravity, gravity is actually a force. A force that pulls things towards it. To be specific, gravity is “The natural force of attraction exerted by a celestial body, such as Earth, upon objects at or near its surface, tending to draw them toward the center of the body.” The breakdown: A natural force – as a parent your gravity is a natural force. You didn’t ask for it necessarily but as a parent you were naturally given it. Your child was put in your atmosphere. You are the “celestial body” that has a “natural force” of attraction. So what type of force are you attracting with? What type of gravity are you displaying to your children? Gravity can be good or bad. Either way though, it’s still gravity. It is still going to pull them, you are their atmosphere, you are drawing them to you. This is where your words or lack of words have such a huge effect. If you are putting negative words, disapproving, ridiculing, hurtful words into your atmosphere, they are directly affecting your child. You are the natural force that is pulling them into how they view life, how they form beliefs, how they process their feelings. On the opposite side, what happens if you are putting positive, affirming, supportive, loving words into your atmosphere? What an amazing thought! What if their atmosphere is guided by positivity? What if you are pulling them into the center of a life filled with affirmation and appreciation? Really think on that.
PK also said that what you say in that moment, at that exact time, is going to form your child. Can you think of something that someone said to you as a child that you have never forgotten? Something that you still believe about yourself? That is the power of words. To paraphrase PK – words are either sobering or encouraging and everybody is responsible for how they use their words. Your words can build up or tear down, cause destruction. You can crush a child. I have spent a great deal of time thinking about this. Yes I know, shocking again. How am I doing with my words? What does my atmosphere look like? What are my kids learning about themselves through that atmosphere?
This is the video that played and I would like to share it with you all.
Since the brain injury, in life and towards my kids, I have been more negative, more impulsive, less able to control my feelings and words. As time has gone on, I have come to recognize the behaviors which were once unrecognizable to me. I now understand that while the brain injury may have caused the initial changes in my atmosphere, it is up to me to change those habits. Maybe something that happened in your life changed your atmosphere too. Maybe it was abuse, job loss, abandonment, divorce, being a child of divorced parents, a tragedy, a trauma, or maybe something far less easy to pin point. However, you own your atmosphere. You are a “celestial body” with an atmosphere all its own. The definition of an atmosphere is an “envelope surrounding a celestial body…retained by the celestial body’s gravitational field.” My translation – your atmosphere, your envelope of influence surrounding your life, is “retained” by you, by your gravity. It is maintained by you, it is kept or held by you. Life will throw meteor showers (circumstances) that will interrupt your atmosphere, but only you retain your atmosphere. What kind of an atmosphere are you going to retain? My kids and I talk about our “bubble” as our indicator of personal space and that way if we don’t want anyone right near us, we can say without harsh words, “please don’t come in my bubble.” And it’s done there. There’s no “but..” or “no…” When they are ready, they will tell you that you can come in their bubble or time will do the inviting. As I am writing this, it occurs to me that it is the same with our emotions as much as our physical proximity. You own your bubble or atmosphere. You decide what words, thoughts, and feelings to allow in and the times that circumstances allow things without your consent, you own the area and are allowed to evict any of those emotions, doubts, feelings.
As a result of all of these ideas and the video of Kevin Queen, I made a poster for Alana. One day, I will do one for Cameron too. I put many of the reasons that I am so thankful for Alana and as I read it, I realized that I was describing the very atmosphere she has around her. Eventually she will have an atmosphere that is completely her own. Until that day, she is an envelope inside my atmosphere. And because my gravity will always pull her to me, it is my responsibility to help her keep these very things in her atmosphere.
None of us are perfect. We will make mistakes. We are always learning and always growing. My challenge – take a look at your atmosphere. Define your atmosphere. What is your force of gravity, your words, your interactions, pulling into your atmosphere? What are your children learning? If you are anything like me, I know there are places that can be better.
Boston changed something in me. There were so many ways I unknowingly internalized that day to the day of my accident. Running races. The excitement. How hard you work to get to that goal. How hard you push to get to that day. How I never imagined in a million years that I wouldn’t finish or for that matter even start. And Glen, like the victims in Boston, he was just a bystander to my accomplishment. A supporter. And now he’s gone. For honestly the first time since the accident, I blamed myself for what happened. I began to feel deep levels of survivor’s guilt. If I hadn’t been focused on running, if I hadn’t wanted to do that race, if I would have trained more and waited, if I, if I, if I…
The post I wrote on Monday was honest. It was where I have been for months. Living on hope. As Monday carried on, hope began escaping through the sieve of my life and I felt deeply saddened, deeply alone, deeply hurt. Once those feelings took hold, they got darker and began to spin out of control. For the first time since the beginning of this grief, I was caught in the very middle of a cyclone that I no longer wanted to fight. Those of you who have known me a long time, know that depression is something I greatly battled as a teenager. After becoming a widow and suffering a traumatic brain injury, depression has tried so hard to overcome me and last Wednesday, I let it have control…for a moment… The next day I had a counseling session and because I was still in that dark place and not talking, a friend drove me there and went with me. My counselor started asking questions and I wouldn’t look at her or speak to her. She was asking what had started these feelings. I wouldn’t speak. So she asked my friend how many days had this been going on and what he thought had started it. He began telling her about the trial and a few other things and I said, “Boston.” I didn’t even know it until that moment but I said it again without looking up, “Boston. It was Boston.” In the following hour, I began talking and we unfolded a lot of the feelings I was having and the counselor explained how Boston actually retraumatized me and brought me back to the beginning of my grief. At that moment, I began to heal again. In a new way. In a way that made me want all that life has for me. I began really looking at my grief and this journey and all that I have been through and learned and all I have to still get through. I began looking at grief honestly.
Grief is so tangible. Grief has texture and color and pulse. When I was a kid we went to Yellowstone. I was 8 and I have never forgotten the way that the sulfur mines looked or smelled. The surface would be smooth and then all of the sudden it would begin bubbling like crazy and steaming and hissing. Somewhere along the way, I kind of combined the sulfur mines and the geysers in my memory. My grief looked like these memories this past week. It has been smooth, calm, and then it simply began bubbling and steaming and eventually exploded like a geyser. My logical brain tells me that this is expected and normal, but my emotional side is not accepting of that. My emotional side began to believe that I will never feel better, that I am bound to feel depressed for the rest of my life. These valleys are deep, they are dark, they are cold and they make you want to lie down and quit. When you can’t even see the light, feel the warmth, why would you climb out of the valley?
As I have continued to write, I have wanted no more than to be honest in my grief. There is really nothing pretty about it. Grief has been mucky, smelly, bubbly, hissing, screeching…and then out of nowhere, a clearing, a calm. Very early on in my Grief Share, I remember one of the women talking about what grief has looked like for her and I immediately had a picture of what grief looked like for me in my head and because I am a very visual person, I have never forgotten that image. Grief is like a circle in the middle of your life and in the beginning you are stuck to it and in it and you know of no other way to be. Living in the grief becomes safe and normal. Then slowly you begin to move away from it a bit at a time. The next time you move away from it for a bit longer which is miraculous, but the fall is a little harder. This pattern continues as the time away lasts a little longer and you feel a little higher. The falls become harder and steeper though. You begin to see that although the falls are hard and sudden, they do not last long. You visit with the grief for a bit less and instead of it feeling like your normal, it feels uncomfortable. The uphill battles are no longer so arduous. They are there, but you have done them before so you believe that you can do them again. You know what the mountaintop looks like. You have been there. You want to go back. So you begin climbing. Eventually what were once mountaintops become the plateaus of your life. Plateaus that you get to claim, that are yours to live on. The grief will always be there and you may have a sudden fall or you may just need to peer over the edge and remember what it looks like. After all, it is yours to own as well. Grief does not have to own you. Grief is yours to own. As I sit on this plateau after climbing out of a very deep valley, I am at peace. I peer over the edge and look at the jagged rocks and curves of the climb and finally feel proud of myself. I used to peer and just be afraid of going back and ashamed for having been there, but now I am proud. I am thankful. I am grateful.
In the wake of yesterday’s events in Boston my mind has been spinning.
The details of tragedies are different. Different events occur. Different people are involved. Different emotions are touched. The unfortunate similarity is that all tragedies involve loss. And loss is difficult. More than difficult. It can mean so many different things all at once. The loss of life. The loss of feeling safe. The loss of visions for your future. The loss of love. The loss of physical abilities. The loss of a pastime you love. Loss.
The other devastating part of tragedy is that it hurts. Loss and hurt. Tragedy hurts everyone who hears about it. Hearts ache. Hearts and minds are confused, unbelieving, shocked. It hurts everyone who sees the images of the tragedy or hears the details of the event. It hurts those directly involved. Without a doubt, though, the most difficult part of a tragedy is that many of our lives go back to normal. Many of us, though our heart is heavy, can go on today as we did the day before. Yet for those who were there, who experienced huge loss on so many levels, today is day 1 of the rest of their lives. Today, they woke up changed. They woke up without a loved one, without an arm, without a leg, without confidence, without peace. Today is the first day of the rest of their life. Today is different. Every day forward from now is different.
Although my tragedy was different, there is a universal experience, a universal pain that occurs. I will never forget what it felt like to wake up on the morning of November 21st 2011 and find myself in a hospital, unable to get up, without a clue of why I was there. Next, I found out that 16 days earlier I had been in a car accident. That we were hit head on. That the children were okay. That my husband was alive but his brain was no longer showing activity and he would be removed from life support. Tears. Shock. Speechless. Confused. Hurt. Tragedy is always that cold. It is always that shocking. It is always that stark.
I have never and never will begrudge those who don’t have to wake up different from my tragedy. People who saw the news story or heard the story in conversation and whose heart hurt for what we were all going through. I would never wish it on you. The fact remains, however, that when you’ve been there, at that moment, at day 1 of the rest of your life, the level of ache in your heart is unbearable.
Through the last 17 months, I have had to teach myself to wake up and hope. Tragedy does not have to be the loss of hope. When I could not hope in the beginning, those around me hoped for me, fought for me. Eventually I began to believe in hope again. Although you can not fix what has happened to the people in Boston, you can wake up with hope in your heart. Wake up with hope for them. Hope for peace. Hope for healing. It is easy after a tragedy of this type to wake up with hate. Bitterness. But what if you woke up with hope instead? What if you went into the day, the world, and breathed hope into the people around you?
What does the picture of your life look like?
We all have a picture of our life as we see it. Not how others see our life, but how we see it. Certain parts are a bigger part of the picture. The biggest roles in my life were wife, mother, and teacher. I have a definite “before” and “after” in my life. Before the accident, the picture I saw of my life was vibrant, layered, textured. After, in the beginning of my grief, my life picture was dark, simple, flat. To me, my life was defined by the tragedy of being a young widow. I felt as though I had to greet people by saying, “Hi, my name’s Sandra, and I’m a widow.” I felt that if I didn’t address it, they would think I was lying, trying to disguise the weariness of my grieving heart. I wore the title of widow like a scarlet letter.
I stood still. Pulled back from life. Spending minutes, hours doing nothing but existing. Life kept moving though. Life does not let the widow grieve the way a widow must, in her own time. I remember opening up a letter from my employer with the date of Glens death on the top. I opened it to read their condolences and that while I’m figuring out how the hell to live without him, walk, and shower by myself, I need to provide them with a death certificate to have him taken off my healthcare and rename beneficiaries. I’m no professional on etiquette, but I believe the first thing that should have come was just a letter expressing their condolences. No business, no things I needed to do, just an expression of sympathy in a difficult situation. Then maybe a second letter, not dated the day of his passing could request those business items. But we are a business world. No time for grief, #2007022. We need a death certificate, we need proof you are disabled, we need to know why you are only doing therapies 3 times a week, we need, we need, we need…what about all of the things I may need?
But life just keeps going faster and faster and at some point I had to join back in or be left behind. With the passing of time, the weariness and grief begin to lift. There is a point when you have to accept that the tragedy is now a fact of your life. The acceptance does not make life easier. It does not take away the fact that this trauma occurred, but the pressure begins to ease.
Adversity, despair, tragedy shatters life as you know it. On November 5th, 2011, mine was shattered. I have been placed in a position to decide whether or not I want to pick up the pieces. Pick up the pieces of the reality of the tragedy and begin their restoration, not just acknowledge them and move on. The pieces of this enormous tragedy are jumbled among the other pieces of my life. I have stared at them for a long while. Stared at them without a clue of how they could possibly fit back together and with no intention of trying to do so. They sat in piles in the corner of my mind and life as a constant reminder of the mess that had been made. A mess I did not want to own or work through or figure out. I just wanted to sleep and wake up to a world where all the pieces fit together.
One day, I could not ignore the pieces any longer. I began to pick them up, sometimes willingly, sometimes because I simply had no other choice. For a while, I just sorted them, stared at them with absolutely no idea how they belonged to each other and set them aside. Eventually, I began to attempt their reconstruction, to piece them together without knowing how they would fit together.
As I began to put them together, I was reminded that they were vibrant, textured, and layered, that my life was still vibrant, textured, and layered. When I have felt strong enough, I have continued to piece them together without instructions, or a picture to follow. I am placing pieces where I feel they will be given strength and love. When I hold the recreation of my life up to the sun, light peeks through. I am reminded that there are pieces missing, sitting in piles I have not yet sorted, pieces with broken edges, edges made jagged from life’s trials. Much like my thoughts, the pieces are disjointed, unable to find a comfortable place to rest. Through these disjointed and imperfect pieces, though, there is light. The light which breathes and pulses with the possibilities of moving forward. I may not have a picture to go by, my picture may never look the way I thought it would, but as I continue to work, the pieces are beginning to form a beautiful new picture, a beautiful new life.
Today I wanted to quit.
I was tired.
– of fighting
– of feeling
– of failing
I was tired.
– of renewing
– of reliving
I was tired.
And I acted tired. I threw a pity party for myself. Acted like an idiot. Acted angry. Acted irritated. And I’m sorry to those that I invited to the show. See I always have been and am even more so now, a quiet processor. Not a verbal processor. Not a speedy processor. A quiet processor. I need to close my eyes. I need to think. I need silence. I need time. I need quiet. I need. to. be. alone. Now this is often not a very comfortable thing for others to allow you to do. Others are ready to process right away. Me? Not so much. Other people can see you are hurting and they want to help you right then, that very instant. Me? Not so much. I repeat… I need time. I need quiet. I need. to. be. alone.
And I’m not sure if this is normal or not, but I think and problem solve in images and in songs or poetry. Sometimes ones that have already been created, sometimes in ones I have never seen or heard before. But I process in images. I can remember images or poems which I have used to process with in the past. But in order for me to do that, I have to be quiet and I have to be still and today it meant going to see Glen. And the minute I was there in front of the image of his grave this is what came to me – Winter’s Wait.
This song came from a person whom I have been very blessed to know in my life, Dustin AhKuoi. Here is a link to the song preview for the song because the lyrics to music are so incredibly amazing. ->Winter’s Wait
It turns my gaze to you
Oh, I pray for sleep and peace tonight
Oh, Keep me steady in the fight”
I’m not sure that this image will ever become less surreal. Today as I visited, the reality of it hit me all over again. Because of the season, the weather, and the dryness of the ground around Glen’s grave, the lyrics of the song came rushing into me head. Sometimes in Winter, we must wait. We must wait. For Spring, for new life, for the frozen ground to thaw. It was a reminder that although I wanted to quit that day, there was so much to fight for and to press forward for…
“And I won’t fold and I won’t break
Amidst the cold of Winter’s wait
For lo, the white and barren ground
Is melting into green
And LOVE will keep me through the storm
As frozen tears give way to songs
How long, how long, how long”
“There’s a silence in the atmosphere
All is still out on the streets
Though it haunts me when I’m lying here
You sing me to sleep
You hold me in my dreams”
“Oh, I need to rest my head tonight
Oh, grant me strength with morning’s light”
Then these thoughts…I don’t want to quit. Or fold. Or break. I just need to rest my head. I don’t want to quit. Strength will come with morning’s light.
The events, challenges, heartache, self discovery, blessings, and fun that occurred in this quarter of the year were tremendous. My words could never adequately express what I experienced during this period of my life. Therefore, in some places I will just caption pictures and in others I will write.
In this month, I truly began fighting. This is not to say that I wasn’t fighting before this month. However, this month it all began to make sense.
I ran another 5K and had a great time. It was my first time participating in a run at night and I had the blessing of running it with my cousin Rene. She was so encouraging and supportive.
We went to Disney on Ice for a second time! I decided to finally start CrossFit again and haven’t looked back! I love it. It is ridiculously hard and challenging but I adore it. I love the people that I train with and always look forward to it.
On October 27th, the incredibly blessed Mary Anne Morgan took my family pictures again. We were able to take them on her farm which was beautiful. Alana was a natural, Cameron was a nightmare and refused to smile, and I was exhausted, yet somehow through her magic behind the lens, Mary Anne got these shots!
Another historic thing happened this month…I dressed up for Halloween. Yes as an adult I have dressed up before, but I have to be forced usually. Well Glen LOVED Halloween and our last Halloween together I did not dress up. So this year, in his honor, I dressed up. Silly I know, but it was a great time.
After a year of waiting, November 5th arrived. One year from the day that my life changed forever. I did not feel strong to write that day so I looked back on the blog to that time of year and reposted this blog from my dad four days after the accident happened. The Power of Friends–
The power of friends
Crisis tends to isolate and crystallize our thoughts sometimes. I have been made so aware of the healing power of friends, family and prayer.
It is often said that the measure of a person can be found in the kind of friends they keep. Sandra and Glen must be very good people then.
I can’t help but be struck by not only the sheer number of friends that Sandra and Glen have, but the quality and depth of character of those friends. Not only have so many friends been there to visit (some come everyday), but their acts of generosity and kindness are almost overwhelming. They have given serious thought to what the family might need and have responded with food, clothing and acts of service.
I hope those friends realize how important their presence has been to the families. It gets us by each day and only leaves a little time alone each night to have to think about the reality of the situation. Family is family and you know they’ll always be there but it is the friends that have made all the difference.
And I just told myself to keep breathing. And I cried. And cried. And laughed as we shared stories about Glen. We talked about some of those first days after the accident that I can’t remember and I began to understand what it was really like for all of you. I wrote this to all of you that day:
There are so many thoughts and feelings I want to share. And eventually I will. The thing that has hit me the hardest today is that last year from today until Nov 21st, for 16 days, I have no memories. None. It’s like these days didn’t even happen for me last year and during this time my friends and family were going through the HARDEST time in their lives. I believe fully it was God’s mercy that allowed me not to be aware of what was occurring around me. I looked back on the blog and read what it was like for all of you and truthfully I just can not even imagine. But the hope you all shared, the love that was witnessed, and the faith to believe…these are the stories that I never tire of hearing and that changed the lives of the people who saw and were a part of them. One post that rings as true today as it did then was my father’s post from November 9th, 2011. I am so unbelievably blessed to be surrounded by the friends I am and you all are what make the difference each and every day!
The song I listened to a million times that day:
All the signs of life
They’re all around me with every heartbeat
I feel so alive,
I am joy and sadness,
Peace and madness.
If only I can fight just a little longer
I know it’s gonna make me stronger
Oh and these are the times when doubt’s tryin’ to creep in
And I need a reason that’s larger than life when hope seems hard to find
If only I can fight just a little longer
I know it’s gonna make me stronger
Prior to this week, I was approached by someone in the church to ask if I would like to share my testimony through a chalkboard testimony during our Night of Worship on November, 9th. We were currently in the I Pray series, learning how to pray, how to surrender your fears, insecurities, pride and how to not get “stuck” in our circumstances in life.
We had been doing everything on chalkboards during this series, hence the chalkboard testimonies. On one side of the chalkboard, you write something you have experienced or been through in your life. On the other side, you write something about how God has been a part of the transformation and healing that has occurred. The church was doing an original song entitled Greater than Life. Each one of the participants chose a song lyric to write on their chalkboard and on the other side was a statement about any part of our life that was challenging. I agreed to do it and then was immediately terrified. However, I continued to pray and dig down deep about the what words I wanted to say. After some deep reflection and prayer, here is what I decided to have my board to say:
I will forever remember the feelings in my heart of freedom, healing, and redemption as I walked across the stage and shared my testimony. Every time I hear the song, I hear the moment that I began walking onto the stage and I breathe a sigh of relief. Here is a video of that night.
Some time during the night, you were able to go up front and surrender something that you wanted to conquer and were ready to let go of its grip on your life. With great nervousness, I went up and I wrote simply, “ANXIETY”. The battle had become fierce and I no longer wanted to fight it, I wanted to surrender it, to conquer it. I will come back to this later.
The next morning was the day that we chose to celebrate my birthday. I had no memory of my birthday from the year before when I turned 30, so although I was technically turning 31, to me it felt like 30, so my brother got me this cake!
All of these events took place in a 5 day span which I was surrounded by family, friends, and pure love.
I remember celebrating Thanksgiving in the hospital the year before. I am so grateful for the number of people who came two days after Glen’s death and gave up their traditional Thanksgiving to come spend it at the hospital with me in my confusion, pain, shock and grief. When I saw that the one year anniversary of Glen’s death was going to be on Thanksgiving this year, I decided that I did not want to be home doing what I had always done in the past. So with my mom, dad, brother, Aunt Margot, and the kids, we traveled to Walt Disney. It was a trip of epic proportions!! We visited the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood studios. Here are a few shots of the 700 I took. :P
On to December…anyone as exhausted from reading this as I am from writing this? :) This month a few more “firsts” happened. On December 2nd, was the one year anniversary of being released from the hospital. It was the day of Glen’s two visitations. I did not seek to relive these days, but it is a impossibility to not acknowledge them and I wanted to acknowledge them. The year before, these two days were exhausting and surreal and this year although the pain was still there, I could see healing in giant ways. The next day was the day of his funeral the year before. I desired to relive this day, to be surrounded by so much love, to share the man that Glen was with everyone and to do well at honoring his name. Here is a rundown of the day including what I said. The Day of the Funeral. Reading it now still makes me cry and oddly enough it makes me smile. A big and beautiful “Glen Walker smile”! :) He made my life so much more amazing than it had ever been without him and there is no way to be sad about that fact.
In classic fashion, as it has been over the course of this year, on that day, I went and pushed myself in my work out. Not to avoid what was happening, but to work through it and to push through the emotions and the overwhelming sadness. On this day, I did wall walks for the first time and did a headstand against the wall for the first time! Forward Motion! Always. One more step each day.
From the website – “The Father Christmas Cup is held each year around Christmas time to help local families who have lost a parent this year.” We were one of the recipients last year so we were able to be there to support the families that the benefit was honoring this year.
Here they are waving to Uncle Mike as he was playing. Precious.
It was a wonderful season and a wonderful day.
And 2012 was over. After a year of intense highs and lows, learning and relearning, grief and healing, I was VERY ready for a new year to begin. In December, I prepared to come off of another medicine that I had been taking for many months. In this new year, I have been free of this medicine and my mind has been free and awake.
The first week in January, I wrote this in church.
I can honestly say for the first time in a year that I feel I am on level ground. The depression has been bumpy, the grief has been undulating and add the learning to live as a TBI survivor to that and my map through the last year has been mountainous, uneven terrain.
There have been so many days, moments, where I have wanted to blame someone else, some circumstance, some change. When in reality, God said to me one morning, “stop getting in your own way, Sandra.” And I promise you I looked up to the air and said “what?” Getting in my own way? How does that even happen? How can I be two places at one time?
And moment by moment since that day He has been showing me all the ways I was getting in my own way. Now, I am able to look at a situation and remind myself, “Sandra, don’t get in your own way. Don’t get in your own way.”
The series in church right now is “I Need a Breakthru.”
The anatomy of a Breakthrough:
1) Always More – You have not tapped out your own growth. There is more in me.
2) Always Forget – Forget what has been. What is behind. Don’t let your past define you.
3) Always Forward – Strain towards what is ahead
I can see how I had been working on all of these things throughout the last year, but when someone puts them to words, it just further reassures your efforts. I have been working on these. I have been fighting and I have been free of the debilitating anxiety for 32 days and free of the medicine for 31. I know this is a risk. I know that being this transparent may be strange to some of you, but I also know and believe in the redemptive power of the Lord. Remember when I talked about what I wrote on the chalkboard in November at the Night of Worship? ANXIETY. When I wrote that, He already had my deliverance planned. He is able to break every chain. I was able to make a Breakthru.
This quarter of the year was filled with so many different things. The one element that stands out for me was really beginning to understand and accept what living as a severe traumatic brain injury survivor means. Also learning how to live with the physical injuries encountered in the accident. I fully intend to share all of the amazing and wonderful things that happened, but as I have before, I would like to be transparent about the suffering and subsequent healing that occurred in this period of the year.
July 5th was my first wedding anniversary without my husband. Through God’s almighty hand and His promise to not test us beyond our power to remain firm, July 5th was also the day that my church came to film my testimony on faith. They were unaware until they arrived what this day represented for me. Instead of the day being dreary and lonely, I was able to talk about Glen the entire day. Although it was painful at times, it was cathartic to be able to share my journey. The three people I met were so encouraging and supportive and the video they put together was beautiful. On days when I don’t feel strong, when I’m weary and unsure, I watch the video and am reminded that God gave me the heart of a fighter. Sometimes, however, it’s not enough to just have the heart, we have to dig deep and use it.
Here is the video.
It was also a huge blessing to meet the individuals who came to do the project. They made what could have been a debilitating day, a great day. I enjoyed seeing my hometown through their eyes and having some fun at the end of a long day. :)
This day began some real healing and processing in my journey. On July 15th, I wrote this blog post: Learning, Growing, Living with Intention
On July 30th, I returned to work as a full-time Kindergarten teacher. I was excited and ready to take on this challenge.
After a few pre-planning days, it was meet your teacher day. My classroom was prepared, I was prepared, and it was a wonderful day. That Monday, August 6th, school began. Every day started perfectly, but by the end of the day, the cognitive fatigue I felt was tremendous. As teachers know, the day does not end when the students go home. We stay late, we take work home, think about work when we are not there, just like any other job. As I began to feel fatigue both mentally and physically, I began to really take a look at the time I had allowed myself to heal. All teachers are exhausted those first few weeks of school. This year was my 6th year of opening up this very same classroom and I knew it would be hard and I thought I would make it through. Sometimes, however, life does not go the way you expect or think it will go and I was starting to understand that. I am blessed to have worked with amazing people who saw me struggling way beyond anything they had ever seen before. What came next is perhaps the most difficult part of my journey…I decided with the help of my principal, parents, and counselor that I needed to leave work. I can not explain what this did to me but it was not good. I had to fall a little further before I could move forward and that following Monday I entered a partial hospitalization program for depression, anxiety, and PTSD. I remember when I heard that partial hospitalization was the suggestion. What?!? Partial hopitalization? What does that mean? What it meant was a day program at a mental health hospital. The decision was ultimately mine and after much reflection, I decided to attend. I won’t go into all the details of the program, but ultimately what I began to see is that while I was certainly depressed, more of my struggles had to do with what had happened to my brain. So I started asking for answers to all the questions that I had either heard early on and forgotten or had not wanted to hear. After 4 days in the program, I wrote this…
Living with a disability…and letting the healing begin
Next in the healing process for me was coming to terms with what had happened to my body physically and what that meant pushing forward. As a result, I wrote this: Awareness and Acceptance
During this time, I became involved with the Visual Arts team at my church and they lovingly supported me and kept me busy. We were working on a series called At the Movies and it was wonderful to be a part of such an amazing team.
While all this was going on with me, my children were still thriving and being loved. I tried to pour into them as much as possible and knew that me being there, engaged with them, was what they thrived on. Alana began at her new school. and my dad attended grandparent’s day. She was beaming with pride and joy. :)
Later in the month, my mom came down and my amazing parents helped me begin to put together the pieces of my life that I felt were falling apart. By the end of the month, I felt like the healing had begun.
and was able to begin living the life that was waiting for me.
The Glen Walker Melting Pot Co-Ed Flag Football tournament will be held again this year. Attending this event last year was a day of hope, healing, and love. Last year, we were still picking up the pieces and trying to move forward and I was blessed to receive the proceeds. This year the organizer, Leland Dombrowsky, allowed me to select a family to receive the funds. Here is how I selected…
Glen was driven. Determined. He did not blow where the wind took him, but fought to get to where he knew he needed to be. Where he deserved to be. He was a fighter. He persevered. He was happy. Joyous. Loved life. Loved those around him. He was fun. Silly. Athletic. Competitive. He was positive, despite his circumstances. He was a remarkable man.
I had never really known a man quite like him and by chance and similar circumstances, my path crossed with Billy Wilkerson. A man who I know would have been friends with Glen. A man who loves his life, his wife, his kids, and his friends despite the difficult cards he has been dealt along the way. Here is Billy’s story:
July 31st 2011 – Billy Wilkerson is hit by a drunk driver. He is in a coma for one week.
August 2011 – Facial reconstruction surgery and tracheotomy.
September 2011 – He spends weeks in the Shepherd Center for mental and physical rehabilitation.
October 2011 – After 7 facial reconstructive surgeries, Billy comes home.
December 2011 – Billy writes and performs this song… singing with his trache still in.
Previous to his accident, Billy was working for Whitestone Motion Pictures as a songwriter. After having a trache inserted into his neck to save his life and suffering from a severe traumatic brain injury, he did not know if he would ever be able to write or sing music again. The short film being produced by Whitestone at the time was Jack and the Dustbowl and four days before the accident he had discussed writing a song for the film’s credits. Although he did not have to write the song after the accident, he pushed himself. He did not settle and get comfortable where the wind had blown him, he continued to fight. The film was thematically similar to some of the struggles in Billy’s life and he said, “It challenged me, made me want to move forward. So that’s what I have been doing ever since.” Billy has embraced an outlook of moving forward despite his circumstances ever since and made Forward Motion a statement in his life.
We met in February of 2012 and I have had the privilege of seeing the amazing growth that has continued. Not only the growth, but living with intentionality. Billy and his family have been a huge source of strength, encouragement and support for me and my family.
Because Billy’s injuries were so severe, he has been unable to return to work. His wife, Jill, left her job after the accident to stay home with their children as well as help with Billy’s rehabilitation. They are such an inspirational family.
It is with deep admiration and love that all the proceeds from this year’s tournament will go to the Wilkerson Family.
***The second quarter began with Disney on Ice!***
As you can see, Cameron absolutely loved it. He was awestruck and talked about it every day for months.The crew!
Just a few days later my Mom’s twin sister, my Aunt Cathy, arrived to help my family pack up the house. There are no words to describe the gratitude I have for everyone that helped me move. I am still certain of my decision, but I did not have the strength at the time to pack up my life with Glen. That is what I felt like. I was packing up not only his life, but our life together, and there were certainly moments that I simply felt helpless. I wept and I mourned, however, I knew I was not able to live in the place that our life started together. I also was not able to live with the kids by myself yet, so we were very low on space. So I began the move into what is honestly, the house of Glen’s dreams. When I saw it, before I even walked in, I knew it was the one. I praise God for the love and care of my friend’s mother, Ginny, who was my real estate agent. I had already thought about bidding on another house when she said, “I have one more to show you.” She knew that it had a few of the things I had said that Glen wanted and boy did it ever!
Everything went so well and my family blessed me so abundantly by allowing me to work at my pace both physically and emotionally. While also letting me drink iced coffee. :P
On April 27th, Arena Tavern held a golf tournament which honored Glen.
It was so incredible to have this many people together that loved Glen and were able to make the day fun and special.
On April 30th, I returned to work as a teacher. I was to be doing half days and pulling small groups instead of taking over a full classroom. I was so excited to return and so ready. However, it is at this time that I really began to see my brain injury for what it was – severe. I would have never known, if I had not tried. Knowing that I had tried, gave me to freedom to allow myself more time to heal, to stop pushing myself to be who I was before the accident. In that respect, I am so glad that I tried. I am so glad for the school’s support. The one thing I know is that I love teaching and that is a part of me and always will be.
This month my sweet boy turned 3!!! As a surprise for both kids, not only was Grandma coming from Michigan, but I also had a play yard built in the backyard.
Needless to say, they were so excited about both things! :)
The very next day we celebrated his birthday and also had a housewarming party.
June 17th was our first Father’s Day without Glen. Alana was away in Colorado so Cameron and I went to Glen’s grave together for the first time. We went the day before to get the grave ready. Cameron and I decided to decorate with UGA things. Overall, it was an incredibly healing visit. There were definitely some questions from Cameron and they were huge in further processing what Daddy dying really meant.
The end of June was a very wonderful time. We headed back home to Michigan for a few weeks break. First thing on the schedule was a hometown 5K that I had never participated in before.
The registration pick up was at my high school and the race was through the streets of the small town I grew up in so it was very exciting. Add to that three cousins running in the race and one of my good friends from college and his fiance running with me and it was all together an awesome experience. Here we are at the finish line! :)
Another three months were in the books for 2012. It seriously exhausts me to see everything we were doing. But in hindsight, I know it was perfect. I know that I had to choose every day to either get up and keep going or to stay in bed. I chose to get up. That choice is more than half the battle; the choice to keep going allows amazing experiences to come into your life. I began to learn around this time that I not only had to keep fighting for me, but that I had to keep fighting for my kids. Everything they knew, everything they were accustomed to…changed. In an instant, their lives were never going to be the same. And despite the severity of my injury and a recovery that seemed highly unlikely, I am here. I am here. Here to be everything I can be for my kids. Here to bring them up the way that Glen and I dreamt about. Here to give them life, even on the days when I could barely breathe myself.
2012 was one of the most eventful, intricate, challenging, and amazing years I have ever had the privilege of experiencing. Therefore, writing this post proved to be a much larger task than I had anticipated. I have certainly learned not to push myself past my limits, although I had to overdo it many times to get to this place.
The growth and experiences, setbacks and steps forward that I and my family have been through this year is a bit overwhelming. It honestly was not until I began to gather pictures for this post that I was humbled for the first time by the monumental events of this past year. Hence, breaking it into 4 parts. It is often said that a picture is worth a thousand words, so pardon me while I share a googolplex of “words” with you all. (Cameron’s new favorite number after Uncle Tom said it one day.) :)
After 4 weeks of Physical Therapy in the hospital and 4 weeks of PT at home and Shepherd Pathways, on January 3rd, I walked on a treadmill for the first time. I completed a 1/4 of a mile in 10 minutes and it was incredible. I continued at Shepherd Pathways with PT, Occupational Therapy, and Speech Therapy most of this month, doing each therapy three times a week. It was an incredibly trying, yet rewarding period in the year.
On January 28th, CSA sports league hosted a flag football event in Glen’s honor, The Melting Pot Memorial. From the website: “Glen was named #2 on the CSA 2001-2002 Top Ten List and also was named the 2002 CSA Captain of the Year. In addition, Glen was the MVP of The Melting Pot Too.” As a remarkable tribute to him, the Melting Pot Memorial took life. Sports were a huge part of Glen’s life, so we approached this day with great excitement. We made shirts for each of the kids from Glen’s shirts from past seasons. My parents helped put them together. Here was the final outcome:While at the tournament, CSA recognized Glen’s accomplishments by presenting me with this amazing tribute.
Now on to February. Whew :P I continued my therapies at Shepherd Pathways, began counseling, began a small group at church, and began attending Grief Share.
My first Valentine’s Day without Glen came along and I decided to really honor both Glen and the holiday because it was certainly one of his favorite holidays. If you had the pleasure of knowing Glen, you know that shoes were his thing! So in Daddy’s honor, I decided to get both of the kids shoes. Sketchers for Alana because it was a big day when Daddy and I got her first pair and Nike’s (of course) for Cameron.
Towards the end of this month, through hearing about the story at church, seeing a follow up story on the news, and simply reaching out, I had the absolute pleasure of having dinner for the first time with Billy Wilkerson and his family. He is a fellow severe Traumatic Brain Injury survivor and through our shared experience, our families have been able to become so close. Here is Billy’s story:
Part of me wants to say this was the most epic month of the year then I look at my calendar and realize every month was like this to some extent. Blessings abound. Through burden, blessings arise, albeit bittersweet at times.
In February I began looking for houses, something Glen and I had discussed prior to the accident. I was beyond blessed to find a house that seemed to whisper Glen’s approval to me. On March 19th, I closed on our new house and the kids were overjoyed!
Also throughout February and March, I began training for my return to running, The Atlanta Women’s 5K. A friend suggested the run and it was the motivation and focus I needed to keep pressing forward. She not only suggested it, she helped me train! Thank you Lisa.
My Uncle made this awesome poster from one of the pictures from that day:
On March 21st, the news did a follow up story on this journey. Click on the picture below to see the video.
Alana was my biggest cheerleader that day and it made my heart shine. After seeing me in the hospital early on, I think she had fears surrounding me. Seeing me complete a 5K seemed to help her feel like her mommy was back.
Three days later, I took my driving test at Shepherd Center. I had to complete a series of driving training in Occupational Therapy for about 6 weeks before the test. On March 28th, I drove on open roads for the first time since the accident. With great anticipation, excitement, and nervousness, I completed the driving test and passed. :)
The next day, I drove myself somewhere for the first time!! It was such a huge blessing to be able to have some independence.
The very last day of the month, March 31st, I ran in the Color Run with my friend Sarah again and for their first 5K ever, Billy and his wife Jill ran.
Billy had talked much about making Forward Motion in his life and recovery. I decided to make t-shirts to pull on that idea for this race. “Forward Motion” has become a major movement in my life and is one of the many blessings of knowing the Wilkerson family. :)
There really is not a way to describe this race, so here is an awesome video that Billy made from the race that day.
On second thought, perhaps March was epic.
To be continued…
I often stutter.
I often close my eyes when I’m speaking.
I often lose my train of thought.
I often get overstimulated by a lot of conversations occurring at once.
I often forget complete conversations that I have had.
I often change subjects in the middle of a thought or conversation.
I often get frustrated with myself.
I often forget I have a traumatic brain injury.
Life after a severe traumatic brain injury is one learning experience after another. For some context, I would like to share the type of traumatic brain injury which I experienced. It is called a diffuse axonal brain injury. Here is a short video to explain what that means. This brain injury is the type that occurs in Shaken Baby Syndrome. Here is what occurs in the brain:
Here is a definition of Diffuse Axonal Injury that I find very helpful.
It was not until a few months ago that I really began to understand exactly what my brain went through. I began to understand why I was facing some of the challenges I was facing. The most troubling symptom for me continues to be communication. I get embarrassed, frustrated, and feel inadequate. Again I began doing research and I found the most helpful article that I have found yet.
It is from Brainline.org and is entitled “Lost & Found: What Brain Injury Survivors Want You to Know.” I share this article to be brutally honest with how difficult these skills are for me. By appearance, I look fine so it is difficult for people to know where I am struggling. This article says what I haven’t been able to put into words myself. Here are the top three things I feel like I want people to know.
Brain injury rehabilitation takes a very long time; it is usually measured in years. It continues long after formal rehabilitation has ended.
Please have patience with my memory. Know that not remembering does not mean that I don’t care.
Patience is the best gift you can give me. It allows me to work deliberately and at my own pace, allowing me to rebuild pathways in my brain. Rushing and multi-tasking inhibit cognition.
The whole article is incredible, though, and I hope you will take the time to read it. http://www.brainline.org/content/2011/07/lost-found-what-brain-injury-survivors-want-you-to-know.html
And please, if you ever have questions, ask me! I will do my best to find them. I have wonderful resources and am humbled by people wanting to know more.
As everyone went through the journey of the accident occurring and the aftermath that followed, different days stuck out. Today is the day that most sticks out for me.
Today is the day that my short term amnesia ceased and I began forming new memories. My first solid memory is waking up in a hospital bed, looking to the left, and seeing my mom coming into the room crying. She then explained to me that I was in the hospital because my family had been in a car accident, that the children were safe and unharmed, but that Glen was injured. She explained that Glen had been fighting for days and that after the CT from the morning, he no longer had brain activity, and would be taken off life support that evening. With childlike innocence, I asked my mom if he was ever going to wake up. She said “no.” And with childlike innocence again I asked “Like never?” Again she said “no.” I then asked if I could go see him. I cannot even imagine what it was like for my mom to have to deliver this news without knowing if I would wake up the next day remembering it or not. In the wake of everything my family has been so strong, so supportive, and so loving. Although that was a dark day for me, in hindsight I see how God laid everything with my brain injury out in perfect timing. Because from the moment my mom told me this, I have been saying “it is what it is.” That day I knew that Glen was going to die and then the next morning I knew that he had.
By God’s grace alone, having no memories before this day, I never had the hope or notion that Glen was going to make it. I feel this was God’s protection over my mind and body so that He could allow me to survive, heal, and get stronger in those first few weeks.
So today is the day that changed everything. Today is the day I had to go to sleep with a husband, knowing that in the morning I would not have one.
But this is not where the story ends.
“At any given moment
You have the power to say
this is not
how the story is going to end.”
So I have shared my story. The intense highs and lows. And if you all will allow me to keep processing and healing in this way, I will continue to share.
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
And as I have said before, I am sure of the hope that Glen has for me and the children and certain that he is in heaven rejoicing with his Heavenly Father.
I have long loved the movie 50 first dates. I’ve probably watched it over 25 times. :/ Lucy (Drew Barrymore) awakens every morning after a car accident, unaware of the accident, thinking it is the morning of the accident. For many months, her family recreates that day for her over and over. Until Henry (Adam Sandler) comes into her life and falls in love with her and doesn’t want her to be stuck there anymore. He wants her life to move forward. Each time I watch, I have marveled at the devotion it would take to teach someone every morning the tragedy that occurred in their life, what has happened since that day, and who you are to them. The love and commitment that it would require to do that each and every day is remarkable.
This is exactly what my mother did for me every day for 2 weeks, never knowing if it would be like this forever or one day I would be able to recall what had happened the day before. Each morning I woke up with no idea of why I was in the hospital or where Glen or my kids were. My family would tell me enough details to pacify me but decided it wasn’t worth putting me through the pain of the truth knowing that they may have to put me through all that pain again the next morning or even a few hours later.
By the end of the movie, Lucy wakes up every morning to a video that Henry has made of how she got from the day of the accident to the current day. There is visible confusion each morning as the video begins, but she eventually comes to see the amazing ways her life has moved forward.
There are days where I want this. Days when I wish I had a video to watch to explain what has happened and what has brought me to this day of my life. I would love to say that my memory is great now but it is still a large struggle. I forget small parts of days and sadly I have a hard time remembering entire conversations at times. I have asked those close to me to simply be honest when this happens. When I am talking about something I have already told them, to let me know. There are other times when people talk to me like we’ve already had this conversation or they have already told me, and I have no recollection. I have asked them to give me prompts or reminders and then it will begin to come back to me. I don’t have the recall on my own but even the slightest prompt will remind me. The most difficult memory issue for me is facial recognition and meeting new people. It takes many times of meeting someone for me to remember his/her name or to even remember that I’ve met them before. As embarrassing as it is, I have learned to be honest with people when I am having trouble.
In moments like this, my heart aches for Glen. He was so incredible with people. My heart aches for the person you share your life with, who could help you remember. Aches for my companion. And so I have sought companionship. Through family, through friends, and at times through thinking I was ready to date. I know there will come a time that dating will be an appropriate choice. In my loneliness I have thought I was ready way before I was. I have learned many things. The main thing I have learned, I am not ready.
The relationship that Glen and I had was great, beautiful even. Certainly not perfect but filled with love, communication, devotion, and a solid spiritual foundation. I see that in my loneliness, I have been trying to go back to what I knew and what was good. I see how this is a normal reaction to loss but have to realize that it is not the right timing. I still have a great deal of personal healing to go through. The danger of dating and committing too early is that the broken places inside of me will not have a chance to heal. It would be easy to rely on another person to fix me or make me feel whole, but that is not something that a man would be able to do forever. And those broken places would not be healed, just overlooked for the time being. The reason why I cannot put myself in a relationship right now is because in focusing on someone else, my focus becomes divided. Right now to remain in forward motion I need to focus on my continued healing and my kids. I need to love myself and be fully devoted to my children.
At the conclusion of the movie, Henry shows Lucy how the pieces of her life have come together. How blessed she is despite not being able to remember each moment of each day. This past weekend, as I celebrated my birthday and looked around at all the friends and family that were there, in my own way, I was able to see how Glen was able to put the pieces of my life back together again through the legacy that he left. I am okay. My children are okay. Every morning I wake up and through my kids and my day, I am able to see the legacy that Glen left and the way that he loved us. There is not a doubt in my mind that some days will be harder than others. Some days will be more challenging than others. It is especially on these days I know I can lean into the love of my family and friends and the legacy that Glen has left. I know that on the other side of this grief, the best days are ahead.
Deuteronomy 31:6 Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
And the month has arrived, every last moment with him, every last conversation, every last kiss and last hug. And I want them all back. I want to go back to this week last year and soak it all in. Relive those memories and really hold on to them. Stare him in those gorgeous dark eyes and tell him how much I love him. I’m comforted knowing that although I don’t remember that day at all, I remember kissing him goodnight the night before and him letting me know how proud and excited he was for the next day.
Then November 5th arrived. And the terrifying and trying month that entailed. I wish, as do many people I’m sure, that I could choose not to relive this month of my life. It still feels so foreign and so confusing. Those early days home were tough. I would stay in our room and there were moments I would just sit in the closet and sob and look through all his clothes. There were days when I didn’t leave my room all day because what was outside those doors was more than I could deal with.
And the journey that has brought me to a year later has been one wrought with all kinds of emotions. Deep hurts to overflowing joys. My life has been filled with an overwhelming amount of experiences and realizations. Those early days are behind me but the pain is sometimes just as present. Despite this I am glad that the person I was this month last year is not who I am now. The difference is that I am able to fight through it now, able to function through it and luckily those darker days are far and few between and most days I’m ready to take on the day. Even excited about the day.
Oh and these are the times when doubt’s tryin’ to creep in
And I need a reason that’s larger than life when hope seems hard to find
If only I can fight just a little longer
I know it’s gonna make me stronger
So I’ll just keep holding on, holding on, holding on
I’ll just keep holding on, holding on
I’ll just keep holding on to what I believe
Oh, I believe in you
Give me the strength for the fight
And the heart to believe
Cause I’ve got to believe
I’ll just keep holding on, holding on, holding on
Give me strength for the fight
And the heart to believe
‘Cause I’ve got to believe in you
Oh oh oh oh oh
Yeah I’ve got to believe in you
Oh oh oh oh oh
Oh, yeah I feel so alive.
The one thing I keep feeling lately is being tired of fighting.
Tired of fighting.
Just. Tired. So I remind myself frequently to believe I have the strength for this fight, the ability to keep holding on, and the heart to believe in Him.
If there is one thing that has been important to me in this whole process, it is honesty. I have sought to be honest in my grief, honest in my healing. and this has been painful at times. Today is one of those days. Today I return to Shepherd Center to have neuropsych testing done and make a plan for cognitive rehabilitation. Without placing blame on myself or anyone at Shepherd Center, this is a test that should have been administered before I was discharged. Like me, everyone was so focused on my physical recovery that some of the cognitive and mental processing impairments were over looked. And although the test did not occur, I have faith in the way that everything has unfolded and am not upset that the testing did not happen before. I was not ready then. I wanted to learn to walk, learn to stand unassisted, learn to step off a curb without help, be able to resume parenting my children. With work, these things have come back, and now I need to work on my brain and the neurological testing is the best way to formulate a plan for healing in my brain to occur.
Neurological testing evaluates such impairments of cognitive functioning. The types of cognitive deficits that are typically encountered after brain injury are diverse but tend to include impairments in:
- Executive functioning: planning, initiation, follow-through and organization.
- Visuo-spatial, perceptual skills
- Speech, language and comprehension.
- Memory: visual, auditory, sort-tern memory, long-term memory.
- Speed of information processing.
- Mental flexibility, reasoning, Problem solving and Judgment.
Although there is some defeat or sadness that tries to creep in, I have to remind myself that this is just another step. Another step to discovering the new me that is blossoming as a result of this injury. As has been the case all along, friends and family have been so amazing in their support and words of encouragement. Last night I received a text from a friend that said,
Rather than looking at tomorrow as a reminder that you are back at ground zero, see it as a benchmark. Remember where you were the last time you were there. Look at you now. Each time you go there you will be further along in your healing process.
It’s like you are making marks on the wall of your height growing up.
I love that illusion of growth. As a child you can’t be taller just because you want to, but one day you go to measure and you are! My brain can not be healed of it’s trauma just because I want it to be. But given time and intention, healing can and will occur.
You hold my every moment
You calm my raging seas
You walk with me through fire
and heal all my disease
I trust in You
I trust in You
I believe You’re my healer
I believe You are all I need
I believe You’re my portion
I believe You’re more than enough for me
Jesus, You’re all I need
Nothing is impossible for You
Nothing is impossible
Nothing is impossible for You
You hold my world in Your hands
“The first step toward change is awareness. The second step is acceptance.”
Awareness and acceptance exist in two different realms of the world. People can continue to operate and live on awareness but it is like stepping over a huge gorge in your life to move into acceptance. Acceptance is multitudes more difficult and often times more painful.
Last Thursday I went to get a second opinion from a vascular surgeon about my inferior vena cava blockage. It was recommended so that I can be sure that there is nothing that can be done surgically to remove the blockage. The other main question I had was “can I still be a runner?” As running has become very difficult given this blockage, resulting in a very heavy leg when running, noticeable swelling, and increased veins in my abdominal area.
The inferior vena cava is the large vein (blue in the picture) that carries de-oxygenated blood from the lower half of the body into the right atrium of the heart. You have common iliac veins on both the right and left side that meet in your abdomen to form the inferior vena cava. On the right side of my body, just before those iliac veins meet, I had an inferior vena cava filter inserted. Clots are usually treated with blood thinners but very early on in my hospital stay they could not give me blood thinners because I had three brain hemorrhages (bleeds). So they inserted the filter to keep the clots in my leg from going into my heart. Unfortunately, the clot broke loose in my leg at some point. Fortunately the filter was there to catch it! Unfortunately, it was a rather large clot in width and length and has resulted in a complete blockage of blood getting from my right leg and into the inferior vena cava. The inferior vena cava is obviously important in carrying the de-oxygenated blood from your leg to your heart. So in it’s absence other veins in my abdomen have taken over to get the blood where it needs to go. Think of a car jam, main road is closed, so all the small roads get filled up and used. These veins enlarge when I’m on my feet for long periods of time or when I run :( Hence my desire to get a second opinion.
Well the Dr’s opinion was the same, given that they were unable to put a wire through the blockage, they will never be able to put a stent in. My inferior vena cava will never be a functioning vein on the right side of my body. The iliac veins on the left side are clear and working so I do not experience any of these symptoms on that side.
So now the movement from awareness to acceptance must begin. The first step is the awareness that being the type of runner I wanted, is not going to be possible. I wept when the doctor said “you will never be a marathon runner.” He was saying it not at all realizing that is precisely the thing that I didn’t want to hear. I wept when I heard. Then felt so bad as his face dropped, realizing the pain that statement brought me. It may seem silly to be so sad but it is another loss of who I was before the accident and who I was becoming. And anytime there is loss, there is mourning. After realizing what running meant to me, he discussed that running is okay. It won’t hurt me, but it will be much harder than before and he would not recommend long distances. He discussed ways to help blood flow and decrease the swelling in my leg and in my abdominal veins. He prescribed some compression stockings for that side and we’ll see how that goes. :) The second step is gaining acceptance through following the doctors suggestions and deciding how to make the necessary adjustments. Also, there will eventually have to be the acceptance of running not being my main cardio focus. I cannot say I am there yet, but I have, with much determination, built a bridge over that gorge and am crossing a little bit at a time. Eventually I will get to the other side and be in acceptance. So for now, I’m going to enjoy the journey of figuring out what is best for this new body I have. :)
At some point, having a brain injury just became a characteristic I used to describe myself. I’m 5’7″, have long brown hair, hazel eyes, right handed, and have a traumatic brain injury (TBI). I’m not sure when I decided it was something I could just put into that category, but I now know that it is not just a descriptive factor of who I am. It is a disability. With this new knowledge, I began to educate myself, because somewhere along the way I either did not hear or did not get taught about what having a TBI means for the future. So as I reeducate myself, I would like to share that I am learning so it can help those who interact with and love me better understand me.
When you experience a head injury and are brought into the hospital, they do something called the Glasgow coma scale looking for eye response, verbal response, and motor response. The highest you can score is a 15, meaning a mild brain injury. The lowest you can score is 3, meaning a severe brain injury. I recently found out my score was 4.5, putting me into the severe brain injury category. Now, I am aware that the people who saw me in the hospital those first few days, saw the severity of my condition. However, having no memory of those days and having asked very few questions about those days, I never realized that my injury was so severe. 75 % of all brain injuries are in the mild category and only 10-15% are in the severe category that mine was in. Here is some specific information and I have put in bold what is the most important thing for me at this moment.
Every brain injury is different, but generally, brain injury is classified as:
- Severe: GCS 3-8 (You cannot score lower than a 3.)
- Moderate: GCS 9-12
- Mild: GCS 13-15
For more information go here: http://www.brainline.org/content/2010/10/what-is-the-glasgow-coma-scale.html
All of this learning comes up because I tried to return to work again and although there were some great moments where I felt like a great teacher, the 8 hour work day was mentally exhausting. I never knew that you could be so mentally exhausted. As a result I have been beating myself up over not being ready for work. The inability to accomplish these high expectations for myself has led to some pretty serious depression and anxiety around feeling like a failure. Then all of the sudden, I began asking questions! Why am I unable to do this? What really happened to my brain? How does the TBI factor into what is challenging me?
My initial discovery -> I realized that in NO WAY should I have been trying to return to work yet. Since my release from the hospital, I have just been pushing forward, being as intentional as possible in my healing. And there is nothing wrong with that, I have come so far. However, I have been assuming that all it would take is my devotion to the wanted goals in order to achieve them. In reality, my brain was severely injured. Every good intention and want and need in my body is not going to make some goals achievable yet. My brain needs time and I need education on living with a severe traumatic brain injury. My brain injury was in the left frontal lobe and I am realizing that all of the executive functions that stem from there are not just going to return one day. They are not going to return simply because I want them to. Cognitive skills are a struggle for me right now and I need to learn about how to work on them. In order to be able to fully commit to this, I am taking a leave of absence from work. And this time instead of feeling like I have failed, I am feeling empowered, like I am finally doing the things that I need to do for this new life that I have. Letting go of the past life for now until I figure out how this new me operates and works. :)
So you thought you had to keep this up
All the work that you do
So we think that you’re good
And you can’t believe it’s not enough
All the walls you built up
Are just glass on the outside
So let ’em fall down
There’s freedom waiting in the sound
When you let your walls fall to the ground
We’re here now
This is where the healing begins, oh
This is where the healing starts
When you come to where you’re broken within
The light meets the dark
The light meets the dark
As I lie awake pondering what lies ahead on day 2 of the second week with students as a Kindergarten teacher, I am all at once overwhelmed by the magnitude of this task. Being back at work full-time is the first time I have had to use my brain continuously for 8 hours straight since November of 2011. I mean this with all seriousness. If you have been around me, you know that in the beginning to promote brain healing, I was required to take naps each day and went to bed by 8:30. Slowly that was moved to only taking a nap when necessary but making sure I took some time to close my eyes each day and let my brain rest and now…. I am faced with the challenge of teaching 23 5 and 6 year olds. My first reaction was to jump ship, give in, and say “I think this brain injury got the best of me.” I mean how could tasks at school that were previously routine require such cognitive demand? And as has been true of me in many areas of my recovery, I have been hard on myself since starting the new school year. Brain injuries are a tricky thing because they are not visual in any way. I look the same as I did at the beginning of last school year, but inside, I am working so much harder.
It is important to remind myself that teaching has never been a walk in the park. For the last four years, during the first few weeks of school, Glen would have to convince me not to quit! :) He would tell me each year “babe, you said this last year too. You will get through it.” The absence of his devotion to my success and being able to break down my day with him has been palpable. So, for me, along with my return to work has been my obvious return to work without Glen. And it hurts.
I believe to be a good teacher you are always striving to give your students the best learning experience. Always thinking of new and engaging ways to teach them, refining activities that you have done in the past. I still desire to do those things but for whatever reason I have been unable to ask for help in the areas that I am struggling. Instead of asking for help I’ve just been feeling like I have to prove to myself and to others that I can do it all and my brain is just fine. After having an emotional session with the counselor yesterday she told me that my brain is not fine and I have to stop acting like it is. I have been through major emotional trauma and major medical trauma. She was making sure that I realized that I have to ask for help when I need it. All people do. Brain injured or not. That no one has as crazy of expectations for me as I have for myself. So today I feel like I am going to start on a new page. I am going to start on a blank page and become the teacher I am now, not hold myself to some expectations I had of the teacher I was before. And remind myself constantly that at the end of the day whether I did the exact reading lesson I wanted or not, my students are leaving the room with a smile, hugging me, and saying they can’t wait to see me tomorrow. And because I teach Kindergarten I have already received quite a few “Mrs. Walker, you’re the best teacher ever!” And that is why I have to keep fighting, because it’s not about me, it’s about them.
Nine months ago today, my life changed drastically. Changed in a way I could not have ever imagined possible. Changed the trajectory of where I envisioned my life going. Changed me.
The 5th of each month for me is a difficult day. The day is difficult because it is the day that everything actually changed. It is the day my brain suffered a traumatic injury. It is the day that catastrophic damage was done to my husband’s body. It is the day my children witnessed these injuries and lost a piece of their innocence that I can not give them back. It is a day I mourn.
The 5th brings to mind the question you will hear people ask each other, “if you could do it all over, would you do anything differently?” My mind wants to say, wants to shout, “Yes, yes, yes.” I would not have started running. I would not have started participating in races. I would not have picked that race, that day, at that time. But my heart knows better. My heart is at peace with the way that everything happened. At peace with the way the intricate details of life led us to that day.
This peace with that day does not negate my grief, my sadness, my weaknesses, my imperfections, my trauma. I am reminded daily of the ways that my body and brain are different. I am still so easily physically exhausted and my brain is so easily confused at times. And I am hard on myself. Too hard. And I will be the first to admit that. It is a process that I am working on each and every day. I am acknowledging this new person, the mistakes I make, whether from my brain injury or from grief. I am becoming accustomed to this new person and not being so hard on myself when I don’t live up to the expectations I have for myself. As I work on this part of me and remember to grant myself the forgiveness and mercy God has for me, these lyrics often go through my head:
I am not the same Iʼm a new creation
I am not the same anymore
I am not ashamed I will not be shaken
I am not the same anymore
You restore the wasted years,
You build the broken walls
Your love replaces fear,
Your mercy makes us whole
Adopted healed and lifted
I am not the same Iʼm a new creation
I am not the same anymore
I am not ashamed I will not be shaken
I am not the same anymore
I bow before your cross, A broken life made new
Amazed at all You are, And who I am in You
Adopted healed and lifted
Forgiven found and rescued
You have overcome, it is finished, it is done
Now my heart is finally free
Every chain undone, by the power of the Son
Risen Savior, Reigning King
This post is a semblance of things that have been going on over the last few weeks. Last night I read an incredible chapter from a grief book entitled Experiencing Grief by H. Norman Wright. I read Chapter 8, The Questions of Grief, because last night I had about a million questions most of them beginning with “Why?” Here are some excerpts of this chapter:
“Why?” is saying “I need some explanation. I need some answers.” Having no answer can feed our anger. … Answers don’t always make the pain go away. But don’t let others keep you from voicing your pain. Don’t be offended by their answers. Even though they don’t know the answer, they may be trying to help you.
Keep asking because in time a transformation of your questions could occur. One day your why will turn into “What can I do to grow through this experience?” and “How will my life be stronger now” Faith is involved in this process. On one hand you will ask why and on the other hand say, “I will learn to live by faith.” Faith is many things. It is not knowing the answer to the why and being willing to wait for an answer.
Acceptance comes in realizing that we may never know the “why” of what happened.
“In times of upheaval, a voice from heaven says, ‘Be still and know that I am God.’ It doesn’t say, ‘Be still and know why.’
Accepting the silence could be one of your steps in moving on.
According to Craig Barnes, “God is often silent when we prefer that he speak, and he interrupts us when we prefer that he stay silent. His ways are not our ways.
Ultimately this all speaks on faith. The church I attend, 12 Stone, is doing a series on faith this summer. I was contacted by my church and asked if I would do a testimony on what my faith has meant through this tragedy in my life. Just days before they contacted me, I had posted this to Facebook on Glen’s birthday:
Glen, there are definitely not words to express what experiencing this day without you feels like. Yet I amazed at how well you are still taking care of us. I am encouraged that in our time together our faith was deepened to an even stronger level. For “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1 Sure and certain, what an amazing God we have because I am able to be sure of the hope I have for our children and our future and certain that you are safe and in no pain while rejoicing with our Heavenly Father. And as Alana put it “mommy that is so awesome that daddy got to go to Jesus’ birthday party and now Jesus gets to go to daddy’s.” Awesome indeed. We all love you so much and miss you every day. Happy Birthday, babe! :)
From the three loves of your life ♥ ♥ ♥
I certainly felt overwhelmed with the idea of sharing my story, but after discussing it with them, felt ready to attempt it. So unbeknownst to them, on my first wedding anniversary without him, they came and spent the day with me and my family. It was an emotional and exhausting day, yet it was the perfect thing to do on what would have been a very hard day to handle. Instead of missing him on our wedding anniversary, I got to talk about him, our faith, and our marriage the whole day.
I wanted to share the video with all of you who have been supporting me and the children through this whole transition. I desire for people to know that with my faith in God I am at peace with my questions not being answered. That doesn’t mean I never hurt, I never cry, or I never have questions. But with my faith I am able to work through those difficult and trying times. I am able to close my eyes and remember to “Be still and know that I am God.”;;Sandra’s Story; from ;12Stone Church; on ;Vimeo;.;
I awake every morning to a new me. And I’m not afraid of it, but I’m new. My brain is new. My heart is new. The trauma that has occurred, has created a new person, a new version. A person that I love but I don’t quite understand yet. And while I’m out there figuring out who I am and what I want, God has brought so many people into my life to walk beside me. People who want nothing in return. People who have stretched me beyond the limits I had unknowingly set for myself. People who have dealt with my weaknesses and vulnerabilities. People who have not ignored me, my needs, and my grief because it was easier for them. People who have been patient with me. Patient. With so many different aspects of this new person I am becoming. And I am eternally grateful for that patience. I know that God gave me each one of those people to help me handle all of the ups and downs, because they haven’t abandoned me when it got hard.
The time period they stayed in my life or the frequency that I have talked to them, has not been the important part. The important part was did I take the time to look beyond myself and my own wants to see what God wanted me to learn from them?
This realization leads me to who else God gave me to help me through the ups and down and the days of doubt. My children. For a long time I have felt like God gave me my children to help me become a better person, a more forgiving person, a less self-seeking person, a more loving person, a more understanding person. All of these characteristics have been growing in me since June 30, 2005 when my daughter entered the world. You suddenly realize that as much as you knew you would love your child, the reality of having that child is in actuality more than you ever could have imagined. And when you love someone that much and with that much intentionality, you are willing to work on all the parts of you that they need you to. Not parts perhaps that you really want to work on, but parts that your children need you to. Being a mother is no easy task. It challenges you. Motherhood can bring you down to your knees and take you outside of yourself, your comfort zone, more times than you have ever had to in your life. As you are broken down though, you never stop fighting. Never, because you realize that if you are not fighting for them when they are so young, who is? Enter May 13, 2009, the day my heart simply expanded to realms which I didn’t even know possible. My son was a whole different depth into parenting, because I had to take what I had learned with one and somehow divide it among two children. As hard as those early days may have been, each night when I tucked them into bed, I could breathe a sigh that with God’s grace and support we were going to be just fine.
Enter the day that the three of our lives were changed forever, November 22, 2011. Unlike the two previous dates of birth, light, and new life, this date was heavy, dark, and brought death. And similar to the other dates where I had no idea how much my heart could love, my heart had no idea just how much it could hurt and be consumed by pain. How everything that birthing my two children had taught me and changed in me could be wiped away by this day. Could be. If I let it. But I refuse to let it. Because I want to be the mother that my children deserve. And they will see me hurt. We will hurt together at times. Not only do I have to be intentional in my healing, I have to be intentional in my parenting. I will still be a better person, a more forgiving person, a less self-seeking person, a more loving person, a more understanding person, because despite times unfair trials and twists, my children deserve nothing less than what I have to offer them. As we all are though, we are human and have moments or even days that will not be the best representation of ourselves. We will have downs among the marvelous ups of motherhood. These moments cause me to marvel at the grace of God, his ability to help us through these times in our lives and his ability to place the right people in our lives at the right time:
Cause God gave me you for the ups and downs
God gave me you for the days of doubt
And for when I think I lost my way
There are no words here left to say, it’s true
God gave me you
Gave me you
In talking with my dad he said that tragedy has a way of bringing things to the forefront a lot quicker than if our lives just unfolded the way we were expecting. Sometimes we get to ignore them, put them on the back burner, be self-absorbed with our careers, our success, our individual goals. We fail to realize that while all of those things are important, as time goes on, our self-focus means we are missing out on monumental moments of our life and the lives of those around us. Crisis brings about change within a person. Generally positive change when a person deals with their pain and loss. I am learning that you have to try to look back at the trauma not as a crisis but as a valuable, life-changing, learning and growth experience. I have had to learn some lessons because of the loss in my life. Many have been painful. All have been valuable. My hope is that through my experiences, I can share these life changing lessons.
Grief is such a unique experience. It’s an emotional awakening and revival that can not be anticipated. Nothing can prepare you for it’s realities. Nothing can take it’s realities away from you. However I am learning that having an honest desire and attempting to walk “through” the grief will get you that much further each day. I am unable to imagine understanding what it is like without having experienced it myself. Grief changes you. Puts you in a new place, where new things are important, and parts of you that have been closed off, begin to open up. Grief has now been my experience. I understand what it feels like. Helping someone go through grief is a daunting task. Grief is uncomfortable. On both sides of the interaction. For the one experiencing it and for those trying to help the bereaved. It doesn’t make sense and you’re afraid of saying the wrong thing, afraid of asking the wrong questions, afraid of doing the wrong thing and I’m just as afraid that you are going to ask me a question that I won’t know the answer to. :) Or afraid that my answer will somehow not live up to what you were expecting to hear.
I am aware that people are not sure what to say when they see me. The one thing they are sure of is that they love me and want me to know that they love me. In my experience over the last few months, people feel like they have to acknowledge the loss, the grief, my pain in order to see how I’m doing. And I can’t say that if the roles were reversed that I would do any differently. Until you have experienced grief, you don’t know how to handle others who are in grief. But I have to be honest, at this point in my healing, I don’t want to talk about it all the time. I don’t want to constantly be going back there. To the beginning of this tragedy, to the most intense days of my grief and pain. I know it’s only been 8 months, but in a life where you have a 3-year old and a 7-year old, it feels like 8 years. :) Add to that severe physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, counseling, and physical recovery and it feels like a lifetime. I need those in my life to be strong for me sometimes, to not take me back there each time they see me. Instead tell me you are so happy to see me. Ask me how my day is going? Ask me how my weekend went? Watch me. See how it looks like I’m doing for that day. But don’t just ask me the slow, low-toned, dreaded question “so how are you doing, Sandra?” Because that is such a HUGE question to answer and because honestly, I am doing as well as a 30 year-old widow with 2 small children is able to do. Each and every day God’s grace is sufficient to help me get through. Some days are brilliant and other days I have to work a little harder to find a place where I can breath.
The biggest change: I am a new creation. Grief and life experience has made me a different person, a new version of myself. Everyone has pain or grieves but they are often done in private, only shared with those they want to share with. My grief is public. My tragedy was on the news. My grief was a news story and therefore I have continued to allow it to be a public journey. Early on I had people approach me in grocery stores or restaurants to express their condolences. People I had never even met before. And I get it. Really I do and I don’t for a second want people to think I am unappreciative or angry about the way that they have loved and supported me. In the beginning, I DID need people to ask me how I was doing. Often. Several times each day. But now I live for the day when someone sees me for the first time in a while and says something like “Hey, Sandra, I love your dress.” Because they would not be seeing my circumstances, they would be seeing me. I’m still me. I’m me without Glen. I’m me who suffered a brain injury. I’m me with obvious holes in my life. But I’m me who is wearing a new dress. I certainly don’t mean to trivialize all of the kind, considerate, and loving ways that I have been approached and supported. I just want to help people see where I am now.
Hence the beginning of a new volume. Life has many volumes. Some filled with joy, others with pain, and still more with accomplishments, life-changing events, important people. And each volume has an end. Those periods of time in your life come to an end. And that volume goes on the shelf of your life. There is not a moment that goes by that I don’t miss Glen. I would give anything to see his sweet face and have his protective arms around me. However, the time I spend in that grief and the depth which it reaches has started to lessen. And suddenly, I feel ready to begin writing the next volume of my life. Not to throw out this current volume or forget it exists. It is and has been a fantastic and memorable volume in my life. But life’s twists and turns have left me with nothing more to write in it, so it must take it’s place on the shelf of my life. It will always be there for me to read on the days I want to relive those good times. Also on days where I want to remember the pain and tragedy of how the volume closed. But I need to close it nonetheless.
There has been so much that I have been holding on to. Refusing to let go of. And then the truth that has been lingering this whole time came to the front; life goes on.
My life goes on.
It has to go on.
And it has.
I had the absolute pleasure of a friend telling me, “thank you for being a shining example of love and hope. No matter what happens in life, if you have a pulse, God has a purpose. You are connected to and refresh my sense of knowing that people are good and there’s still a beautiful path in a dying world.”
And with that beautiful blessing in my head, I am beginning the next volume. Trusting God to lead me from chapter to chapter, knowing that He will grant the promises of the 23rd Psalm.
A psalm of David.
1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Living. Life. It is your life. You live your life. You set the direction. You maneuver the bumps that are inevitable and numerous. You have to be present in living your life. For what reasons would you let your life live you? You cannot let your life circumstances run you over and make you submissive to them. They are circumstances. While they are often unfair, challenging, or difficult, they are merely circumstances. And circumstances change. Your circumstances do not determine your happiness or satisfaction with your life although many people allow them too. Many people get stuck in their circumstances because they are so focused on what is wrong or what they don’t have, they forget to look for what is right and all the things they do have. We all have imperfect circumstances. We live in an imperfect world. How you respond to them will be paramount to the direction your life will go. If you let your circumstances take over you, your life is living you, you are not living your life. I have known this as I face the circumstances of my life head on, but it was not until a recent conversation with a friend that it all became so much clearer.
The conversation began with me expressing that I was feeling a little lost in what God has planned for me. Following God’s commands since being widowed has felt like more of a challenge because what happened still doesn’t make sense to me on so many levels. At times, I am still grasping for an understanding instead of trusting. In those moments, I sometimes don’t even have the emotional energy to get out of bed. But I do, every day, some days in a thicker haze than others. As I press forward, the haze always lifts for moments but I honestly just feel a little lost some days. My friend replied the way I feel like I’m often met when these discussions happen. He said “your situation is rather unique. As a matter of fact, I’ve never had such a tragedy happen to someone who I interact with. If anything, you are certainly the exception to any common wisdom.” And beyond that recognition of the magnitude of what has happened to me, people feel like they don’t have anything to offer because they haven’t been through it. I completely understand their fear of saying the wrong thing. But thankfully my friend didn’t stop there! Although he cannot relate specifically, he can relate to having to take charge of your life and not letting the circumstances define you. Through the teachings of motivational speaker, Jim Rohn, my friend provided me the most amazing illustration of “setting the sail” in your life. He said:
“It’s not what happens that determines your life’s future; it’s what you do about what happens. All of us are in like a little sailboat and it’s not the blowing of the wind that determines our destination, it’s the set of the sail. The same wind blows on us all. The wind of disaster, the wind of opportunity, the wind of change, favorable and unfavorable winds, political wind, economic wind, social wind. The same wind blows on everybody. The difference is attitude and where you arrive next week, next year, tomorrow…the difference in arrival is not the blowing of the wind, but the set of the sail. This is what learning is all about, to set a better sail than last year. Sandra, the ability to change is not a law, it’s an opportunity.”
Wow…the set of the sail…I love this illustration for my healing as well as in my daily life. The confusion in my brain cleared up as I realized this is what I have been attempting to do all along. Through my grief and healing, I have had my sail set towards progress, towards forward movement, and then the loneliness really fell in and I stopped properly operating my sail. I left it neglected and just hoped it was going in the right direction. I can now see that I have to continue in this journey with all the intentionality that I had in the beginning. The same resolve for better health and a better life. One of my favorite quotes since I was little has been, “there are no shortcuts to any place worth going.” And that includes this time in my life. Although it is uncharted and untraveled, I can see the shortcuts. As tempting as they may appear at times, they are really just a path to nowhere. A path to immediate needs, not longevity. A path to temporary, not everlasting.
As the conversation continues I begin to realize that God’s working on me. Because the wind is blowing like crazy but God is showing me how to set the sail for His glory and the changes I need to make and I want that opportunity. I want that knowledge not only for myself but for helping others. The bottom line is that no matter what we have been through in our lives, we still have the ability to help others. The ability to say to them, “I can’t fix your circumstances, but I can help you set your sail in a purposeful and intentional matter. With your sail set, while you’re out there, with the wind blowing, you’ll know where you’re heading.” And in doing that you have not only encouraged them to set the sail of their actions, but also to set the sail of better thinking.
In the process of living, the winds of circumstances blow on us all in an unending flow that touches each of our lives.…
What guides us to different destinations in life is determined by the way we have chosen to set our sail. The way that each of us thinks makes the major difference in where each of us arrive. The major difference is the set of the sail.
The same circumstances happen to us all. We have disappointments and challenges. We all have reversals and those moments when, in spite of our best plans and efforts, things just seem to fall apart.…In the final analysis, it is not what happens that determines the quality of our lives, it is what we choose to do when we have struggled to set the sail and then discover, after all of our efforts, that the wind has changed directions.
When the winds change, we must change. We must struggle to our feet once more and reset the sail in the manner that will steer us toward the destination of our own deliberate choosing. The set of the sail, how we think and how we respond, has a far greater capacity to destroy our lives than any challenges we face. How quickly and responsibly we react to adversity is far more important than the adversity itself. Once we discipline ourselves to understand this, we will finally and willingly conclude that the great challenge of life is to control the process of our thinking.
Learning to reset the sail with the changing winds rather than permitting ourselves to be blown in a direction we did not purposely choose requires the development of a whole new discipline. It involves going to work on establishing a powerful, personal philosophy that will help to influence in a positive way all that we do and that we think and decide. If we can succeed in this worthy endeavor, the result will be a change in the course of our income, lifestyle and relationships, and in how we feel about the things of value as well as the times of challenge. If we can alter the way we perceive, judge and decide upon the main issues of life, then we can dramatically change our lives.
To Your Success,
I remember the first few months of our marriage like it was yesterday. We were married in July, pregnant by September, and then all this crazy stuff started happening! :) We had some intense hail storms and our roof started leaking and we ended up needing a new roof. Alana was hospitalized with pneumonia complicated by her asthma for the third time. Then our washing machine, which had been jumping out of the closet for months, decided not to wash clothes anymore. Next there were bugs in our house!! Oh the bugs. This about drove Glen crazy because no matter what we did, the bugs prevailed. When the bugs arrived we began joking of the similarities to the 12 plagues of Egypt and we knew we just had to have faith and keep pressing on. Glen made plans for me to attend my first UGA vs. GA Tech football game that November and we all ended up with such as extreme case of the stomach flu that we couldn’t even watch it on TV! We were blessed with an incredible Christmas and then came January. In January came the very surprising and frightening loss of Glen’s job :( And the plagues didn’t seem so funny anymore.
January brought two trips to the emergency room for me from dehydration from the stomach flu! One time the night of the Super Bowl and I relaxed and got renewed and made my husband go watch the game somewhere. There are just those things that you know your husband loves. Football was definitely one of his.
We made it through that weekend and we kept pressing on, we kept believing that the Lord would provide. Our love grew to depths I didn’t know were possible in such adversity. Then the next plague, snow in Georgia! In March!! As if the snow wasn’t enough, our furnace decides to go out. So 7 months pregnant, with a 3 year old, we make the trek to Glen’s parents for a few days. Somehow manage to pay for a new furnace although Glen still hasn’t found work and not for lack of trying. He had spreadsheets of all the jobs he had applied for and all the steps he had been through. Then to top off all the plagues, my well intentioned idea to garden at nine months pregnant results in poison ivy!! Not just poison ivy in a few spots but ALL over my body, including my huge 9 month pregnant belly. Poison Ivy resulting in cellulitis (staph infection) in my leg and so widespread that it required huge amounts of determination to not scratch my itchy body. I had been to the doctor and was taking all the medication I was allowed to take while pregnant, with very little relief. I continued to take the medicines and then one day I realize that the baby is not moving so much. The baby. Is not moving so much. This is May 12th and I’m due the 23rd. We go in and do a non-stress test and all the baby’s (Cameron’s) vitals are okay but he is not as responsive to the juice, food, etc that they give you to see what the baby will do. So the mid-wife comes in and looks at us and says tonight’s the night. Go pack a bag and be at the hospital at 6:00. Shock. I’m not ready, who will teach my kids for the next 2 weeks, who will do their final report cards, who will…nevermind, “I’m having our baby!” :) So we go to the hospital, get induced and the next night have an effortless birth of a completely healthy baby. Relief for me in two ways, the baby is healthy and well and now they can give me all of the steroids and medicines for the poison ivy that they couldn’t give me before.
And despite Glen not having a job, we were able to use part of his 401K to make all of our house payments and we are not behind on a single bill! :) And then another turn for the better! 2 days after Cameron is born, Glen started a new JOB. In hindsight, by the grace of God, I was able to go through much of my pregnancy with my husband at home. He was there through my sicknesses and Alana’s hospitalization and every day when I came home from a very stressful day at work he was there to greet me at the door. :) Glen also did daddy day care for Alana and their bond grew even more solid. So you never know, sometimes the things that seem like the worst plagues of your life are actually His blessings in disguise!
On Sunday, Pastor Kevin Queen, taught on manhood and “what makes a man?” I wept many times in this service because Glen was a man and he was solid in his manhood. The first year of our marriage was testimony to the type of man he was. There were a million different things challenging his manhood, pushing him to the limits of quitting. But he didn’t. Not once. Even though I know fear wavered it’s way through his mind at times, he never allowed it to question his manhood. He continued to invest, to secure, and to lift his relationships and to love his life despite all that was going seemingly wrong in the first year of our marriage. He kept our marriage in the “honeymoon” phase despite the steady and unrelenting occurrence of events that could have been the demise of a new marriage. Pastor Kevin said that God gives strong men ->strong convictions-> to keep life from spinning out of control. Well if this is not a testimony to Glen’s strength as a man, I don’t know what is. He took responsibility for the three things Pastor Kevin mentioned. He took responsibility for his faith. Responsibility for his character. And responsibility to back the messes in his life and work hard to clean them up. He kept our life from spinning out of control. Strong man -> strong convictions -> living life to the finest and fullest of what God planned for us.
In all the books I’ve read on being a widow, they say to be careful not to elevate your deceased partner to sainthood. So let me say that I am in no way attempting to do that. Glen was not a saint, we all have weaknesses and are imperfect people. However, our marriage was amazing. And in the moments it wasn’t wonderful, Glen desired better for us and made it happen. Fought for it to happen. All marriages have struggles. The question is what are you going to do when they make their appearance?
This brings me to what started the idea for this whole post. Phil Stevens, a blessing to my spiritual life and friend who I met through church is doing some incredible work on marriage. From his website –
Pressure Points ‘A Marriage Series This project is a series of about 10 films [maybe more, no less] showing the individual brokenness we all bring into our marriage.
This series has been named ‘Pressure Points’, as a pressure point can be extremely painful and/or fatal. Individual brokenness may launch an attack on a marriage’s pressure points causing family pain or ending in divorce.
This first video is Phil’s explanation of the project. The quote that speaks to me,
“I want you to feel, I want you to feel what it’s like to experience a marriage that’s so healthy that there’s grace between the two of you. Grace, grace from God that can not go wrong. That can face the test of times.”
Glen and I had such a healthy marriage, full of tests, and so full of grace. And I understand when Phil so emphatically says the above statement. A healthy marriage is an amazing thing. I know I am blessed to have had the years with Glen that I did. Being in a healthy marriage stirs your soul, makes you want the same for those around you. You will see that in Phil, when you watch.<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/42935738″>Pressure Points Promo</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/getyerphil”>Phil Stevens</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>
Please watch this first film in the Pressure Points Series called Anger. It is so deeply emotional and moving.<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/41007578″>Angry.</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/getyerphil”>Phil Stevens</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>
Please go here http://www.indiegogo.com/pressurepoints and consider donating to see this project continue to serve marriages in need of healing and restoration. It has begun already…
From Phil’s Facebook –
True story. Yesterday I was in a Boulder Creek Coffee and a 20 something year-old guy approached me. I assumed he recognized me from acting/choir at 12Stone. However, he knew me from the buzz of the marriage series. He asked me if I was the guy that created the series. He explained, “I am engaged to be married and watched your movies. After watching them I hope and pray I will do right by my new wife. I think your films are needed in this era. Thank you.”
Thank you Phil. Thank you for taking the time to make a difference. I am fully confident Glen is behind you %100.
Well, I wish I had more exciting details to give of my procedure, but I do not. Once the vascular surgeon went into the vena cava he was able to see that the blood clot was much longer and thicker than he was able to see on the CT. Because of this, he was not able to get a wire through the clot which means he could not insert a stent into the blockage. What does this mean moving forward? The doctor told me that because of the blockage I essentially do not have a functioning vena cava on the right side. As a result my body has had to find a different way to get the blood from my legs up to my lungs and heart. So on the right side of my body, in the abdomen area, I have several veins that have now become an important part of returning this blood to my lungs and heart. The result are some varicose veins in my waist and stomach area, because they are working extra hard and carrying more than they normally would. He was very impressed with the way my body had internally created a system that looked like a web of yarn to assist in this process. So all things being considered, it was still a success because although he was unable to insert the stent to assist the blood flow, my body has already figured out a way to do it!
I would be lying if I said I am not disappointed in the results. It was a painful surgery and a difficult recovery and the one thing that made me want it was the possibility of some relief in the varicose veins. I was very distraught that morning that the stent was not going to be able to be placed. After recovering for a few days and understanding it all a little more, I am okay with the way things went. When released from the hospital in December they thought I would need another 6 months on blood thinners. Given everything the vascular surgeon has seen, he feels that I will need to be on them forever more. Again not what I wanted but not an awful thing. I am learning that things do not always go as we have planned and that as much as it hurts, it is okay. If we always planned for the worst, it would be no way to live. I want to live like Glen did every day of his life; loving life, being present in each moment, expecting the best, and working through the things that didn’t go the way he thought they would. There is strength in a man who can continue to positively navigate his life and his family’s life when things don’t go his way. I am blessed by this inheritance that was bestowed upon me.
Thank you to each one of you that wrote me, texted me, prayed for me, and called me before and after the surgery to check up on me. The thing I can remain confident in through this whole process, is that I will never have to face these things alone. And there is comfort in knowing that.
I have not talked a whole lot about the nature of my injuries. I know my dad may have but I have not found the strength yet to read any of those early posts about me. But some important things are happening with my physical healing so I felt it important to write this piece:
This journey has been so multifaceted and when I think I am clearing one part, another one presents itself. It was not until recently that I really heard the details of my injury, of the true trauma that my body went through, details of my first day and night in the hospital, details of the true nature of my injuries. And I simply had to stop and praise God for the healing that has occurred.
Many of you know that during the hospital stay, I had a pulmonary embolism and developed clots in my right leg. The normal way you would treat this is to begin blood thinners. Unfortunately I had three brain hemorrhages that were still bleeding so until they got that under control I could not begin the blood thinners. Therefore they inserted something called a vena cava filter into my inferior vena cava. The picture is of one type, I do not know exactly what type they put in me. The vena cava is the vein that returns all the blood from your leg back up to your heart. The filter is placed to prevent the clot from making it’s way to that part of your body. I did start the blood thinners in December just before being discharged. I have been going every two weeks to the doctor to check the level of thickness of my blood. I have moved from my mom having to inject shots of the medicine twice a day (bless her heart) to taking a pill. My range has gone all over the place and we’ve had to regulate the medicine several times. All of that was no big deal, the only thing that has bothered me during this time is that the veins in my right abdominal area are very raised and prominent. In the hospital, my doctor told me that I would probably be able to go off the blood thinner about 6 months post injury which I am at this point! :) However, because of the right abdominal veins he referred me to see a vascular surgeon to be sure the clots were gone before I went off the medicine.
Well, the vascular doctor asked me lots of questions and then when he looked at my stomach, he immediately said that he wanted a CT ordered. :( Not a very reassuring sign. So one week later and one CT later, I went back to see him and he informed me that the clots had made their way into my filter and were causing a blockage in my vena cava. Yay for the clots not making their way to my heart, boo for them creating a blockage. Subsequently the veins in my abdominal area are so prominent because the blood is having to find other ways to my heart. Whew. Deep sigh. Tears. Confusion. “What does this mean? Will it always be this way?” The doctor was very supportive and drew many pictures to explain what he saw on the CT and then informed me that he would like to surgically insert a stent into my inferior vena cava. Whew. Deep sigh. Tears. Confusion. I had heard of stents in hearts but this was crazy to me for some reason. He explained that it would be like a tube (stent) inside of a tube (vena cava) and that it would bring relief to all of my abdominal veins that have been working so hard. All of this was so not what I was expecting. I expected him to say that everything had cleared and we were good to go off the coumadin (blood thinner). Oh how wrong I was. He indicated that there is a possibility that I will forever and always be on the coumadin. Despite these minor setbacks, I try my best to always realize how fortunate I am to have healed so well.
As a result of the CT, next Tuesday, May 29th, I will be having a stent put into my vena cava. It is an outpatient procedure, which blew me away, and the doctor assured me that I would be ready to go home. I do however have to take it easy on the exercising for about a week. No running training :( The only detail we are waiting on is to see if he can get a wire through the blockage entirely. He can only insert the stent if he is able to first get a guide wire through the blockage. Unfortunately we won’t know that until that morning. Although I am overwhelmed by this, I have to remind myself that it is just another step in my healing. So please keep me in your thoughts and prayers and I will make sure that I or my dad update sometime that day. Thanks and much love to everyone who continues to check on me and pray for me and the kids.
I am finding that grief is layered, it is complex, and it hurts. It involves discovery. Each new layer is a discovery and these are not always exciting or peaceful discoveries. Some are expected and may be even likable and then there are those discoveries that leave us wishing we could just go back to where we were; the discovery that presents us with a new reality that we hadn’t even thought of or considered yet. I hit a new level of grief in the last few weeks and would give anything to not feel this way right now. I don’t feel strong, I don’t feel able, I don’t feel happy, or content, I just feel sad, sad deep in the recesses of my heart that Glen used to nurture and provide for. And while I am willing to accept that all of this is part of the process, I can tell you that it does not make the actual doing of it any easier. I wish there was a timeline for all grieving, a length of time you knew you would have to spend in each phase. But there is not a timeline or a format for grief. It is complex and varied and so different for each person.
Sunday was Mother’s Day and Glen always made a huge deal of this day for me. I had really planned ahead mentally and was having a great morning. Breakfast in bed from my kids and homemade cards from both of them. I then went to church with my mom and it was an amazing message that spoke right to me about my importance as a mother. I wept through the majority of the service and then came the last part. Our Pastor said that every year the church recognizes the single mothers and to show appreciation of them despite how they got there, the church gives each one of them a envelope with a $50 bill in it so they can do something for themselves. And I lost it. I’m a single mother. I’m. A. Single. Mother. I specifically remember Glen and I hearing this last year and being like oh wow that’s so cool. How different things can be in a year.
The other important thing that Pastor Kevin Queen talked about is mothers having unrealistic expectations for themselves. Sound familiar? In an interesting twist, he talked about how social media can really be an instigator of these expectations. That when women post on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, it is like their press release. They get to choose what they put in it and by default get to choose the type of person they want people to see them as. Other women see these postings and think, “why can’t I do that/be like her?” I thought about this and wanted to be sure that my life is not just a press release, that I am not just reporting on the things I want people to believe about me. I will absolutely continue to post good and even great news on Facebook, because there is joy in each day. But I do not want those posts to undermine the fact that life is really hard for me right now and each day is a struggle. I am not done grieving, I am not done hurting, I am not okay moment to moment, but I am really excited that my three year old decided he needed underwear and I am excited that I was able to host a housewarming party for 95 people who contributed over 125 books for my new non-profit :) What that does not mean is that I am fine, or not in any pain. I can only take it one moment at a time.
This is a song about breaking up but there is much of it that applies to how I am feeling and I wanted to share those lyrics:
I’m still alive but I’m barely breathin
‘Cause when a heart breaks, no it don’t breakeven
What am I suppose to do
When the best part of me was always you and
What am I suppose to say
When I’m all choked up and you’re okay
I’m falling to pieces, yeah
I’m falling to pieces
They say bad things happen for a reason
But no wise words gonna stop the bleeding
‘Cause he’s moved on while I’m still grieving
And when a heart breaks, no it don’t breakeven, even, no
What am I gonna do
When the best part of me was always you
And what am I suppose to say
When I’m all choked up and you’re okay
I’m falling to pieces, yeah
I’m falling to pieces, yeah
I’m falling to pieces
I’m falling to pieces
(‘Cause when a heart breaks, no it don’t breakeven)
I’m still alive but I’m barely breathing
‘Cause when a heart breaks, no it don’t break
No it don’t break, no it don’t breakeven, no
What am I gonna do
When the best part of me was always you
And what am I supposed to say
When I’m all choked up and you’re okay
I’m falling to pieces, yeah
I’m falling to pieces, yeah
I’m falling to pieces
I’m falling to pieces
For a great amount of time in my healing, I have been trying to return my life to the way things were. Having expectations of myself that given my emotional and physical trauma were not appropriate. But I could not see that. Or I didn’t want to. I was just trying to make things the way they always were. I understood that my husband was gone, but why did other parts of my life have to change? I unknowingly have been in a fight with myself each day to keep things the way they were. With Glen. Somehow. And the longer I have operated like that, the greater my grief has taken a hold of my life.
A leader at my church who set me up with my counselor that I see called to check up on me the other day. He knew that I was not in a great place and had such valuable, eye opening, and affirming things to say. He told me “It is emotionally dangerous to continue having expectations that are unfair to your health. Expectations that just aren’t possible right now.” When we got off the phone, I said that aloud to myself. Sandra, it is emotionally dangerous to continue having expectations that are unfair to your health. Expectations that just aren’t possible right now. And in my mind I’m thinking, what a joke! Why aren’t they possible? I used to be able to do them, why can’t I now? And then a wonderful and divine “ah-ha” moment: Sandra you were in a traumatic accident and suffered a traumatic loss. Accept that. Process that. Before moving on with your life. This realization that I have to stop placing expectations on myself just because I used to do them was so obvious. My inability makes me feel inadequate and that is certainly emotionally dangerous.
This leads me to my ultimate lesson learned: let some things go. Let go. If you know me, this is no easy lesson to learn or accept. I left work early yesterday at the advice of my dear friends and co-workers to go see my counselor. I was not in a good place, the grief has been so layered and complex for me lately. My counselor asked me to think about what was most important right now. I shrugged my shoulders and had no answer. She said “you are. You are what is important. You being healthy and able to take care of yourself and your children.” She explained that the other things will come around eventually. That I have to slow down long enough to grieve. Then she basically reiterated the above sentiments and told me that I had to stop expecting so much from myself. That given the trauma I have been through, both physically and emotionally, it was important that I don’t take on new challenges until I really feel ready for them. And I really thought I was ready for work, I really did. But alas, I am not. Physically, yes. Emotionally, no. So although it is bittersweet, it is necessary, and I will not be working until the Fall.
From the day of the accident, I have had to focus on my physical recovery. There were crucial physical steps along the way; feeding myself, dressing myself, putting my own socks on, walking to the bathroom alone, walking up stairs, picking up my son, getting rid of the walker! :) Physical therapy led naturally to fitness goals because that is what I am accustomed to. Working out has long been a part of my life and running was such a new goal so focusing on that made me feel safe. The results were more than even I expected, and participating in two 5Ks was such a meaningful part of my journey. Now that I have experienced those accomplishments, it is vital that I concentrate as much on my emotional recovery as my physical recovery.
And today I feel like I can breathe. Really breathe for the first time. I’m ready now to move from trying to live the way things were to living the way things ARE. Acceptance that I have a new normal. And that it is okay.
3 months later (7/24/12) and I’m still lonely in a crowded room. :( I’m still working on myself and I’m not fully aware yet of other people’s needs of me as I attempt to figure out how to make it myself to the next moment. It’s been such a long time that I have had to focus on myself and my kids making it through the day. And as that part becomes easier, I am realizing the ways I have not been there for the people that I love who have been there for me since day one. Grief does that to you though. If you are actually dealing with it and not suppressing it. It becomes about your pain and how you are ever going to make it through the drastic change in your life. Grief is self consuming. As I continue to work through myself and my fears and my doubts, I can only hope those who love me will know that I still do. That the more my head clears and heals, the more I can see myself getting back to being the kind of friend that I was for them in the past. Because I promise I’m getting so close. :)
The hardest aspect of the grief for me right now is just not feeling like myself. I’m a social butterfly who can’t bring myself to get mad at my daughter when I get reports that she was talking in school because I know that is how I was. We of course discuss how you have to be careful and make sure you are being respectful. Even as a grownup, I’m the one at school, working out with my Kindergarteners – “feel the burn!” :) I’m the one singing, dancing, laughing, and loving and of course having “random dance party” times. In the middle of quiet work time I blast tunes from my iPod dock and act totally surprised when my students look up. And then we yell “Random dance party” and get to dancing. The most amazing part of this is that when the song ends, at 5 and 6 years old, they will go immediately back to their work. It’s the best!! I and Dorina, my co-worker, may also be responsible for a few staff dance parties in the hallway after the kids are gone – think Soul Train dance line. And this has been me. Everyday. This energy. And now…I want it back.
Now every day is different.
I only have enough energy to make it through the moment.
My mind is so busy all the time. I don’t necessarily know what my mind is so busy with but it’s busy. Constantly.
And I’m tired.
Life is so undefined. All over the place really. I am lonely, lonely in my pursuits to understand.
So I pray, and I pray, and I talk to God. And I read. And read. And read. Last night was from a book entitled “Through a season of grief: devotion for your journey from mourning to joy.” It is a book by Grief Share which is the program I have been attending for support of people grieving the death of a loved one. Of all the things in my life that I have wanted to share with others; love, fun, laughter, stillness, strength, music, support, silliness…Grief has never been on the list. It doesn’t fit the definition or picture I have of myself. Grief is like an uncomfortable outfit that you have to wear through no choice of your own. And because grief is so uncharted and undefined, the people I encounter don’t recognize it’s model or markings. So they see this version of myself that I don’t even understand and that makes me lonely and uncomfortable. Loneliness is uncomfortable. As I sit in this coffee house, seeing people engaging in meaningful and charismatic conversations, I want to be there again. And not know this pain and loneliness.
Growing Through Loneliness (from Through a Season of Grief)
Loneliness is never comfortable, but if you ask Him, the Lord can bring something good out of it.
“The Lord sees to it that you find yourself in a lonely position sometimes,” says Elisabeth Elliot, “not necessarily geographically. You can be in a crowded room and still be lonely.
“Oswald Chambers has something very interesting to say about that, “Friendship with a person who has not been disciplined by loneliness is a very dangerous kind of friendship.’
“You need to recognize God’s discipline of loneliness when it is assigned to you and receive it with both hands saying, “Lord, I would not have chosen this, but I will receive it. Now teach me what I can only learn in loneliness.”
It is not God’s plan to give you everything you want for your life or to ensure that life is comfortable and problem-free. God has made life so that it is filled with times of receiving and times of letting go. He wants you to learn to be content where you are now because He is with you.
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:12-13).
Lord, teach me what I can learn in loneliness.
Deep down I know that grief is a part of my life right now. A part of me that I have to share with others among the love and laughter. I am so grateful to have friends who understand this and who listen and allow me to share. Friends who also recognize my silence and feelings of loneliness and don’t force me to talk. The loneliness is difficult but I have to remind myself that I can FEEL alone, but never be lonely. That God never leaves my side. My smile in this picture ensures me that the same me is still there, and reminds me what a friend told me very early on: “Embrace this time in your life, for yourself, because it is a season that is impossible to avoid. You are in a healing season and you have to be really intentional about it. And seek God.” So I will continue to embrace this time in my life. I can say with confidence that I wouldn’t trade the life I am living for anything and eventually it will all be better. I just have to keep working and keep growing. And continue to be thankful for everything that I do have, because the list is never ending and always growing.
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Today I did something I had knowingly been avoiding for a few weeks time. I went and saw Glen’s headstone. I can’t say I’m sure of why I’ve been avoiding it. Maybe partly because it would make what has happened too real. Maybe because as much as I would like to think I’m doing okay, this step seemed more than I could take. For whatever reason, avoidance has been the only way I could handle the knowledge that the headstone had been laid down. Enter -> today’s message at church, “Why Do We Quit?” There was so much knowledgeable information but what resonated with me is that every journey goes through stages and that quitting costs. It really does. And I’ve come so far and I don’t want to quit, despite how much it hurts to continue. With that knowledge floating around in my head, along with today marking five months since Glen’s death, I decided that it was time for me to embark on a new stage in this journey. Again I was faced with dealing with a part of life that certainly could not be my life. I decided to make this first trip by myself, so that I could be alone with Glen, alone with my thoughts, alone to break down.
I sat on the ground as the wind blew heavily around me. And I cried. Wept. Tracing the letters on his headstone over and over again. And for the first time since his passing, I felt like I was with him. So I talked to him, something I have not done much, and it brought joy to my heart. I talked out loud and through my tears I made him promise me that everything would be okay, that I would be okay, that the kids would be okay, that we could somehow figure out how to go on with our lives without him. And through the blowing of the wind, I felt him say, as sure as if he was sitting next to me, “I promise.” I thought I created that moment and of course immediately questioned my sanity. Yet there was something so sincere in what I felt, so I asked him again if he really promised me that he would take care of everything and again “I promise.” Not his voice, but a whisper through the wind, a definitive and indescribable moment. And again I cried. Wept. Smiled. And the lyrics of this song began playing through my head, so I placed my iPod on his headstone and played it and sang to him.
Whenever I’m alone with you
You make me feel like I am home again
Whenever I’m alone with you
You make me feel like I am whole again
Whenever I’m alone with you
You make me feel like I am young again
Whenever I’m alone with you
You make me feel like I am fun again
However far away I will always love you
However long I stay I will always love you
Whatever words I say I will always love you
I will always love you
Whenever I’m alone with you
You make me feel like I am free again
Whenever I’m alone with you
You make me feel like I am clean again
However far away I will always love you
However long I stay I will always love you
Whatever words I say I will always love you
I will always love you
However far away I will always love you
However long I stay I will always love you
Whatever words I say I will always love you
I’ll always love you
I’ll always love you
Cause I love you
I could easily spend pages on how he was a loving husband, devoted father, wonderful son, and great friend. But it felt better to just show how he was. Please enjoy the pictures and know that he was all of these things and million things more. The depth of this loss is so immense, layered, and undefined. Thank you for being a part of my journey as I work to process and to build a new life. Five months later I still feel like time is frozen. That Cameron will always be 2 and Alana will always be 6, but deep down I know I must learn how to live in a time of their lives and my life, without Glen there to guide us and support us. I have finally accepted that time does indeed move on.
Every day I get stronger. By the grace of God and my dependence on Him, I get stronger and I heal. As my brain resumes more normal functioning, the haze of the grief lifts for moments, and I learn things about what happened to my body that confound me. As I learn all of the things that happened to my body, I am amazed at how far I have been blessed to come. I also learn some of the things that happened to Glen’s body and it brings me deep sadness that I didn’t get to spend more time with him before he died. I do know without a doubt that my parents did the right thing by not telling me what was going on or where he was. It allowed me to get healthy and strong enough to be able to say goodbye when the time had come. From the accident, Nov 5th, up until the first day I have memories, Nov 21st, I was unable to remember things they had told me an hour before or anytime that day, let alone things from the day before. So I am thankful that they didn’t torture me or themselves by telling me what state Glen was in. I, along with them, would have had to go through the tragedy of the accident each day, unable to remember being told the day before. On November 21st, I began forming new memories. My first vivid memory post-accident is my mom telling me that I was in the hospital and that my whole family had been in a car accident. I can remember the panic and the confusion that I felt. I often look to the left when I think of this because she came in through the hospital room door and was at the left of my hospital bed. She continued, explaining that the kids were okay, and then telling me that Glen had suffered serious injuries. That he had just had a CT scan done and that his brain was not showing any activity anymore. That in the evening, he would be taken off of life support.
In that moment my life froze. I was so confused and didn’t even know what to think. And with a blink, my life was different. Forever. I was mad. I didn’t understand, and I wanted him to be okay. Shortly after being told this, I was able to see him for the first time since the accident. Seeing my husband in a hospital bed was overwhelming in and of itself, but knowing that those gorgeous eyes would never open again to see me was unbearable. The kids refused to come into the room because although it was daddy they were scared. So they stood in the doorway and Alana asked Aunt Michelle to take an “invisible string” from her heart to daddy’s heart, tying them together forever. She then asked Michelle to do the same thing for Cameron. This “invisible string” is from an awesome book that my Aunt Margot bought the kids. The night before they had talked about the invisible string and about how this string could never be broken. From the book, “People who love each other are always connected by a very special String, made of love. Even though you can’t see it with your eyes, you can feel it deep in your heart, and know that you are always connected to the ones you love.” Both the kids understood how this applied that day and were able to do this with daddy that day. Michelle and Margot, I love you for these moments and for your strength in my weakness.
For what felt like five minutes, but I was told it was 3 hours, I talked to Glen. I touched his face, I held his hand, I listened to his heart beating, and laid my head on his stomach to feel his breath moving in and out for the last time. I wish I could do this every day. Over and over. Those last moments with him, I will treasure forever. I am so thankful that I am able to remember this day and although, he was already gone, I got to see “my” Glen one last time so that I don’t have to spend the rest of my life wishing for that moment.
I am also beginning to see the vulnerabilities and weaknesses I had due to my brain injury and the grief and I am so grateful for those around me who have helped me monitor those things before my brain was ready.
The most shocking realization that has happened is that there are words that have come into my vocabulary over the last few months that I feel don’t belong there. Like sometimes I suddenly wonder if I’m living someone else s life. Then the reality that I am not comes hurling down before me. And I am not doing this for shock value but to help you understand the complexity and the business of my thoughts right now.
- Inferior vena cava filter
- Jaws of life
- Blood clots
- Pulmonary embolism
- Grief. Loss
- Death Certificate
- Single Parent
- Wound VAC
- Vascular doctor
- Post traumatic amnesia
- Walking Boot
Initially these words make me feel confused and tired. Then I will suddenly realize that although these words are in my vocabulary and it’s unfair and awful, I feel joy and hope for my future. For “happiness is in the heart, not the circumstances.” This saying is displayed in my counselor’s waiting room and I took a picture of it weeks ago, knowing it needed to be truth in my life but not understanding how until today. If my happiness were to lie in my circumstances, I would have every right to be unhappy and grumpy and mean. Luckily, my happiness comes from my heart. A heart that God is invested in, a heart that God refines and protects, a heart that loves God and knows no fear despite what the world presents before me. He reminds me that the above list are just words. Although these words may define what HAPPENED to me, I cannot allow them to define ME. It goes without saying that suffering is a large part of what I am feeling at the moment. But luckily I am able to live by faith. And in living by faith I am able to trust God.
Romans 5: 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
I find happiness in the love that God has poured into my heart through the Holy Spirit. Not in the circumstances of my life.I continue praying for perseverance, character, and above all hope through the magnitude of this suffering. There are days when the pain is just so viable and present. I am so grateful for a God who is close when my heart is breaking, guides my pathways, renews my strength, and never leaves my side.
And a reminder I read every day – 2 Timothy 1:7 For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love of and self-discipline.
The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of activity. My mom came for a visit and the day after she arrived, I took my mom, Aunt Margot and the kids to Disney on Ice. It would be an understatement to say my children loved it!!!
Up next was the big move! I’d like to say my mom came for a leisurely visit but she came to help me and the kids move into a new house. My mom’s twin sister, Aunt Cathy, was here as well and I owe the completion of this project to them. As I have read about grief and healing, all the books say to be careful about making big changes right after your loss. And a new house is a big change! Glen and I had begun talking about it and discussing what kind of house we would want, so that made me feel so much more secure and directed in my search. I am glad that I had my parents and friends to help me make this decision and guide me once I made the decision. I am very confident and comfortable with the choice I have made and have been blessed in so many ways as the move took place.
The best way to show evidence of this is pictures:
Although the past two weeks have gone by in fast motion, I didn’t miss a moment of it. I was present through all the joys and all the heartaches. I have been through an intense amount of healing and clarity in the last few weeks. The move was made possible because of the hard work and devotion that my mom, Aunt Cathy, Dad, and brother Tom had to make this move possible. Among the many others who came out to help unpack, bring dinner, and watch the kids so we could focus on moving. :) Seeing the joy on my children’s face during this whole move has been extraordinary. We have openly talked about daddy throughout the whole process and of all things, both of my children wanted one of daddy’s trophies for their rooms. They are both very proud of the trophy in their room. And I am glad that despite all the changes and all the loss, a little piece of Daddy is watching over them every night.
On March 31st I ran my second 5K! I wrote a post on my other blog if you would like to check it out. :)
It was such a fun time!!!
My first 5K was on March 24th.
Facebook status the night before the race: “I am feeling so nervous and excited about tomorrow but have been so uplifted by kind words from all over the place. Thank you so much for the encouragement.
The following passage is back from my high school basketball days and I have kept it close to my heart and mind ever since.
My life changed so dramatically…I have hoped in the Lord…He has renewed my strength…and with Him, I can do this ♥
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.”
Facebook status the morning of the race: Race morning! So nervous and excited and as I have said in past writings…“I am not running away from anything, not avoiding my life or my reality, but running towards something. Towards healing, towards peace, towards wellness.” Bring it! :)
All of them were so encouraging and stayed right with me the whole way. When I would get tired they would let me know that I could do this! And I did! I am so blessed to have the incredible friends that I do. Love you all for your help and encouragement and believing in me!
Here is a collage of pictures taken before and during the race. The joy on my face speaks for itself. This weekend was by far the happiest I have been since the accident occurred. In a way, I almost felt like me again. :)
So we crossed the finish line and I was feeling ecstatic and a little overwhelmed by the vastness of this physical and emotional accomplishment. After recording for the news story, I was reminded of just how seriously I was injured in the accident and just how far I’ve come. I crossed the finish line under an hour but I knew that my official time would be a little less though because we were in the third coral to go. Our race bibs had chips on them so we had to wait to see the official times! The best part of the finish line was seeing my beautiful daughter’s face.
She was so proud of her mommy!
We all went out to eat a well-deserved breakfast and later that day, the official times were posted! I completed the 5K in 49:29!!! This time was about 10 minute less than what I was hoping for so I was very pleased. My body has definitely been in shock and hurting of course. So this week I’m only going to do some walking, biking, and PT for my ankle to get ready for this Saturday’s 5K. This Saturday I am doing the Color Run with a few more amazing people I am lucky to have in my life. I will again post all the results and pictures.
In other news, I go tomorrow to take my official driving test! I am feeling overwhelmed and worried but am so excited by the idea of starting to drive again. I will be sure to let you all know how it goes.
Today is 4 months since Glen’s passing and the way the Almighty has taken hold of our lives is astonishing. Here is one example:
The other night, Alana and I were doing our nightly devotional. She craves them each night and often wants to do more than one, which is always okay with me! This particular night discussed how “humans may seem strong sometimes. But all humans can get sick or hurt and even die…and everyone sins and lies at some time but not God…we can trust him completely” because He will never sin against us or lie. The prayer at the end was “Thanks for being a superhero that I can always trust, God. I’m glad You don’t lie or change Your mind. I love you.” She always likes for me to read the prayer and then Alana reads the prayer again. On this particular night, this particular devotional stirred up some thoughts in her about God and the Devil, a concept which we really have not discussed much at all. She said she wanted to write a letter to God, that she had things to say. I of course say yes and what happens next can only be explained as a God thing. Over the next few hours, until after midnight she verbally told me her letter to God and I wrote it down. She would be done, roll over to fall asleep, and then say “wait, I have more!” It was incredible. I was left speechless many times and so grateful to hear everything she was saying. I teared up many times. Here is the complete letter:
Thank you for keeping the devil out of our hearts. Thank you for being stronger than the devil.
You should get an award for being way more nicer to the devil than he is to you. And Your award is me. And You are in our hearts. You never will get out of our hearts. We all know that You wouldn’t be out of our hearts. And God is more powerful than everybody and He never will do something to be mean back to someone else. You should know that everybody loves you no matter what. We love you God. You will never be out of our hearts.
God you are powerful, you will never ever ever ever ever do a mistake in our hearts like us being mean to someone else. You make a child but the devil puts mean into them so they are mean to other children, but God’s more powerful than that. And God I’m your #1 fan.
It’s like I had an invisible line in my head and the devil was on one side. So I teared it up and threw it out the window and put God on both sides. But one Devil can make a difference. So the line came back and this time the devil erased God’s line and went to his side. But God put a brick wall up and the devil couldn’t stand it so the devil left. So God took the brick wall down and now He has a full space in my head to do His work. And He will never let go of a child’s hand. And the Devil hasn’t bothered to knock on His wall again. But when I was about to go to sleep I prayed to God “you need to be in my head and put a brick wall in my head and make sure the devil won’t come back so you have a full space to do all your work.” The work that God has done in me is to make me happy. Because no matter what he’s not going to make me mean. The devil, don’t listen to him, he has mean in his heart and God needs to guide him to the niceness in his heart. But the devil wanted only to be mean. He was mean for a little while, but he’s been mean too much so that all his niceness went away. Which means – the Devil, he’s not powerful. God is powerful. Don’t listen to the Devil, he’s never going to make your life better.
And I know the devil will never get in our hearts. God, you are brave, You are smart, You are powerful. You will never get out of our hearts. And God I pick you today. I will never let go of your hand because you are the smartest one.
It seems appropriate to put the last thing she said at the end. Because today is 4 months and Alana had 4 things she wanted to make sure we all knew about God.
1. God made us
2. God is our life
3. We are supposed to love God
4. God will never be as foolish as the Devil
So here I am today, four months into my healing, being humbled by my 6 year old’s wisdom about God. I wouldn’t have it any other way. And as my friend Leesa said “Thank u God for protection of this child’s mind and life!!” God is good. All the time. And all the time. God is good.
“You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us
Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found in You
You make me new, You are making me new
You make me new, You are making me new”
Here is the news story that CBS Atlanta did on my recovery and progress towards running my 5K. It has been hard to watch but was done so beautifully. I hope it brings you the same comfort and peace and healing that I experienced while filming and watching it. Grace, Peace, and Love, Sandra
I will post soon about all of the other amazing things that have been happening in my life. But here is the most recent post about my running:
The time is getting close for my first 5K. The training has started to pick up and I hope I am able to complete the whole course! Here is the link to my running blog: http://andtheniran.wordpress.com/2012/03/14/week-6-progress-towards-5k/
Here is my Uncle Jim’s inspirational poster he made for me that brightened my day and encouraged me on my journey!
Today started off fantastic. That’s the trouble with grief. Although you feel good, even great at times, the grief can escalate at any moment. Because I am a positive person by nature, it is no surprise that I want to always share the positive moments with you all. However, it’s unrealistic to not acknowledge the depth of pain I also experience most days.
Yesterday was the beginning to this good day. After the kids got home from school, we had some amazing time outside in the sunshine, playing and having a snack. After putting Cameron to bed, Alana and I hung out. We first picked out the way we were going to paint her room. We found the perfect idea and now it will just be a matter of figuring out how to paint it! :) She likes to watch YouTube videos (especially of Justin Bieber) and sing along and is just so cute doing it. We laughed hard. This morning was awesome. First, I made cinnamon rolls for the kids and we ate them while watching Horton Hears a Who in my bed.
Then I got ready to do an outside run. My 5K is only 2 weeks away and I have not done much distance. My first time on the track I broke it into 1/8 mile segments (half of a lap), rotating between running and walking. This time I decided to do full laps rotating! My friend Lisa came to run with me. She is the one who suggested this particular 5K to be my first one, she has run it twice in the past and will be running it with me. I appreciate her for understanding how working towards a goal is such a wonderful motivator to keep fighting. Well she helped me feel really motivated today!!! I did 4 laps walking and 3 laps running for 1.75 miles in 28:06!!! This is the furthest distance I have gone yet. My first time on the treadmill was .25 of a mile. It feels good to see so much growth in such a short time. And as I was learning in my half marathon training – hard work does pay off!
It would be easy to stop the recollection of my day there, but it would not be a realistic depiction of how difficult my days are sometimes. The kids had a hard afternoon for no particular reason and neither one could stop crying. I finally went and held Cameron until he fell asleep and then after some serious coping techniques and talking was able to get Alana to stop crying. She left my room to go get a game to play and this is where the grief took over. I got them through their difficult time but the person I needed to get me through mine was not here. And because of that I really missed my husband today. Like really missed him. I kept picturing him walking through the door and just fixing all of the things that were going wrong for me and the kids. And I dwelled in that place for a while before I was ready to move one. My life has taken a huge turn, resulting in my feelings being broken and lost. And as I begin picking up the pieces, I have become aware that they will not go back to the way they were unless I force them to. One book I’m reading says that our traumatic loss experience “tempts us to shrink in fear and find a very small zone of comfort in which we can hide, hoping to heal there. Wrong. Hiding does not bring healing. In that cocoon, fear grows, depression can become permanent, and the huge possibilities of our future will never be realized. What we did and who we were in the past may be our foundation, but they do not define our future.” I believe this with all of my being. My past does not define my future, God defines my future. To me, my future is unknown and that is a painful thing to accept. I wish my brain would do a better job of accepting things for what they are right now. However, I have been able to accept that each time my grief comes, I can dwell in it as long as needed but I can not get comfortable in that place and get stuck. That is why I write, that is why I read, that is why I attend Grief Share, small group at church, and counseling. Because as I have found with my running, I now see in my healing – hard work does pay off!
I continue to write in my running blog as well. Today’s post was an especially emotional one for me because I really wanted to look at how far I’ve come. I watched the news story and interview from the day I was released from the hospital and decided to include that in the post. Here is the link to the post in my other blog including the news story: Thank you to all of you who continue to pray for my family!!!
Yesterday was a very monumental day in my life. I went for my first run outdoors and chose the track I had been training at which was at the high school Glen attended. His school is in a new location from the one he actually attended but he had run at this track with me as well.
My Aunt Margot, Mom, and kids were all in tow. The adults came because we wanted to make sure I was with someone in case something went wrong or I needed help with my balance as I ran. My kids came because there wasn’t a chance they would have missed it. Alana has been a part of my whole running process and is my biggest encourager. Of course, she helped me get all stretched out before beginning. :)
My plan of action was to complete a mile around the track which is 4 laps. I broke that down into 8 segments, half a lap at a time. Segments 1, 3, 5 and 7 for walking. Segments 2, 4, 6, 8 for running! The running segments were extremely hard and I experienced a lot of pain in the back of my left upper thigh area where I had a deep laceration from the accident. It is completely closed now but the muscle involved is still weaker. Other than that, it went well and I feel like if I just keep going it will get easier. I was keeping track of my times because I am a runner! and it would be impossible for me to do this without knowing my time. Also I want to have something to work towards. Below is a picture of me running fast and furiously! :P This was my first segment of running and my mom was an excellent photographer.
I continued the one mile goal and as I was walking segment 7, I had some serious doubts about being able to run segment 8, the final segment. And then I imagined in my mind, Glen shouting out “Run, Sandra, Run” (Forrest Gump style :) ) and I took off.
My family was keeping track so they were also aware that this was my final segment. Alana was up and cheering and Cameron joined in too. What more inspiration could you need than that? :) And it was into their arms I ran and then immediately sat down to stretch.
Cameron came over and sat in my lap and was so proud of me that it brought me to tears. At 2, I have no idea how he realized this was such a big deal, but he has watched me since the day he came to the hospital to see me and somehow he knew that me running like that was an amazing thing!
After some quick math, I found that my running segments were 7:20 and my walking segments were 8:08 for a 1 mile time of 15:28!!! Woohoo. You can tell by the small difference in the times between walking and running that I was not running very fast but…I was RUNNING! Haha. You can see in this picture that there was some intense concentration going on while I was running and that I was working hard. I still hadn’t even broken a sweat yet through physical therapy or going to the gym and I am happy to say with this workout, I finally did!
To say I had a big week would definitely be an understatement. I started the week out with a Valentine’s Day delivery of a brand new treadmill!!! It did not say who it was from but later in the week I received a card in the mail to see it was from the community in Michigan I grew up in and given by many friends of mine through the years. This song lyric has been going through my mind since I read the card.
“It’s beautiful to give, with nothing to gain
A simple act of care, gives more than words can say”
There has never been a moment in my life where I can say this lyric applies more. All of these people could have called to check up on me or asked me what I needed but they just gave, with nothing to gain, and it immeasurably blessed my heart.
On Friday I had my checkup with the doctor who was in charge of my care at Atlanta Medical Center and it has been almost 9 weeks since I have last seen him. He was very encouraging and so proud of all of my progress to date. The two big issues remaining from the accident, traumatic brain injury (TBI) and blood clots, are not things he can look at in a normal visit, but he can see by the way I am getting around and talking that both have improved tremendously. My back, shoulders, and neck continue to be the most painful areas and he treated the worst muscle pain in my left shoulder with injections and acupuncture. It has provided such relief. He discouraged chiropractic care right now because he feels that there is nothing out of alignment and feels it is too soon after the trauma for me body to be able to handle adjustments. He did however encourage weekly massages, focusing on my left shoulder and neck area. Which I have no problem with! :)
In that same day I also had two big things happen in my therapies. My Physical Therapist told me that after this week I would be discharged from PT!!! I have very strict exercises pertaining to my balance that I must do if I want to keep seeing progress of such magnitude, but it will be up to me to keep it up now. My balance continues to be one of my biggest struggles and I definitely have to make sure not to get frustrated easily. “Balance is the result of a number of body systems working together: the eyes (visual system), ears (vestibular system) and the body’s sense of where it is in space (proprioception).” When I am able to use all three, my balance is not perfect and I still have trouble but it is quite strong. The challenge is when I cut out the visual system, the other two systems are not able to compensate. My body’s sense of where it is in space is definitely lessened and I will overcompensate forward or back or right to left and end up losing my balance. An example of an exercise I have had to do often is to stand heel to toe and hold it, varying which foot is forward. When I began at Shepherd, I could only hold this exercise for 2 seconds! Last week Michelle got to see me do it for 14 seconds, and on Friday I made it 30 seconds!!! It is physical skills like this, which before the accident I certainly took for granted that make me the most proud these days. :)
I restarted Occupational Therapy last week because I felt that I am starting to feel emotionally ready to get behind the wheel of a vehicle. They wanted to start weeks ago and the thought of even sitting on that side of a car was completely terrifying. Through some great counseling and improved physical and visual skills I feel ready to take on the challenge. Because that is what learning to drive again is for me, a challenge, both mentally and emotionally. I will work for about 6 weeks with the OT doing exercises on reaction times and decision making and in the driving simulator. My actual driving test was all dependent on the Shepherd Center’s schedule and could have been a long way off but on Friday my OT told me that my driving test has been scheduled for March 28th! I am so grateful for counseling that helps you put all of your pain and issues out on the table and work through them and am so proud that with hard work, I finally feel emotionally and physically ready to drive again!
Although I tend to focus on the physical struggles, there are emotional and cognitive areas that I struggle in as well. An emotional area that I feel I struggle with right now; patience. Patience in many parts of my life. For me, for my children, for my friends, and family. It’s hard to see the people you love and care about struggle so much and you just want more time to have passed and more “normal” to return to their lives. I certainly do not want to give the illusion that I am no longer struggling, but I am working everyday to get to the other side of this grief. Working hard. Working intentionally. I don’t expect anyone to do this for me and am blessed to have an amazing number of people who help me through the rough days and rough times. A place where this patience comes in, is for people who don’t understand my cognitive deficits from the brain injury and unknowingly have unrealistic expectations of me. I pray for knowledge for them and patience to allow me the time to process my grief. I know that others have needs too as they handle their grief, but I am not able to meet those needs right now and so I am praying patience into their lives. It is uncharacteristic of me to not be ready and willing to help other people, but it is only temporary. I promise you it is only temporary.
My amazing friend from work, Sarah, gave me an envelope of verses in the hospital and I have them in all different places in my room. The three that I need to hear the most right now are on my mirror.
They are constant reminders of God’s faithfulness, promises, and assurances of hope.
There is one I feel compelled to read a million times a day right now.
“Dear Brothers, is your life full of difficulties and temptations? Then be happy for when the way is rough, your patience has a chance to grow. So let it grow, and don’t try to squirm out of your problems. For when your patience is finally in full bloom, then you will be ready for anything; strong in character, full and complete.” James 1:2-3
Praying for patience in full bloom!!
And I know there will be a day when I “will be ready for anything, strong in character, full and complete.”
Last night was a big deal socially for me because I took my daughter on a date night to hear some live music. I was in a setting that was unfamiliar and around people I did not know and while this sort of over-stimulation would have crippled me initially, I was completely fine! And Alana definitely takes after her mom in her desire to hear good music, a blessing at 6 years old. :)
Along the way, I will continue to add songs to the “soundtrack of my life” and share them. This one is incredible and will remind me to “pray for release, find perfect peace.” God’s word – “I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart! And the peace I give isn’t fragile like the peace the world gives. So don’t be troubled or afraid. John 14:27
Release – Dustin Ahkuoi
Not a day goes by where I am not aware that my children are adjusting to life without Glen as much as I am. But whereas I can express my feelings and work through them, for a 2 and a 6 year old it is a much more daunting feat.
Cameron, at 2, is definitely doing okay. He tends to want mommy close by and often cries when it is time to leave for daycare, but is fine once he arrives. Nighttime is also a hard time of day where I’ll read to him, pray to him, sing to him and then get ready to leave and he’ll say “but I need you Mommy.” Talk about the most compelling argument ever!
Alana, at 6, is struggling so much more than Cameron. Which given her age makes perfect sense. She also tends to want mommy close by and does not want to be in any room by herself. School is especially difficult for her right now in a way like never before. She has a really hard time completing her homework and is devastated by children at school who are mean to her or tease her. She becomes very easily frustrated when she does not get what she wants and will make generalizations like “I never get what I want” or “you don’t want me to be happy.” At other times, like last night, she is just feeling terrible about who she is. Last night, in one of her longest episodes yet she kept saying that “she was not my perfect valentine” and “you don’t love me.” And if I tried to comfort her by gently touching her or trying to give her a hug, she would become rigid and say she doesn’t deserve to feel better. Insert the sound of my heart breaking here! Last night after a lot of kicking, throwing, screaming, and crying, I was able to get her to come sit on my lap and then she wanted to lie in bed for a while. The rest of the night went on like it had never happened but I know that it did and I know it just doesn’t go away. And so I turned to the one thing I know when I realize that ultimately I have little control, the Lord.
For years I have been praying out of the book, The Power of a Praying Parent by Stormie Omartian. It is broken down into 31 chapters such as Feeling Loved and Accepted, Being the Person God Created, and Receiving a Sound Mind. Each chapter is an illustration into that area of your child’s life, a prayer, and then several verses related to that area. Last night I read the Receiving a Sound Mind chapter because I know that all of the thoughts in her mind right now are not sound because she is not clear headed in this time of her life, who would be? And while she has begun counseling to help her learn how to do this, I know that therapy alone will not fix this, that only the peace and power to heal of our Lord and Savior can get her there. As I have mentioned before, this knowledge doesn’t mean we lie down and wait for Him to fix it, we have to dig in and dig out. So because Alana can’t do that for herself, I have started her with a counselor who is amazing and can teach her the skills she needs.
I want to share the prayer from the Receiving a Sound Mind chapter as well so those of you who continue to pray can specifically pray for these things for my children, especially Alana at the time being.
Thank you for promising us a sound mind, I lay claim to that promise for Alana. I pray that her mind be clear, alert, bright, intelligent, stable, peaceful, and uncluttered. I pray there will be no confusion, no dullness, and no unbalanced, scattered, unorganized, or negative thinking. I pray that her mind will not be filled with complex or confusing thoughts. Rather, give her clarity of mind so that she is able to think straight at all times. Give her the ability to make clear decisions, to understand all she needs to know, and to be able to focus on what she needs to do. Where there is now any mental instability, impairment, or dysfunction, I speak healing in Jesus’ name. May she be renewed in the spirit of her mind (Ephesians 4:23) and have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16)
I pray that she will so love the Lord with all her heart, soul, and mind that there will be no room in her for the lies of the enemy or the clamoring world. May the word of God take root in her heart and fill her mind with things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8). Give her understanding that what goes into her mind becomes part of her, so that she will weigh carefully what she sees and hears.
You have said, “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You” (Isaiah 26:3) I pray that her faith in You and Your Word will grow daily so that she will live forever in peace and soundness of mind.
Here is the link to week 2 of my 8 week training for my first 5K.
I am starting this Valentine’s day without the most amazing husband and someone who loved Valentine’s Day. My Valentine’s Days with Glen always started with breakfast in bed and lasted the whole day with presents, cards, and flowers galore! I had never loved Valentine’s as much until I met him and he was an amazing man. These are my flowers from last year that he hand delivered to my Kindergarten classroom at school. Imagine the oohs and ahs they received with 20 5 and 6 year olds! Haha! They were as overjoyed and excited as I was.
Surprisingly, for the morning of Valentine’s Day, I am feeling okay and I have such valuable memories to focus on. As I mentioned before, Glen loved Valentine’s Day and it has rubbed off on me because I went a little crazy with it for the kids. The above is what they will see this morning.
And in a move that I can only say must have been planted by Glen, I bought both of the kids new shoes. Sketchers for Alana because Daddy was with us when she got her very first pair ever and Nike’s of course for Cameron! I may have gone overboard but my children are two children who deserve to wake up to a day of pure love, enjoyment, and surprise! I know that presents and spoiling them will never fill a void, but if it brings a moment of healing on their road to recovering, I am all for it! So Happy Valentine’s to the two loves of my life, Alana and Cameron. :)
In closing, I would like to share a song that was Glen and my first official song of our relationship. And while I wish that all of the lyrics still applied I am certain and encouraged by these.
“When the rain is pouring down
And my heart is hurting
You will always be around
This I know for certain”
Babe, I know you are here. I feel you every day, in the decisions I make, the way I treat others, and in our kids. I will always love you and always keep you in my heart. Happy Valentine’s Day Glen.
We read stories and watch movies with our children that teach them about this concept of “happily ever after”, in life and in marriage. And why not? We don’t want to teach our children to prepare for the worst or prepare for disappointment. But the truth is that everything does not end “Happily Ever After” and as adults are we going to have the tools to help our disillusioned children through this reality? Forget children, are we going to have the tools to help our disillusioned selves get through? The series at church has been a very interesting one to go through as a newly widowed individual. The past 4 weeks have been the marriage series “Just Married: It’s Never Just Happily Ever After”
Here is the video lead into the service:
Here is the link to watch the messages when they become posted. It will still be a few weeks because it has to finish at the other campuses. http://12stone.com/experience/messages/video-archives/
I was very moved by PK’s discussion of our relationship with our heavenly Father. It is long lasting love. And we are blessed to have New Mercies and New Mornings everyday. God’s love for us is present, His love is unconditional.
22Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”
But as people our relationships are not quite the same. We have some great things to give each other, although not with God’s omniscience. But we also have weaknesses and shortcomings, and evil that trips us up. So as married people we have to give each other New Mercies and New Mornings too! The New Mercies are to Forgive the Wrong and the The New Mornings are to Fight for Right. If you keep a record of wrongs in your marriage it will not be successful. Imagine if God kept a record of our wrongs? Thank goodness He doesn’t. :)
Next PK talked about marriage vows and said, “we are delivering vows with our lips that we are not living in our lives.”
Let me repeat that – “we are delivering vows with our lips that we are not living in our lives.”
SO he invited the married couples in the church to renew their vows today and I all but lost it. I ended up having to ask the usher to bring me tissues. I’m pretty sure this is one of the hardest times I have cried since Glen’s death. But it really got me thinking about our vows and we wrote our own vows to say to each other and I would like to take this opportunity to share them. Because the reason I felt like I was crying, beyond the obvious, was that we were so blessed to have had such an amazing marriage. Now I know we had only been married for a few years but they were good years! And I wondered if they were good because we were actually living our vows.
Today has finally arrived…our big day!
I should be mad at you…
For coming into my life and turning things upside down
For flashing that smile
That melts my heart
And makes me forget what I was saying…
Today God has blessed me with my most precious gift
I promise to stand proudly next to you
In good times (like when you beat my dad in dominos)
And in bad (like when you won’t let me watch Judge Mathis)
Today I will marry my best friend,
I promise to laugh with you, cry with you, and to encourage you
Today I give myself to you in marriage.
I promise to cherish you, respect you, and to inspire you
Today, I should be mad at you…
But I’m just too busy,
Being in love with you
If you knew Glen well, you know these are in his classic style. Silly and light-hearted but at the end is the most important part, he could waste time being mad at me for all kinds of stuff, but in our marriage he was just too busy being in love with me. :) As I have mentioned that is how he lived his life, always for the best.
One week…one week was all the time it took for us to realize that God brought us together for a reason. Within days we began to see how we were uniquely designed for each other.
Through prayer and a devotion to understanding our place in each other’s lives…we have arrived at today.
Today…we continue our journey through life together. I am both blessed and elated to be marrying my true companion. You are the perfect complement to my life.
From the moment we met you have been nothing but considerate, generous, kind, and loving. You have shown me how to be a better person and a better friend. You have been patient with me. Helped me through the tough times and laughed through the rest. I am a better person for knowing you.
To love you with all of me: mind, body, and soul.
To be your wife.
To walk side by side with you and share our lives as one.
When we first started dating you asked me “is this really what love is? If so I don’t want it to end.” I stand here today to tell you this IS love. Our love. And it is never-ending because with you I am in a place I want to stay forever. I love you.
The most interesting things about my vows is that I did not read or find them until a few weeks after the funeral and there were so many things that were the same as my eulogy at the funeral. We were clearly in a marriage where the vows that came from our lips were what was being lived in our lives.
There was a song performed the third week of the series that I would like to share. Through the whole series, this song kind of solidified for me that Glen and I were in the type of marriage where we would not have given up on each other.
When I look into your eyes
It’s like watching the night sky
Or a beautiful sunrise
There’s so much they hold
And just like them old stars
I see that you’ve come so far
To be right where you are
How old is your soul?
I won’t give up on us
Even if the skies get rough
I’m giving you all my love
I’m still looking up
And when you’re needing your space
To do some navigating
I’ll be here patiently waiting
To see what you find
‘Cause even the stars they burn
Some even fall to the earth
We’ve got a lot to learn
God knows we’re worth it
No, I won’t give up
I don’t wanna be someone who walks away so easily
I’m here to stay and make the difference that I can make
Our differences they do a lot to teach us how to use
The tools and gifts we got yeah, we got a lot at stake
And in the end, you’re still my friend at least we did intend
For us to work we didn’t break, we didn’t burn
We had to learn how to bend without the world caving in
I had to learn what I’ve got, and what I’m not
And who I am
I won’t give up on us
Even if the skies get rough
I’m giving you all my love
I’m still looking up
Still looking up.
I won’t give up on us (no I’m not giving up)
God knows I’m tough enough (I am tough, I am loved)
We’ve got a lot to learn (we’re alive, we are loved)
God knows we’re worth it (and we’re worth it)
I won’t give up on us
Even if the skies get rough
I’m giving you all my love
I’m still looking up
I am in kind of a fierce period of thinking and processing what has happened to me. My brain has been so confused from the initial brain injury and the subsequent grieving. I feel like I have thought things and made decisions that may not have been the most helpful in my healing. I am in no way disappointed in myself with those thoughts and decisions but as I regain new clarity, I am encouraged by my ability to make better choices. My focus before was just to figure out how to make it through that moment and that day, but I am finally feeling like I can look ahead and look forward to things and actually want to make plans and see people. This desire is a huge change from the days that I just needed to be alone. This past weekend I sang in my church choir for the first time since the accident. It included a Friday night worship and communion service and then 3 services on Sunday. It was extremely demanding both emotionally and physically but so awesome to be able to worship God!!!! The picture is after the Friday night service, where my daughter was able to attend because she sat with a very good friend of my family – her Aunt LeLe and this is her son Terry who Alana absolutely adores! I would like to put up a few pictures of the event so you all can see what a wonderful event it is. In the first two you can’t see the choir, but I promise we are there! The last one is a view of the stage and you can see the choir in the background. They are my church family and I am so grateful for that blessing in my life. The third picture is my favorite because it was taken by a friend of mine who is doing the work to reestablish her relationship with God and I am so proud of her!
Okay so my thoughts, and thoughts, and more thoughts:
I shared two pretty significant thinking events on Facebook and would like to put them on here to share with all of you. I am encouraged by the deep level of support I am being shown and thank you all so much for caring how I am doing both mentally and physically.
Monday night’s post:
It is assumed that the hardest part of losing Glen is not receiving his affection towards me. But, for me, the hardest part is actually not being able to express my love to him. I was made to love. My days with Glen were perfect because everyday I got to express love, see how his day went, give him a hug and a kiss at the door, fix the bad or disappointing parts of his day. I miss those moments the most.
Tonight I had the joy and blessing of speaking to a wise person on the phone. They said to “Embrace this time in your life, for yourself, because it is a season that is impossible to avoid. You are in a healing season and you have to be really intentional about it. And seek God. As you seek God, the lover within you can be completely fulfilled.”
That’s real talk!
Then I had the distinct pleasure and joy of receiving these comments from friends! :)
- Sandra, you absolutely amaze me with your strength and determination, prayers are with you and your beautiful family… :)
- Sandra, YOU ARE A LOVER and thats what I have always loved about you. I love you so much! You are one of the strongest women I know. I continue to pray for you and for healing
- u can do it sandy. :)
- You are truly a strong woman and I look forward to meet you soon …
- God is good and your love is touching everyone.You will be healed and possibly someday reach out to another needing to be healed..paying it forward is one of the most beautiful things we can do in this life..you are giving your children some powerful lessons on “love” , I’m sure. :)
- Those are some wise words sent from the Lord. ♥
- Yeah that deserves a “that’s good sir”! :-)
- Amen to that….
- You are so special!
- Your strength is awe inspiring, you are one amazing woman Sandra!
Tuesday night’s post:
I no longer have a life partner and so this time in my life is kind of a reawakening of that part of me. And there is no easy way to one day be a happily married person and the next day through no choice of you or your spouse be considered a single person and a single parent. There is a lot of uncertainty that goes with this and every day is new challenge after new challenge. The one feeling I never experienced with Glen was doubt of my abilities as a parent, wife, or friend. And right now I daily have those types of doubts.
From the same conversation with the wise person the other night, it was nice to hear “You are the bomb. You have a lot going on for you. Don’t ruin it by making the wrong thing your focus. You need to get gangster :) in this time of your life. In this healing season, no person can do that for you or be what Glen was to you.” The friend said to trust them as a friend to set some boundaries in my life. You set boundaries because you want better things than you’ve had in your life so far. I am challenged by some of the new boundaries in my life as I want to get in life again and feel alive. I am so thankful to have friends who deal with my confusion and insecurities and help me set some boundaries that will help me be successful. I feel like what happened to me, made me have to take a look at some of my boundaries, and that defining and protecting my boundaries when necessary is going to be an important part of the healing. Also being able to see and accept other people’s boundaries in their life. Rebuilding. Every day. Rebuilding life.
Thank you all so much for your continual support as I keep working as hard as I know how. Here is the link to week 1 of my 8 week training for my first 5K.
As I stated I will be keeping 2 blogs because of the one I started this past summer. Here is the link
Grace and Peace,
Two words that best describe my father are quiet and brilliant. He is a man of few words, but when he opens his mouth you can’t help but listen. Whether it is the impeccable timing of his sense of humor or his deep compassion, when he speaks, you want to listen.
My dad and Glen got along so well because they were similar in so many ways and they both loved me with their whole heart. Glen always went on and on about how smart my dad was and how out of nowhere he would say the most amazing things. And I know that the admiration was mutual. My dad was able to watch Glen help me become a better mother, friend, and wife.
One thing I have always admired about my dad is his love of fly fishing. This pastime is an extension of my dad’s personality, quiet surroundings but brilliant in it’s view. The picture below is of him fly fishing on the Yellowstone River when we went there as a family. The quote from Norman Maclean’s book A River Runs Through It, perfectly illustrates the way my dad loves me right now.
“Each one of us here today will at one time in our lives look upon a loved one who is in need and ask the same question: We are willing to help, Lord, but what, if anything, is needed? For it is true we can seldom help those closest to us. Either we don’t know what part of ourselves to give or, more often than not, the part we have to give is not wanted. And so it is those we live with and should know who elude us. But we can still love them – we can love completely without complete understanding.”
My dad does this every day for me. He loves me completely without complete understanding of what I need. My dad loves me with a complete love that only a father can love their daughter with. I know that there are days that he doesn’t know what to give me or what I may need at that moment, but he never stops trying. My days right now are overwhelming and emotional and he listens whenever I need him to and waits for those difficult moments to pass. I am also much more quiet than usual and my dad never fills the silence with unnecessary chatter. He respects my need for quiet. He knows that just because I am quiet, does not mean I am not thinking, processing, growing, and healing.
And as if his devotion to me and my care was not enough, he has become an amazing caregiver of my children as I continue to heal. It will be a few months before I am able to take on the challenge of driving again and so we are blessed to have him. He takes the kids to and from school each day and takes me to Shepherd Center and doctors appointments. He is also a consistent source of strength for all of us. Transitioning back into motherhood after the events that occurred and my long stay in the hospital, has not been an easy transition. Although I wish it was not the case, I tend to have moments where I am overwhelmed or overstimulated by my surroundings and just need a break. Early on this was a definite symptom of my brain injury but as my brain continues to heal, I have become aware that grief of this kind is just as debilitating. When this occurs, he never second guesses me or pushes me to just work through it, he always steps in when my weaknesses take over. As I work through this part of my grief, he has taken the time to learn and understands that no one person grieves the same way. He sees me working hard each and every day to heal physically and emotionally and often reminds me that it is okay to slow down and take a break or spend some time alone. I am so thankful for his strength in my weakness. I love you dad!
After going to the doctor this week I got the great news of only needing to remain on one medicine, Coumadin, for the blood clots that I experienced while at the hospital. An interesting side effect of being off the other meds is that I am starting to feel a little more like myself. The purpose of one of the other medicines was to kind of slow my brain down because of the initial 3 brain hemorrhages. Once those were controlled, I remained on the medicine to allow my brain not to get overloaded and to promote healing. All very necessary steps in the healing process. Since being well enough to go off, I definitely feel like my range of emotions has increased as well as my motivation and endurance to achieve more on a daily basis. While I will never know if it is from going off the meds, it is a welcome part of the healing process and makes me excited that I feel I can achieve more. I mean prior to the accident I had begun training to achieve completion of a half-marathon!!! I now look forward to making those same kind of meaningful and purposeful goals for myself.
This picture is a great reminder of such goals and I remember how great I felt when I first saw it! This was one week after I got out of the hospital and one of the first times I attempted a long distance with no walker! I was lucky of course to have Michelle holding on to my safety belt. And now 5 weeks later, although I am not out of the woods, I am on a treadmill, don’t have to use a safety belt, and only use the walker when in uncommon or crowded places. Whew! God is good.
Today was an incredibly validating sermon and made me have all kinds of realizations about what my mom means to me. And I am lucky that although a mother/daughter relationship comes easily for us, I have an equally amazing relationship with my dad. That blog will come soon. :)
Pastor Kevin (PK) began with a story about how life doesn’t always go our way by sharing a cute story about his 8 year old son. I cannot even begin to do the story justice so in a few weeks when it is available online, I will add the video to the blog. He went on to quote Robert Shiller: “tough times never last, but tough people do.” I instantly thought of my mother and this is what I wrote at church.
“I only hope I can instill the love of the Lord into my daughter the way my mother did in my life. It was her vision and prayer for my life and my womanhood that allowed me to get there. It was her devotion to the Lord despite the tough times in her life that made me see there was something in this “faith” thing. I posted this picture to Facebook yesterday after I worked out my abs for the first time and did not even think about my shirt saying “inspirelife.”
It was the shirt that I was given from the church to wear for my baptism on May 1 of this year. Glen was my biggest supporter and always saw me feel unrest when others were being baptized because I saw the joy on their face and knew that my unrest was from the fact that I had never made a public declaration of my faith. He knew that although I had received Christ many years before, being baptized was something I still wanted.
Here is a picture of the day I was baptized and you can see Glen in the white shirt cheering me on loudly. My friend Carrie is next to him taking lots of pictures and crying tears of joy.
So now that I have explained the background on the shirt you can understand why I wear it all the time and never even thought about it’s symbolism in my life until now. Wearing that shirt often is fitting because I wear that phrase in my heart every day from being blessed by my mother. I watch her every day being a living example of Christ’s life and love. As I’ve said before I do not say this to make it seem like my mom has no weaknesses or errors. We all do, but despite her shortcomings or struggles she still gave me the most important legacy.
Her support after the accident and willingness to stay with me in the hospital while I was in such pain and agony is further validation that she is an amazing, selfless mother. She inspires lives daily and when things get tough, she is the definition of the person who “believes in God’s ‘better’ life, faces the obstacles, digs in” and does not just run away. In life, you must have the ability to believe in the better life that God has in mind for you, to focus on rebuilding the pieces, and to dig in on your own accord and not expect God to just do it for you. (paraphrasing PK).
I love you mom and thank you for everything you have taught me and done for me.
The song that Glen’s brother Mike and his wife Michelle danced to their wedding has been on my mind right now nonstop.
Mike and Michelle,
today and every day
you’ll always be
happy by my side
I promise you
to sing to you
when all the music dies
today and every day.”
Glen was committed to making each day as wonderful as our wedding day had been. Not in the big ways but the small ways. The small moments, the small things, are what make all the difference in your love. He spent each day like he was recommitting to the rest of our life together. So marry each other today and every day. Remind your partner how important they are to you and how blessed you are to have each other. And when nothing feels right, just sit and look each other in the eyes, let the silence do the talking, and hold hands and remember that “this too shall pass.” Those quiet moments of refocus and love will do wonders for your relationship. Focus on each other. Dismiss the distractions and challenges of everyday life, dismiss each others imperfections, and just see each other. And in that purity of vision, you will see the person you married despite what time has dealt you both. You will regain admiration, love, and strength in your marriage. Marriage was not meant to be easy or meet all of your individual needs. It was meant for you to forego your own needs at times to meet the needs of your spouse. It is those selfless acts that keep a marriage healthy and thriving. You don’t have the time to be self-centered and only focused on you. However, this does not mean you still can’t want things for yourself. A prime example of this in my marriage was my want to be a runner. Something I had always wanted but never been able to achieve. As soon as I decided to start the journey, Glen did not even question it but instead always asked what he could do to help. I am certain it was not always convenient for him by any means for me to take off and run at different times of each day. But never once did he complain about it or discourage me from wanting it. He made sacrifices of his individual needs and allowed me to fully dive into my journey.
I have reminded you both to find peace and strength knowing that even in Glen’s last moments he was able to put me and the children first so that we would be fine. I know that he is at peace in heaven when he sees me wake our children each morning and thrives that his last gift to us was the gift of well-being and life. Even in the hospital, God saw fit for Glen to fight until I could remember seeing him. Due to the extent of my brain injury I have no memory of the first two weeks I was hospitalized. The first day I remember is the day that my parents told me what had happened to Glen and that he was going to be removed from life support. That day I got to go see my husband and feel him breath, hold his hand, touch his face, and lay my head on his chest. And he was still my Glen, my sweet love. It was later that night that they took him off life support and I believe with 100% certainty that he fought until my brain was ready to remember seeing him so that I would not have to live with the pain of never being able to say goodbye to him.
And now that I have had to say goodbye to him, promise me that you treat each other the way Glen treated me each day. That as much as losing him hurts me, I have peace because of how he loved when he was here. So marry each other today and every day. And never forget that Glen’s death is not the thing to focus on, that each day we have to focus on how he lived and how he loved. I believe that he will teach people for years to come what he was blessed to know in this world each and every day.
I love you both so much and am brought such joy by the power of your love for each other. Thank you for being here for me through the most painful period of my life and know that I am always here for anything you may need.
Grace, Peace, and Love
“You’re all I need to get by.
Like the sweet morning dew, I took one look at you,
And it was plain to see,
you were my destiny. With my arms open wide,
I threw away my pride
I’ll sacrifice for you
Dedicate my life to you
I will go where you lead
Always there in time of need
And when I lose my will
You’ll be there to push me up the hill
There’s no, no looking back for us
We got love sure ‘nough, that’s enough
You’re all, You’re All I need to get by.
You’re all I need to get by.
Like an eagle protects his nest, for you I’ll do my best,
Stand by you like a tree, dare anybody to try and move me
Darling in you I found
Strength where I was torn down
Don’t know what’s in store but together we can open any door
Just to do what’s good for you and inspire you a little higher
I know you can make a man out of a soul that didn’t have a goal
Cause we, we got the right foundation and with love and determination
You’re all, you’re all I want to strive for and do a little more
You’re all, all the joys under the sun wrapped up into one
You’re all, You’re all I need to get by.
I began my second week at the Shepherd Center today. Now that my mom has gone home for a while to get back to work, my dad took me and stayed and watched my physical therapy session. I know it was encouraging for him to see me working hard and making such great progress. Also good for him to see what skills are extremely challenging for me like walking in a straight line, heel to toe, or walking sideways in a “grapevine” way. Every session is so enlightening for me as well. We are focusing greatly on my balance. Today I had to stand on a balance “rocker board” while standing in between walking rails.
I usually have to do three sets of a given skill. With this activity the first set of three I was able to balance while holding onto the rails. The second set of 3 I had to not hold the rails but if I needed to I could grab them. The last set of three was the greatest challenge of the whole day, I had to try to balance on the board without holding on to the rails and while closing my eyes! There have been other activities where I have to try them with my eyes closed and it is always the most difficult way for me to keep balanced and I find myself feeling frustrated. It is these moments where I have to remind myself that this is my starting point and to not get frustrated because I have already made such amazing progress.
In an effort to regain full range of movement in my ankle that suffered a severe sprain I got the best surprise in this whole journey to date! I was able to walk on the treadmill for the first time!!!
Other than the ankle work, a major reason I did the treadmill is so the therapist could check my blood pressure before and then after to see how my heart responded to higher levels of physical exertion. Thankfully, my blood pressure was excellent before and after! I was able to walk a quarter of a mile in 10 minutes and my dad and I decided that this was for sure the longest distance I have walked without stopping. Another surprise that I got today was the permission to ride the recumbant bike on the days I do not have therapy. I am soooooo excited to go to my regular gym once or twice a week and use the bike.
I certainly took working out for granted prior to the accident. While I enjoyed working out, running, and being in shape, I did not realize what a blessing it is to be able to do such physically challenging things. I will never look at working out and running the same way and am feeling blessed beyond measure as I gain the strength to make such major steps. And as I regain ability to pursue the passions in my life I want everyone to know that I have a wish for all of you…
“My wish for you
Is that this life becomes all that you want it to”
And I hope more than anything that through all of this you can learn from Glen and make your life everything you want it to be.
Rascall Flatts – My Wish
I hope the days come easy and the moments pass slow
And each road leads you where you want to go
And if you’re faced with the choice and you have to choose
I hope you choose the one that means the most to you
And if one door opens to another door closed
I hope you keep on walkin’ til you find the window
If it’s cold outside, show the world the warmth of your smile
But more than anything, more than anything
My wish for you
Is that this life becomes all that you want it to
Your dreams stay big, your worries stay small
You never need to carry more than you can hold
And while you’re out there gettin’ where you’re gettin’ to
I hope you know somebody loves you
And wants the same things too
Yeah, this is my wish
I hope you never look back but you never forget
All the ones who love you and the place you left
I hope you always forgive and you never regret
And you help somebody every chance you get
Oh, you’d find God’s grace in every mistake
And always give more than you take
But more than anything, yeah more than anything
My wish for you
Is that this life becomes all that you want it to
Your dreams stay big, your worries stay small
You never need to carry more than you can hold
And while you’re out there gettin’ where you’re gettin’ to
I hope you know somebody loves you
And wants the same things too
Yeah, this is my wish, yeah yeah
My wish for you
Is that this life becomes all that you want it to
Your dreams stay big, your worries stay small
You never need to carry more than you can hold
And while you’re out there gettin’ where you’re gettin’ to
I hope you know somebody loves you
And wants the same things too
Yeah, this is my wish
(My wish for you)
This is my wish
(My wish for you)
I hope you know somebody loves you
(My wish for you)
May all your dreams stay big
(My wish for you)
On New Year’s Eve, I was in and out of sleep on the floor at my parents’ house in Florida. Mike sat in the chair I was leaning on. We were watching Dick Clark’s special and waiting for the ball to drop. I woke up in time to see Lady Gaga perform, which was fun to watch. But, then they showed a special performance that had never been seen publicly by Beyonce. She performed it in London sometime last year.
As soon as the song got into the chorus, I reached up and held Mike’s hand and he instantly squeezed my hand. And throughout the entire song, we both were thinking the same thing without even speaking or looking at each other. Just a few hand squeezes were all we needed.
The song that she performed is called ‘I Was Here‘ and is an extremely powerful song. I believe this ABSOLUTELY encompasses everything about Glen’s life and felt compelled to share the lyrics. I downloaded it and am listening to it as I write this post.
I wanna leave my footprints on the sands of time
Know there was something that, and something that I left behind
When I leave this world, I’ll leave no regrets
Leave something to remember, so they won’t forget
I was here
I lived, I loved
I was here
I did, I’ve done, everything that I wanted
And it was more than I thought it would be
I will leave my mark so everyone will know
I was here
I want to say I lived each day, until I die
And know that I meant something in, somebody’s life
The hearts I have touched, will be the proof that I leave
That I made a difference, and this world will see
I just want them to know
That I gave my all, did my best
Brought someone to happiness
Left this world a little better just because
I was here
This song reminds me of all the things I have learned from Glen, which I shared a few days ago. He got EVERYTHING out of life and definitely left his mark – which showed in the 600 people that celebrated his life with us on December 3rd. These lyrics are great, but I would go download the song – the way she sings it is pretty awesome.
– Michelle Walker
My running journey started with my husband and it was his support of my goal that kept me going. Because of how important it was to me, I have decided to continue blogging on my running blog as I embark on a new physical journey. I wrote my first post since the accident today.
Here is an excerpt:
This blog started because I started a running journey and I didn’t know how to start really so I just stretched out …and then I ran.
I was 111 days into my journey and on the way to my first 10K when my life changed. And my reality became something unknown to me and there is no charted plan, no one “right” way to cope and to heal. So I have decided to heal the one way I know and one day I will look back and say I was simply out of ideas but not giving up…and then I ran.
I am not running away from anything, not avoiding my life or my reality, but running towards something. Towards healing, towards peace, towards wellness.
If you would like to continue reading please follow this link: http://andtheniran.wordpress.com/2012/01/02/2012-towards-healing-peace-and-wellness/
Thank you for your continued support,
It would be easy to say that 2011 was the worst year ever but the truth is…it wasn’t!!! Glen and I started the year with most incredible snow-week ever. We painted and played in the snow every chance we could and the kids even baked daddy some special heart cupcakes. Also in what could have been a year that would make you quit teaching, Glen would show up with lunch for me and to “checkup” on my difficult student and would always be on speed dial to talk to him when it was a particularly difficult day. He acknowledged this child’s need for a positive male role model and did everything he could to help me and the student.
We had an incredible Spring Break and went to the zoo with the kids, my mom, dad, Grandma, Grandpa, Uncle Tom, and Aunt Margot. Next up was our yearly Easter party where all of my girlfriends get our kids together to celebrate Easter. It was amazing with about 12 little “bunnies” running around doing an egg search and eating delicious treats.
Then in May, Glen was so happy to stand as Best Man for his little brother Mike’s wedding. I was just as happy to stand as a bridesmaid for Michelle and we had a wonderful weekend celebrating their love.
In the summer, Glen and I had the joy of celebrating his birthday by me surprising him with a trip. We took the kids to Disney World and even when we were driving in Glen was still in complete shock that I had arranged the whole thing! (With matching shirts!)
We then spent quality time with Valerie in Miami (for a Michael Jackson dance competition that had an awesome cake), and of course had to spend time at the beach. Glen made sure to teach Cameron how to be cool even at the beach, shades and the peace sign of course.
We topped off the trip by spending some much-needed time in Grand Rapids with all of my family.
I had the joy of running my first 5K EVER with Glen, Ashley , Michelle , and Mike. Glen was an amazing coach as I began running and always encouraged me to go deeper, grow stronger, and get focused!
And of course football season began and we made sure our kids were geared up and ready for game watching. We were able to compete in our first running event as a family and it was an outstanding day. I ran the 5K, Alana ran the 1K with Glen accompanying her, and Cameron ran the 25 yard tot trot. It was a remarkable day.
The last two months of 2011 were obviously filled with strife, devastation, and loss, but it is being able to look back on all of the joy in our life together that brings me peace. I feel like I know how to live my life with the loss simply because Glen taught me how to be tough even when things were not going my way. Like Michelle, his sister-in-law said “no matter what life threw at him, things just had a way of working themselves out…Glen always had a smile on his face…what an amazing way to live.” I believe that things always worked out because Glen never focused on the negative or bothered talking about people being the cause for his struggles. It just was what it was and he knew focusing on negatives would not make it better. HE made it better! By focusing on what WAS going his way and being fully present with those things at all times. Watching him live that way gives me strength not to dwell on losing him but to be fully present in my life and rejoicing in the many blessings I have. I am honestly a better mother, daughter, and friend for God giving me the blessing of putting Glen in my life. I love you, Glen, and I thank you for being my friend, love, husband, mentor, and life coach. And as I begin this year without you here, I WILL carry on your legacy with our children and live life to the fullest, knowing you will be watching every step of the way and rejoicing in our accomplishments.
It has been almost two months since the accident, and I have to say that in these two months, I have learned so many things – most of which I attribute to Glen. As most of you know, I have an older brother of my own, Tony, who is one of my best friends in the whole world and I love him more than words can express. When I started dating Mike three years ago, I instantly gained another big brother in Glen – AND the sister I never had in Sandra! Glen actually took credit for Mike and me getting together, although it wasn’t quite accurate – I guess I’ll let him have the glory!!
In the three years I’ve known Glen, he has taught me so many things. Things I never realized until now. The way he lived his life resonates with me. No matter what life threw at him, things just had a way of working out. He lived such a happy life and nothing really seemed to faze him. One thing I’ve heard so many say about Glen in the last two months is that he never complained about ANYTHING and always had a smile on his face. What an amazing way to live.
Prior to the accident, I had been talking with Glen about my career. I didn’t love what I was currently doing and didn’t know what exactly I wanted to do – but I knew I wanted a change. He and I talked about how I could become a teacher or coach – do something that was fulfilling. I could go back to school and pursue an entirely different career path. Basically, he told me I could do anything I wanted.
After many months of thought, discussion with Mike and completely shifted priorities since the accident, I feel like I have been able to make one of the best decisions of my life. I have understood what is really important – to be happy and be with my family. Because I have such a wonderful husband I am able to say that I have resigned from my current job and will be leaving corporate America on January 13. What happened to Glen showed me that you can’t be afraid to make a change. It showed me that you can’t remain in an unhappy place just for a paycheck. It showed me how delicate life can be, and that it is time to walk around with a smile on my face with nothing to complain about – just like Glen always did. It taught me that life is a blessing that I can’t take for granted.
With Cindy heading back to Michigan on Monday, I will be able to be available for anything Sandra and the kids need. I have no doubt that Doug and Tom can run the ship, but it won’t hurt to have some relief as well. I love Sandra as if she is my real sister and would do anything for her. This is what is important, not sitting at a desk. I am blessed to have the skills and ability to work from home and now I can also have a flexible schedule to do what will make me happy. I don’t know where my road will lead or what’s next for my career, but I am SO excited to find out.
So all I can say is thank you to Glen for teaching me how to live. He may not know the impact he had on me, but it was life-changing. I would give anything to have my other big brother back. He adopted me as the sister-he-never-had long before Mike ever put a ring on my finger – which I’m sure is no surprise to anyone. I love him my second big brother and miss him every day. I will forever be grateful to Glen.
– Michelle Walker
I want to take a moment to say THANK YOU for all of the assistance that produced an amazing Christmas for our children. It was truly a wonderful day and my kids were blessed to be surrounded by family and friends the entire day.
As I expected, it was a difficult day for me emotionally, but I was able to vicariously live through my children’s excitement. I have experienced a few moments of total devastation and Christmas afternoon was one of those for me. I am so lucky to be surrounded by the people I am and have to say that Glen’s brother Mike has been very instrumental in helping me get through those moments. I am blessed to have him and his wife, Michelle, here for me at anytime I need them. The kids are also lucky to have them and in a classic Uncle Mike moment they showed up at the front door with a 6 foot stocking!!! Despite my sadness it was a wonderful day.
Day 1 at the Shepherd Center. As I knew, I am not going to the Shepherd Center main location because I am considered a part of the outpatient program. Therefore I attend the Shepherd Pathways program which is located in Decatur, GA. My first day was certainly a draining one both emotionally and physically. Part of this is because I saw that there are so many people out there who need this high level of therapy in their life.
I will be receiving 1 hour each of Physical, Occupational, and Speech therapy 3 days a week for an undetermined length of time. Today was kind of an assessment day to get a starting point. In physical therapy, she did a lot of strength and balance tests and was very blown away by my progress given the charts she received from the hospital. It was definitely encouraging.
Occupational therapy, which concentrates on regaining the ability to perform functional activities was much more draining for me. Draining because I am now faced with not only relearning how to do things like dress my children, but taking over for responsibilities that were Glen’s on a daily basis. Me being a teacher, I was always gone in the morning before the children were awake, making Glen the one that dressed and fed them each morning and took them to school It is these realizations that always overwhelm me when they appear. I was likewise encouraged by the idea that they would be helping me learn how to become strong enough to do all of these necessary things.
Last was Speech therapy. Most people are surprised by my need for speech therapy (as was I) until I understood that I suffered a serious traumatic brain injury. Today I learned that a huge concentration in speech therapy is for the executive functions of my brain. Executive functions occur in the frontal lobes and includes such things as problem solving, planning, verbal reasoning, and memory. These executive functions are compromised following brain injury that involves the frontal lobe. Today was spent talking about how my injury has affected these areas. And although to most people I appear to look healthy and strong, I am suffering from some major cognitive shortcomings given the brain injuries I sustained. I again was so encouraged by the idea of regaining control over some of the things that are so mentally challenging for me right now like planning and making decisions.
I overall feel so enlightened about how the Shepherd program will aid in my healing process. And although it exhausted me today, I am now certain of its necessity and look forward to the day when I will not need it any more.
Today was a “good news” day for Sandra. She saw her doctor this morning and she does not have to have any more shots for the blood clotting. She will continue on coumadin (pill form) for the clotting until such time as it is no longer necessary. Also, she began therapy at Shepherd Pathways today. It will be a more rigorous program as she has to go for a three-hour block of time two to three times a week. This should speed up the time it will take overall for her rehabilitation, however.
Sandra’s mother will be going back to Grand Rapids next Monday, leaving my son Tom and me (along with help from the rest of the village) to see to Sandra’s recovery and help with the kids. She will certainly be missed and our bench strength will be quite diminished, but we will get through it.
‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
May the promise of this holiday season be fulfilled for your family!
From the Walkers and the Meekers…thank you for your prayers and support.
Not a day went by where the kids and I were not aware that we were his everything.
Make sure you take a moment to STOP and look those you love in the eyes and say that you appreciate them and all the times they put your needs in front of their own.
Every night when I pray I tell Glen Philippians 1:3
“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you.”
Because I do. Thank God. And number 1 on my list is that I was fortuante enough to share my life with Glen and to learn how to love and live like him.
First and foremost, I must thank the organizers, sponsors and all of the wonderful people that played, volunteered, watched, laughed, and enjoyed the Father Christmas Cup back on December 10. Yeah, I know this is long overdue, but it literally took me a week to walk normally again, and I didn’t even play that much!
If you don’t already know, I was informed about this event from a friend of Glen and I’s, Ryan Carter, from high school. He called me up a few days after finding out about Glen’s passing and wanted to do whatever he could to help Sandra and the kids. He knew a few of the organizers from the team he plays on, and asked if Sandra and the kids could be one of the families that receive some of the contributions. After they read the blog and had an understanding of who Glen was, and the impact that he had on not only his family, but also so many friends, they knew that they could be a huge part of Sandra and the kid’s immediate future. Ryan called me asking if it was okay to be a part of it and I was going to be a part of it in any way even if Sandra wasn’t a beneficiary of the cause.
As I mentioned previously, I had been taking a break from all sporting activities due to school and cold weather. The tournament layout was scheduled for 3 games, and a 4th if we made it to the finals. My body doesn’t function and move very well in weather below 65 degrees, I blame my parents and their Caribbean blood, so I figured that I might be able to get one half in before my hamstrings tore and I had to sit out the rest of the afternoon. The team that Ryan was able to get me on was in the Competitive Division, and consisted of some of Ryan’s current teammates and people that knew Glen from soccer, work, and growing up with us. It was good to see a lot of faces that I haven’t seen in a while ranging from months to decades, before the accident. After catching up with them for a while it was great to find out that we had 18 people on the team, which means we had 10 subs, and also that I didn’t have to play too much and enjoy the event and the people even more. In the first game, played for about 5 minutes and had to sub off because I almost pulled a muscle and my lung were burning so hard that I might coughed up a lung on the sidelines. When I subbed off, I saw a few of the many family and friends that came out to support me and the cause that day. Like everyone through this whole experience, it was great and invigorating, to talk laugh, and remember the impact Glen had on our lives.
The team that I played with had some high quality players, both younger and older than me, and was happy to know that we had a good chance to win the whole thing. After tying the first game, we breezed through the next 2 games to be the top seed in our group and play in the finals. In between though the event took a break to remember the young men and the families the cause was raising money for. Sandra, Sandra’s parents, Aunt Margot, and the kids came by earlier to join the growing crowd of friends and family. It was one of her first outings out of the house since the funeral, and the organizers took great care of her and the tribute to Glen and the other family affected by their loss. After the moment of silence and tribute, the games resumed and we faced the other top team in the tournament. Up until this point, I didn’t have to do much and was there for the cause, but my competitive juices started flowing knowing that we had a chance to win the whole thing, and do it for Glen. The team we played was really good and had a lot of close chances going just wide or making our keeper make some incredible saves. Eventually, they were able to break through and take the lead and going into the final 20 minutes of the game. I want to say that I had a huge impact on the team throughout the tournament, other than a frivolous goal and a few assists in the previous big wins, all I was seriously able to provide was some speed, beer, and conversation. The 1-0 lead held up for most of the game and with 5 minutes left the team thought that my speed would help and wanted me to go in. I was more than willing to see what I could do knowing that Glen was beside me. Amazingly, within a minute of me being on the field we scored the equalizer, and another 2 minutes got the go ahead goal. I want to say that I came on the field and scored or assisted, but I literally ran up and down the field barely touching the ball. When the whistle blew I was so excited, happy and proud, but still a bit sad knowing that Glen wasn’t here physically with me to enjoy something we both loved so much.
I stayed a bit longer to watch the raffle, enjoy some more beer, and talk to some reconnected and new friends. It was good to hear a few of their stories of their own personal losses, and how they have found the strength to not really move on, but be able to live with tragedies that pain the heart so deeply. I was encouraged and impressed with them and proud to know that I have people that has experienced this kind of loss and worse, and be able to live to honor them and continue to carry on their legacy.
The Father Christmas Cup is such an AMAZING event and cause that the founders have created is something that I am so proud to be a part of this year and in the future by playing or volunteering. This year’s event was the biggest to date and at least twice the size of last years’. Hopefully it will continue to grow for many years and help other families during the difficult holiday season. To all of the generous people that donated their time, money, prayers and support, I and the rest of the Walkers/Meekers couldn’t thank you enough. Check out the website and facebook page for pictures and other info.
Other links to photos:
I mistakenly thought that we were establishing a better routine with the kids and that things would become less complicated. We did slow right down to 90 mph there for a while. Now, with the advent of Christmas and the kids out of school, everyday is an adventure again. I haven’t really had any time to post on the blog or answer email, so I apologize for the lack of any information.
Sandra is doing quite well physically and even her therapists are surprised by her progress. The rest will probably take some time to accomplish. But she is committed to doing the work and continues to improve. She is still subject to emotional extremes which is really no surprise. I find myself struck by the finality of Glen’s absence from time to time and it is painful for me. One can only imagine the pain and sorrow that Sandra and Glen’s parents must feel. It’s difficult to find our way back to the reality of the situation and to find any peace with it. But we all have to keep trying.
Glen & I have lost our loving, caring, wonderful and everything else that would make a son “almost” perfect (A mother’s perception of course) and he will be greatly missed. Through our tears, sorrow and heartbreak, we are unfortunate to be on a road “less traveled”. It is a very difficult and long journey, the worst we have and ever will experience. However, with God at our side and walking along with us, and with your continued prayers and support, we are looking forward for the Peace, comfort and a bright light at the end of this journey. God is in charge and we know that He loves us and we love Him, and we will continue to build our faith and trust in Him. We are weakened, but not defeated and God will not give us more than we can bear. Our rewards and blessing will be in abundance through Glenroy’s legacy.
To all of you who have visited us at the hospital and at home, and who have supported us with your prayers, hugs, support, contributions, and kind words, we truly thank you. Glenroy has built a community of friends, and it was represented at his celebration of life on December 3rd. In whatever ways Glenroy has touched your lives, please pass it on to others and help to make this world a better place. Let’s love, forgive and pray for each other so his legacy will live on. All of you will be a part of the memory Glenroy has implanted in our hearts and we love you all dearly. Call us or visit us as we go through this difficult time. You names we may forget, but face will last for a long time. Take care, enjoy life, and may God bless all of you.
Pam & Glen Walker
Glenroy’s Mom & Dad
I remember that card, Sandra! You were so cute. Leary – waiting for the other shoe to drop. Hysterical, when we realized his greatest fault was voting for Sanjaya on American Idol. Remember how he ran out and bought the book on how to deal with a two-year-old? He would print articles from the Internet – determined to be the best “Daddy Glen” he could be.
I loved him from the start, too. I remember when you brought the vase of flowers and the placemats that he thought would match the decor at Grandma and Grandpa’s house – and he had only met them one time! And, of course, that one time involved him helping them move furniture.
I can’t believe it was an entire year ago that we made that drive to Michigan. He was so terrified that he would get the stomach bug we all had. He hated being sick. I think he might have gloated a bit that he and Cameron didn’t get sick. I’m grateful now for the memory of that trip – one I thought I wanted to forget!
I know this holiday season will bring you so many feelings and memories. I hope the good ones continue to stand out for you. Any time you want a reminder, I am here to tell you another story. I am always here for you and for Alana and Cameron. We will continue to celebrate his life and be grateful for all the lives he touched.
I love you.
Today I felt strong enough to look through Glen’s nightstand for the first time. Every day I allow myself to follow my heart as far as what I am ready to do. As I have said to many visitors, there is no manual or rules for how to live after losing the love of your life. You are bombarded with things that must be done and dealt with every day. And each person whose life was touched by Glen will grieve and heal in a different way. I have found comfort in working at my pace and only addressing things when I feel strong enough. Today’s choice was such a blessing because I discovered that Glen had a shoebox in his nightstand of all the cards I had ever given him and my handwritten vows that I said to him on the day of our wedding. I wept and laughed and smiled as I read every single one. And the one thing that was evident is just how much I loved him and rejoiced in our life together and the kind of man he was. And as have been with many things since Glen passed, I am certain he is protecting me and knew I would be ready to see all the cards today.
About three weeks after our first date is when I gave him this card:
“It amazes me that even before we met, the Lord already knew we were going to be friends.
He could see even before we could that our friendship would fill the little spot in our hearts that was just waiting for someone really special to come along.
I’m so glad God planned our friendship, and that all the times I prayed for a friend – the answer was already you.”
And here is what I wrote inside:
It amazes me. Simple as that. You really did fill the little spot in my heart that was waiting for someone special. I didn’t even know it was there until you came along. I was happy and content and you brought my world to a whole different level. One I didn’t know could exist. I always wanted to be ridiculously in love. Just annoying to other people I was so happy! :) hehe Until you I had never felt that. I love God. His plans for our life are good. I am sure you are made for me and I am made for you.
“Love of my life,
You’re my best friend,
Part of me
The healing part of this for me is remembering the knowledge that God’s plan was a part of us from the beginning. The one painful thing is remembering the next lyrics in that song.
“Love of my life,
You’re my best friend,
Part of me
Now half of me is left.”
Not a day goes by where I am not aware that my other half is missing. With him I was made complete and I feel that loss everyday. Life will never be the same without him but I am so glad to have all of the cards we gave each other over the years to affirm our love for each other.
Uncle Tom is back! Sandra’s brother Tom spent a week in New York on business and just arrived back here last night. He spent time with a friend that he is working with getting himself set up to work from here in Atlanta. After the first of the year it will be just Tom and I here to take care of Sandra and the kids. Cindy will be returning to her job in January.
Aunt Cathy leaves tomorrow morning. We are really going to miss her! It was like having two Cindys…maybe three. Cindy and Cathy were like a whirlwind cleaning, sorting and organizing the house so that Sandra won’t be overwhelmed by those particular chores and can focus on herself and the children. Cathy was also a great source of comfort to both Cindy and Sandra. I think going home, however, will be like a vacation to her.
Sandra’s physical injuries are healing nicely. The gash on the back of her leg has healed to the point where Mom will be able to change the dressing as opposed to a nurse coming to the house to do it. She’s walking more on her own and getting around pretty well. She has trouble with her peripheral vision as a result of her head injury. Walking poses a problem from that aspect so we stay pretty close to her.
All in all, she’s doing very well for now.
Sandra’s therapies are going quite well. She is allowed to walk about 20 feet now without using the walker or someone holding her belt. This gives her quite a bit more freedom to do simple tasks on her own. On the down side, her mother still has to administer her daily shots of blood thinner and they are painful for Sandra and cause the veins in her stomach to spider and turn blue like varicose veins. I’m not sure how much longer she will have to take them.
It will be some time before she will be able to do things on her own. She is not happy about that and is frustrated about her progress. We see it differently of course since we know where she started and how far she has come.
The kids are getting readjusted to their regular school routine (we call it school for Cameron, but it’s really daycare). I can see why they say, “It takes a village to raise a child”. I think we may be a village short here as it’s just 4 adults. But we muddle through anyway.
Sandra went to her church (12Stone) today and it had a very positive effect. She has a strong faith and it will serve her well in weathering the difficult time she still faces. Between the laughter and the enjoyment of the children, there is still an incredible sadness which manifests itself at any given moment. Everything still reminds her of Glen and that won’t change anytime soon…nor should it. His absence is almost palpable at times and we all feel it. It seems so incredible that he is gone. I still kind of expect him to show up at any minute. I can only imagine the emptiness Sandra must feel when she thinks of him. May we all be given the strength and the grace to carry on the way she seems to be able to.
It was indeed a busy day. We got the house decorated, we saw Uncle Mike not only play in his charity soccer game, The Father Christmas Cup, but take his Coyotes on to win the tournament! The play stopped for few moments while both fatherless families were recognized. This event has been held annually since 2003 to honor families who will be spending their first holiday without a parent.
We had dinner at one of Sandra and Glen’s favorite restaurants (this was her first time dining out). We came home and the kids watched Christmas movies and just went to bed. It was a long day for Sandra too, and she wasn’t far behind the kids.
She is using a walker and a wheelchair to get around but she gets stronger everyday. She also tires quickly, so today was quite strenuous, but it felt good to see her get out and about.
No school tomorrow!
There’s a phrase I thought I had left securely in the past. Just goes to show you, “everything old is new again”. Looking forward to at least doubling the amount of free time tomorrow though.
Actually, we have a pretty busy Saturday planned already. We will decorate the house for Christmas in the morning and then head off to see Uncle Mike play in his charity soccer game.
Christmas will be difficult this year, as you might imagine. It will be the first significant holiday at home without Glen and we will all feel the loss. He will be there in spirit however and, with any luck, we can lose ourselves in the delight of the children and the general goodwill of the season. For awhile at least.
Arise at 7:00 am
7:00 – 7:05 am – Free time
7:05 am – 11:00 pm – Get kids up, dress the kids, feed the kids, get the kids off to school, clean the house, take care of Sandra, pick up the kids, entertain the kids, feed the kids, clean up after the kids, get the kids ready for bed, read to the kids, put the kids to bed, put the kids back to bed, give Cameron one last sippy-cup of milk, put Cameron back to bed, wait for Cameron to go to sleep, go to bed, think about what to do with tomorrow’s free time.
I have and attached the details and schedule for The 2011 Father Christmas Cup, charity soccer tournament, that I will be playing in. It will be this Saturday, December 10th at Silverbacks Park, 11:30 am until 7:00 pm.
I will be on Team B4 – VG Coyotes
The attached file above shows that registration, in-person donations, and raffle tickets will start at 11:30. The games start at 1 PM, and are 40 minutes long, broken up into 20 minute halves. Around 3:40, the games will stop for a Moment of Silence and Words of Remembrance for the families. Afterwards, a Memorial Game and the tournament concludes between 4 and 6PM with the Cup presentation to the winners and raffle at 7.
Once again, feel free to come hang out, to donate, laugh at me, watch some soccer, and support the Walkers/Meekers and the other family in need.
The games are played at the Atlanta Silverbacks ParkThe address is : 3200 Atlanta Silverbacks Way Atlanta, Georgia 30340
With Sandra’s permission, I would like to share her Facebook post earlier today:
A number of people have contacted us wondering what they could do for the kids for Christmas. The answer would have to be…very little.
The wonderful parents at Cameron’s daycare, Kids ‘R’ Kids, have provided all the toys on the kids Christmas list. There is not much in the way of toys or clothes that they will need. For anyone still wishing that they could help, activities would be a good choice. A ticket to the movies, the zoo, the aquarium, Monkey Joe’s or anywhere we could take them for some fun would be greatly appreciated.
The best present the kids could ask for is for mommy to be home for Christmas, and she will be.
We sincerely appreciate the generosity and thoughtfulness so many have shown for Sandra and the children.
With the children off to school and daycare, a good part of the day was spent organizing the house and trying to reboot the life Sandra left behind a month ago.
There have been a great many people over the past month who stepped in to help keep Alana and Cameron’s daily routine on track. But at best it was patchwork and any semblance of a routine was almost non-existent. They stayed with Uncle Jim, Aunt Margot and with good friends, all of whom did their very best to provide as much comfort, support and consistency as possible. The variety was distracting but, at the end of a month, the kids were displaying the results of displacement. So we’re trying to do everything we can to get them back into the normal routine. It is difficult, however, because Glen was the one who took care of all the morning chores; getting them fed, dressed and off to their respective schools. Now we need to establish some new patterns. It’s difficult for the kids and it shows from time to time. Cameron has latched onto me, Uncle Tom and Uncle Mike as surrogate father figures because he can’t verbalize how much he misses his daddy. He has been slow to reconnect with mommy but it’s getting better every day. Alana is a very mature 6-year-old, but the strain of mommy being gone for a month has shown up there too. Sandra isn’t physically or emotionally able to do all the nurturing she was accustomed to either. It will get better with each day.
The nurse came in the afternoon and did wound-care and started setting up the therapy that will take place at home. Mom is giving her the shots of blood thinner and administering all the meds.
One day at a time.
A good friend of Glen, Ryan Carter, has been participated in this event in the past, and was able to talk to the organizers to include Sandra and the kids, as one of the families receiving donations. I will now also be playing/embarrassing myself in the tournament this Saturday, December 10 at the Atlanta Silverbacks Stadium. The donations go directly to the families and helps them through the difficult holiday season. Please check out the charity’s website below and even if you might’ve donated it doesn’t hurt to help the other family in their time of need as well. It looks to be an amazing event and I would like to thank Ryan and the organizers again for their kind hearts and thoughtfulness.
I am excited, but a little concerned about my lack of fitness, and expect to pull my hamstring in the first or second game. Just because I am skinny, doesn’t mean I am in shape. It has been a few months since my last physical outing…
My Auntie Ann was sweet enough to volunteer to put together an amazing video to represent the 35 years of life that Glen lived. The first time I watched it, I smiled and thought, ‘This is perfect.’ For those unable to make it to the visitation, funeral or reception, this is the video tribute that was played at all three. We wanted to share it with all of you so you could see what a wonderful life he lived.
I heard a lot of people asking if they could have a copy of this video – we are happy to make as many copies as are requested. I would ask that you consider giving a love donation when requesting a copy, as Sandra and the kids have already been through so much since the accident and have so much more ahead of them to get through.
You can donate on this blog or write a check to Michael Walker. To request a copy of the video or find out where to send checks, please email MichelleWalker722@gmail.com and provide your name, address and number of copies you would like to receive.
Love to all – Michelle
Today was almost like a regular day. There were still quite a few visitors at the house as many friends and family said goodbye to Sandra before they traveled back to their homes, but by the afternoon we found it pretty quiet.
We had our first real meal together as a family this evening. It was Sandra’s first time in a month to put the kids to bed on a school night…to read to them…pick out clothes for school tomorrow…sing with them. We are doing some of the physical aspects of these routines but she’s leading the parade.
Tomorrow the therapists will begin coming to Sandra’s home to continue her PT, OT and ST. She will eventually go to Shepherd Center, but they do not have any out-patient openings for several weeks yet. In the long run, the fact that they will come to her for a few weeks, might make it easier to get the children re-established in their school and daily routines.
We only hope that we can help ease the pain of doing it all without Glen.
It was a beautiful service and I would like to share some of the details with those who were unable to attend:
Musical Selection – In Remembrance – by NFUMC Choir (Pam & Glen’s Church Choir)
Welcome and Prayer – Rev. Terry Fleming
Scripture Reading – Rev. Terry Fleming
Michael Walker – Brother
Pamella and Glenroy Walker – Mother and Father
Albert Kong – Friend
Warren Borders – Friend
Dwayne O’Mard – Cousin
Sandra Walker – Wife
Introduction to Special Music – Sandra Walker
Musical Selection – Oh How He Loves Us – by 12Stone Choir (Sandra & Glen’s church choir)
Message – Rev. Brenda Westmoreland
Introduction to Special Music – Sandra Walker
Closing Prayer – Rev. Brenda Westmoreland
Musical Selection – One Thing Remains – by 12Stone Choir
The music was amazing, the words of both Reverends most comforting and the tributes by family and friends were heartfelt and powerful. I don’t have the benefit of having transcripts from all the tributes, but I can share Sandra’s (which her mother and Aunt Cathy helped her compose from things she had said and written)-
When I woke up this morning I was thinking about Marvin Gaye and Tami Terrell’s song “You’re All I Need.” Glen used to sing this song to me, not very well but he sang, “I took one look at you and it was plain to see you were my destiny. We have the right foundation and with the love and determination you are all I need.”
A message I sent to a friend about how to love someone was just sent back to me as a reminder of my love for Glen and how it had touched his heart. My message said, “Hey, see you are going through some things in your love journey. Have no idea what is going on but just wanted to say that my husband has taught me so much about how to really love someone and I have grown so much from that. Biggest thing is that love is not something that just happens to you. Attraction happens, ecstasy happens, but love, love is a choice; a choice to stay, a choice to care, a choice to change in ways that make you uncomfortable but ultimately make you better. Love challenges you to exceed your limitations and to accept your partner’s limitations. Love is not lazy, it is work. And when you both are willing to put in the work, the reward is more than you can ever imagine.”
I am thankful that God put Glen into my life. I am eternally thankful for Glen and how without trying he taught me to be a better person. He taught me to understand and relate to people, he taught me how to love unconditionally and how to laugh and enjoy life. I was never happier than when he and I were together. I have never laughed as hard as we did or loved someone so much. He was the love of my life. I didn’t have to work to love him, it was effortless and a kind of joy I had never experienced before.
When I was moving to Atlanta I wanted to know where a good area to live would be so being a MySpace user I entered the area code in a search. Glen’s picture was in the center of the top row of results and I was drawn to his smile. We wrote each other for seven months before I moved here never talking about dating but in October Glen decided to ask me out and we went on our first date. From the start Glen understood my hurts and joys. After all of the pain and disappointments we both had been through, we really understood each other. Everything that happened between us was meant to be like the text he sent me after three weeks that said “If this is what love feels like, I never want it to end.” We had never talked about being in love but from that point on it was obvious to us that we were meant for each other. In April after 6 months of dating Glen proposed to me in front of his parents, my parents , Aunt Margot and Alana. After I accepted he then asked Alana to be a part of his family. From the very beginning, Glen instinctively loved and took care of Alana. He was quick to accept responsibility as Daddy. When Glen said us he meant the three of us! On July fifth 2008 we married and to our delight we were pregnant with Cameron in September. Our family was meant to be!
Glen’s smile drew people to him. When anyone met Glen, they wanted to be around him. I know that all of you can testify to that. As my Uncle put it after he met him this summer, within minutes Glen became your best friend or your most favorite relative! Always and anytime he talked about life he made the people around him feel encouraged. Being around Glen made you realize life was worth it, and that there was always good on the way if you stayed positive. This was one of his many abilities and blessings. When you talked to him about something important to you and your life he listened until he understood. We put God first in our relationship and I am positive that is why we thrived and got each other the way we did.
Glen, thank you for being you and never backing down, your children have an amazing role model to remember and I will help them become like you any chance I can. I love you and I’m sad I don’t get to share the small moments with you anymore but I am excited to teach people about you and how to love like you. You babe have made a difference in my life that I am so grateful for and not a moment will pass where I don’t think of you. Thank you for loving me and teaching me how to love. I will spend the rest of my life being more like you and raising our kids to become children of love and understanding. I am blessed and have you to thank for that. I was blessed to have been given the opportunity to be your wife. I love you with everything I have. Thank you for loving me; my selfless, loving Glen.
Thank you all for being here today and celebrating the life of Glen. I have been so overwhelmed by your love and support for me and our entire family!
As many of you know Glen and I found true happiness at 12 Stone Church, it was going there on Sundays that kept us grounded. The music at 12 Stone was such an integral part of our spiritual relationship and Glen fully supported my choice to join the choir there. Today a group from that choir is here to sing, “Oh How He Loves Us.”
It was difficult at times for Sandra and all those who spoke to deliver their very special messages in honor of Glen but they did a remarkable job.
Pallbearers Michael Walker, Dwayne O’Mard, Derrick White, Drew Gilbreath, Larry Smith, Warren Borders, Albert Kong and Tom Meeker escorted Glen’s casket to the waiting hearse and we began our long and somber ride to the cemetery.
After the burial there was a reception/luncheon attended by several hundred of Sandra and Glen’s family and friends, many of whom had to travel great distances.
All in all, a very touching, respectful and moving tribute to our Glen.
We picked up Sandra at the hospital this morning and went directly to the funeral home for the first of two visitations. As she left the hospital, a wonderful reporter from CBS in Atlanta interviewed her. The interview can be seen in its entirety at this link: CBS Interview
Sandra is tired from her long day, but as my brother mentioned, she was home and singing to her beautiful children. The funeral home was filled with so many people today. Some didn’t even know Glen, but so many did. I saw Glen in them – heard people laugh about stories of a time with Glen they cherished. Sandra showed her grace. Although we are tired, we are grateful. We will continue to celebrate his life tomorrow. I can only say – GO DAWGS!! Glen has connections now, so I know they will win!!
Sandra attended both of the visitation times at the funeral home today. It was difficult both physically and emotionally but I was amazed at how well she did. A pretty trying day for her first day out of hospital.
As I write this, I hear Sandra singing with her children. What a wonderful sound. It’s a late bedtime, but it was that kind of day. How nice to have her back at home finally! I am sure she will heal much faster in her own home with her kids and her family close by.
Tomorrow, at the funeral, it will be an emotionally stressful day for each and every one of us but especially for Sandra, Glen’s parents Pam and Glen and for Michael, Glen’s brother. May we all be granted the strength to endure this difficult time and the grace to carry on without our dear Glen.
Sandra will be able to come home some time tomorrow. I moved yesterday from my sister Margot’s house to Sandra’s house and I have the kids with me. Cindy will still spend tonight with Sandra at hospital then start staying here so she can nurse her back to health. Cindy, brother Tom and I will all be here to help Sandra with the kids and the house until she is able.
The next couple of days will be very difficult for all of us. Saying goodbye to Glen will be one of the hardest things any of us has ever had to do. He will be greatly missed by all who knew him.
This is such good news that I couldn’t wait to share it. In the back of my mind, I was praying that Sandra would be able to be home by Christmas. Spending her birthday and Thanksgiving in hospital was bad enough but I really wanted her home for Christmas. So the news was amazing!
She still will have much rehabilitation and recuperation time, but at least she can be at home with her children. Mom will have to administer her twice-daily shots of blood thinner and Sandra will have to travel daily for therapy and/or testing. But still, how wonderful!
The experience of coming home will be bittersweet, however. It certainly will increase her sadness to be coming home without Glen there. She is not looking forward to that at all. But mom and I will be there and on Friday her cousin Dena and family will be coming to stay with her for a few days. I am hoping the distraction of having family and friends around will lighten her anxiety and depression to some degree and ease the transition.
Thank you for your prayers for they surely have worked.
Sandra has blood clots in one of her legs that still pose a problem and give her quite a bit of swelling and pain. She had a filter installed while she was still at Grady Hospital to keep any clots from travelling to her lungs or brain. They will keep that in until she is well out of hospital. They have been unable to give her any kind of blood thinner (to reduce the clots) until they were sure that the 3 brain hemorrhages were gone, which they now are. If the clots were left untreated, they could actually become permanent along with a swollen leg. The doctors feel that they will be able to control, and eventually eliminate the clots. The deep wound on the back of her upper thigh is healing very well and she was able to be taken off of a portable machine that was constantly draining excess fluid from the wound. She had to drag the machine and tubing attached to the wound everywhere she went so she was elated to be free from that.
She has been walking without the walker up and down the hallway. Someone must walk with her and hold on to a safety belt around her waist. She was able to walk up and down a set of 4 steps during physical therapy so she is doing quite well.
She is extremely grateful to the “team” (as she calls it) of family and friends that have taken care of her children and her life while she has been unable to do so. We are too.
It will still be several weeks before she will be able to go home. She has to relearn many simple tasks and get stronger mentally, emotionally and physically before she can leave. Then we will continue her care at home for some time.
She will be able to attend Glen’s funeral and we are thankful for that.
The family will receive friends on Friday from 1-3 p.m. and from 5-8 p.m., December 2nd, at Crowell Brothers Peachtree Chapel Funeral Home, 5051 Peachtree Industrial Blvd., Norcross, GA 30092
Family and friends are also encouraged to stop by Pam and Glen Walker’s home after the 5-8 p.m. visitation hours to visit with family. Their address is 5146 Wentworth Dr., Norcross, GA 30092
The funeral service will be held at 11:00 a.m., Saturday, December 3rd, at Norcross First United Methodist Church in the sanctuary, 2500 Beaver Ruin Road, Norcross, GA 30071 . Burial will follow immediately at Peachtree Memorial Park (same address as the funeral home above).
Immediately following the burial, there will be a reception/luncheon held at the Norcross Marriott. Address is 475 Technology Parkway Norcross, GA 30092. Phone number is 770-263-8145. We will be in Salons A-D on the ground floor.
We have also set up a room block at the same Marriott for out-of-town guests. The rooms are available at a discounted rate of $59/night plus tax. Ask for the Walker/Meeker room block.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that a donation be made by way of the PayPal fund
Today was a roller-coaster of emotions. Sandra had many visitors throughout the day which always brings her great pleasure. Uncle Randy flew out in the afternoon and she was sad to see him leave. The late evening was devoted to editing Glen’s obituary, choosing music for the funeral service and a number of issues related to the funeral that saw Sandra grieving deeply for Glen. It is difficult for a parent to see their child crying so inconsolably. As a parent, you just want to fix it for her. But we can’t. So we cried with her…and for her. This will be a very difficult week for all. The finality of the situation at once creates a certain resolve to meet the challenges ahead while it also develops into an almost terminal sadness. In the end, I know Sandra to be strong enough and focused enough to do what she will have to do. But she also must grieve. And we have to let her.
This video was created by Sandra’s choir at 12Stone Church.
It has been three extremely long weeks since the accident. It has turned many lives upside down and inside out.
It has been inordinately difficult to deal with the extremes in our emotions. Too often we questioned ourselves whether it was alright to feel joy about Sandra when we felt so disconsolate about Glen. Or for us to feel elated about Sandra’s well-being when she was suffering with the news about Glen. In the end, whether it’s alright or not, you feel what you feel and try to express it appropriately. So we laughed when we could and cried when we had to. We let cooler and calmer heads prevail to handle the messy details so those whose hearts were breaking would not have to. We took turns playing those roles however.
The journey will be long but we now know what we must do even if we have to it grudgingly at times. Sandra will get better and eventually go home to put broken lives back together. We will be there for that. The healing process needs to happen for all of us, each with their own special reason to heal and their own way of going about it. Glen will be there in spirit to let us know it’s going to be alright, eventually.
Sandra continues to make good progress. She was even taken outside today in her wheelchair. The task was to find her way back to her room which she was able to do. No mean feat, as anyone who has visited Sandra for the first time can attest to. It’s the first time she’s been out of a hospital. That, combined with a beautiful day, did wonders for her spirit. She still has several weeks of therapy ahead of her (or more). The doctors only take it one week at a time for insurance purposes, so we’re not exactly sure how long it will take.
As you know, she has been online and actually typed her own Facebook post which was taxing. It took about an hour. She still has trouble focusing on words and finds too much information confusing. When you talk to her she sounds quite normal but even simple tasks can confuse and confound her. We’re thrilled with her progress but realize that there needs to be so much more before she will be released.
She has seen some, but not all, of the blog and was deeply moved by your comments. She actually knows she is not ready to read it all and is overwhelmed by the volume of posts and comments. We know she will find comfort in it at the appropriate time and we thank you for everything you have written. It well help her get through the months yet to come as she learns to cope without the faithful, encouraging presence of Glen.
The family will receive friends on Friday (times to announced later), December 2nd, at Crowell Brothers Peachtree Chapel Funeral Home, 5051 Peachtree Industrial Blvd., Norcross, GA 30092
The funeral service will be held at 11:00 a.m., Saturday, December 3rd, at Norcross First United Methodist Church, 2500 Beaver Ruin Road, Norcross, GA 30071 . Burial will follow at Peachtree Memorial Park.
Thanksgiving – I am eternally thankful for Glen and how without trying he taught me to be a better person. He taught me to understand and relate to people, he taught me how to love unconditionally and how to laugh and enjoy life. I was never happier than when he and I were together, I have never laughed so hard as we did or loved someone so much. I didn’t have to work to love him it was effortless and a kind of joy I had never experienced before. Also we put God first in our relationship and I am positive that is why we thrived and got each other the way we did. Always and anytime he could talk about life and make the people around him feel encouraged. Being around Glen made you realize life was worth it, and that there was always good on the way if you stayed positive. And bottom line, having him around you made you feel worth it, made you enjoy where you were, that was one of his many abilities and blessings. Glen, thank you for being you and never backing down, your children have an amazing role model to remember and I will help them become like you at any chance I can. I love you and I’m sad I don’t get to share the small moments with you anymore but I am excited to teach people about you and how to love like you. You babe have made a difference in my life that I am so grateful for and not a moment will pass where I don’t think of you. Thank you for loving me and teaching me how to love. I will spend the rest of my life being more like you and raising our kids to become children of love and understanding. I am blessed and have you to thank for that. I love you. With everything I have. Thank you again for loving me.
-Sandra June Walker
In the midst of a tragedy, we managed to have a very nice Thanksgiving. In fact, we had two. Michael and Michelle brought dinner to the hospital and with Sandra sitting in a wheelchair with the children by her side, we enjoyed dinner with them, brother Tom, Aunt Margot, Glen’s parents and cousins Derrick and Dwayne, Cindy’s brother Randy (and Dena’s dad) who just flew in from Michigan, my brother Gary and his wife Nita. It was so nice to have so many family members there at the hospital with Sandra. And seeing the Lions lose once again made it seem almost like a regular Thanksgiving.
Then we went to have dinner at my brother Jim’s house with his family, brother Tom, Aunt Margot, the kids and my mom and dad. Although we made an effort to pace ourselves carefully the first time around, we still wound up eating an awful lot of turkey and all the trimmings.
Both times we did, in fact, give thanks for all those family members present and those around the country with a new-found sincerity. And both times we acknowledged how much we missed Glen and prayed for assistance in conducting our lives without him. And both times it seemed to bring a grieving family closer together.
I sincerely hope that your time with your family was just as rewarding.
The past few weeks have been full of prayer, fright, thankfulness, tears, and even laughter. I’m been writing my own ‘blogs’ in my head each day, thinking about how much Sandra and Glen mean to me, but I have not felt ready to write and share. I decided that today, ready or not, I needed to share what Sandra and Glen mean to me.
Sandra and Glen have both been amazing friends to me. They both exhibit admirable qualities that have been listed again and again by others throughout the recent weeks: strong, kind, generous, loving. Both Sandra and Glen’s priorities are God, family, and friends. Since so many of us who knew them, know the wonderful characteristics they possess, I’d like to share a few things that are special to me.
Something that Sandra and I have in common is the distance from our childhood homes and parents. Sandra is blessed to have family members in Atlanta (and of course Glen, Alana, and Cameron), while I do not. Sandra is one of the people I claim in my Atlanta family, and while she HAS family in Atlanta, she has made sure to include me as part of hers. Last year, when the Walker family was getting out their holiday decorations to decorate for Christmas, they invited me over for dinner and all the festivities! At a time when they could have enjoyed a family evening, with Cameron just being old enough to enjoy the fun, they chose to include me. One example of many that displays their love for others.
I could spend pages writing about how much I admire Sandra and all that she has done to show me she cares about me. Sweet texts on a random day, bringing books that I’d like, and playlists to share with me, are little things that go a long way. I know that I am not special in this way, but this is what she does for everyone around her. She shows them love and compassion. She will offer you help in a second and does not worry that it might take time or work on her part. I am so grateful for her friendship and I am thankful that we will be able to continue our friendship.
The pain and sadness that I’ve been feeling since Monday is strong. I cannot imagine the feelings of those who are closer to him, but I have decided that the reason I think so many of us feel broken is because he treated everyone like family. His smile, his hug, and his friendly hello, made you feel like he had just missed you since he had last seen you and was so happy you were there. Glen’s friendliness would brighten your day, whether it was already a good one or if you were just feeling a little down. It’s hard to describe, but I think all that knew him, felt that. He was sincere, funny, kind, and always had good words to say. A silly example of this is something that I had forgotten about, but am so happy to have another good Glen memory. This week, a Facebook photo of my friend and me popped up. It looks like it was taken by the paparazzi… the only comment? From Glen- “for a minute I thought this was Taylor Swift and Kate Hudson!” I couldn’t have been more excited because as he (and many others know), Taylor Swift is just about my favorite! Like Sandra, he knew how to make people feel special and say the things that would make them smile. Although it doesn’t seem long enough, I know that I have been blessed to have him in my life. It makes me happy that I can still see his smile and feel his spirit when I think of him and remember little anecdotes, when I see Cameron, and through all the others that have loved him, as well.
There are too many people and things I feel grateful for today to share, but please know if you are reading this, you are someone I feel thankful for, whether you are family, a close friend, a friend or family of Sandra and Glen, or someone who we don’t know that has become invested in their story.
Thank you to the Meeker and Walker families and the friends that have kept us all updated. I am grateful that you have allowed us all to be your family through this challenging time. I know that we have a long road of recovery and understanding ahead of us, and I am thankful to share it with those that have been so caring through this time already. As the days pass, I know that Glen will inspire many of us to live as he did.
I know that our prayers will continue for all, but specifically, Sandra, Alana, Cameron, Michael, Michelle, and Mr. and Mrs. Walker and we will keep Glen in our hearts.
Teacher, Chesney Elementary
As we approach Thanksgiving, it gets increasingly difficult to find the right words of thanks. We are, of course, thankful for the miracle that spared Alana and Cameron from serious harm. We are also thankful for the miracle that brought Sandra back from the brink and on the road to recovery. We just needed that one more miracle for Glen. The fact that we didn’t get it, and we really believed that we would, has been very hard to live with. Never have so many wished for the same miracle only to be denied. Prayers came from around the country and around the world. We have to accept the idea that it wasn’t meant to be and find some way to persevere in spite of it.
So when you gather around the family table, acknowledge the loved ones that are with you and be thankful for each other. It could all change in just a matter of horrible seconds. Think about what your life would be like without them and draw them near. Then say a little extra prayer for Sandra, the children, both of Glen’s families and all of the friends that somehow have to carry on without him.
We will announce all the arrangements for Glen as soon as they have been confirmed. We expect to have a service in about 7-10 days.
I admired Glen for many reasons. Most notably for the way he treated my daughter Sandra. He was always respectful, thoughtful and, above all, caring. It’s never easy stepping into a marriage and becoming an instant father, as Glen did with Alana. He immediately stepped up to the challenge and responsibility with his usual sense of commitment. Sure, Sandra had to guide him along some, but she already had parenting skills where Glen had to hit the ground running. He was as devoted to Alana’s well-being as he was to Sandra’s and I loved him all the more for this. When Cameron came along, Glen was the proudest papa you could imagine. As much as he loved Alana, he was thrilled to have a boy who he could one day throw a football with and indoctrinate into the UGA spirit. He was a wonderful father with a great sense of family. He comes from a wonderful family, so it’s no surprise, but he included our family just as they were his own. He treated my mom and dad, my siblings and every other member of my family just as he would treat his own family and they loved him for that.
I was also struck by how many friends he and Sandra had. Glen didn’t just have friends though, he had great friends. We liked everyone we had ever met. They also seemed to be caring, respectful and thoughtful people. This was no accident as he and Sandra both chose their friends carefully. I had no idea just how many friends they had until this tragedy. To think that this blog has been visited over 70,000 times tells how many people cared about them.
For those of you who admired Glen and wanted to be more like him…you don’t have to stop. He set the bar pretty high for the way anyone should live their life and we can all aspire to be more like him.
There is a hole in my heart and my life that will always be Glen and I miss him terribly.
Dear family and friends,
We were called to the hospital to receive the news on Glen’s CT scan, and I’m sorry to say that our dear Glen will not make it.
The initial damage to Glen’s brain was catastrophic. His brain has not gotten enough oxygen to maintain normal brain functions. It has been dying from the moment of impact and is now all but completely dead.
The part I dreaded the most was having to tell Sandra. It was just as hard as you might think. She did not fall completely apart as I feared, but after crying for a long time, realized she needed to be strong for the kids.
Sandra was able to go see him to say goodbye. She wanted the children to be brought to the hospital so that they also could see him and say goodbye. In the end, the children decided to stay at the door and not go any closer. But at least they had a choice in the decision. Sandra stayed several hours with Glen. She came out much more composed than I was.
I can’t, and won’t, try to tell you how Glen’s family feels. That is their story and they will tell it when they are ready. For our family, we are losing a man we cared very much about and who was easily the best thing that ever happened to Sandra other than her children. We grieve for her and the Walker family as I know you will.
Hello everyone – Michelle’s father Kelly Mione respectfully submitting my first contribution to this blog, which is being so capably managed by my new friend Doug Meeker. I had a chance to meet Doug on Saturday – my wife Pam and I flew up from Clearwater to spend the weekend with Michelle and Mike, offering our support and love to two amazing youngsters. They, along with so many others, are carrying so much on their hearts.
While there we witnessed first-hand a truly moving outpouring of love and support for Glen and Sandra, and understand this has been ongoing since the day of the accident. There has been a nearly endless stream of visitors bringing hugs and well-wishes, cards, flowers and food, plus calls and prayers pouring in from everywhere.
Even the best medical care needs a little helping hand from family. Glen and Sandra’s family members have filled all the gaps, provided all the love and care and truly tireless devotion it takes to get through such an ordeal, and they have been right there every single day. I want to encourage you to rest tonight and every night knowing countless prayers continue without interruption, first for Glen and Sandra, and also for every one of you. We should all be so blessed to have so much love surrounding us in times of heartache.
God bless you.
Kelly and Pam Mione
It has been three days since I left Sandy’s side from Atlanta Medical Center and what a whirlwind it has been. When I got home, I was quickly rushed into the regular routine and rush of life, while constantly thinking about Sandy and Glen. The only thing that has kept me sane is the fact that I know Sandy would want me to continue on with my life. (Although it is sooooo hard and I’m hoping to be there in the next few weeks again so that we can celebrate the holidays together :)
There are a few things that I wanted to highlight that have been on my mind that I wanted to share with you…
While I was in Atlanta, there was one constant phrase/verse that kept me going and it was….I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength, Philipians 4:13. I know that God has total control of both Glen and Sandy right now. He is an ever-trusting and all knowing God. He will see this through and is holding both Sandra and Glen in his palm. One night when Sandy was really agitated, I said to her, I can do all things and she finished the phrase by saying “through Christ who gives me strength.” I told her to keep fighting and that God will continue to give her strength to get through all of this. While she would toss and turn in pain, I would often ask if she wanted to pray. Cindy and I would take her hand and she seemed to be calmed by this. Sandy is a God-loving woman who has truly found her faith this past year. A few weeks ago, while her and I were talking on the phone, we discussed how life can be so hard and it is hard to understand why God lets so much pain into our lives. To sum up our conversation, we discussed the song, Blessings by Laura Story. The chorus really talked to both of us about how sometimes—the trials in this life are His mercies in disguise. Knowing that we had this conversation gives me all the more reason to trust and know that maybe this trial is a mercy in disguise! During one of the nights that I was there, I played this song and it seemed to calm her down. She actually hummed the song and it was a reassurance that our God is an AWESOME God and that His presence was right in that room with us.
‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise
The other important person that I wanted to mention was Cindy Meeker. She has been Sandy’s rock through all of this. While there are MANY people filling the gaps and doing numerous things behind the scenes, Cindy has spent every single night next to Sandy—comforting her and providing her encouragement all at her own expense (I don’t think that she has slept laying flat in over 2 weeks!!) Cindy has always been a special aunt to me and my siblings. She has never missed anything in our lives and I’m grateful for that. She is a phenomenal woman and keeping it all together right now!! Thank you for your endless love and support.
Sandy and Glen’s support from family and friends is overwhelming. It is so comforting to know that they are both being lifted up through prayer, positive energy, visits and love each and everyday. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Without the support of you, Glen and Sandy would not have progressed as much as they have so far! I feel like I have a new family in Atlanta now!! :)
With all my love,
Dena (Commeret) Willis (Sandy’s cousin from MI)
Normally, Sandra would not have therapy on Sunday but she did today as she will not on Thanksgiving. They work her pretty hard, which is good. She’s doing very well and is a solid 5 on the R.L.A.S. That’s very encouraging. She had quite a few visitors and handled that very well. We were able to take the kids to see mom again today.
Glen will have a CT scan tomorrow at 10 AM and we hope to learn more about his condition from the scan. His vital signs are good and we pray for a positive result from his scan.
We were able to take Alana and Cameron to see Sandra twice today. The kids really enjoyed seeing mom and Sandra was overjoyed to see them. Sandra has made so much progress in the last 48 hours that you would think she could go home today if it wasn’t for her physical injuries. Her conversation is almost normal with only slight lapses of memory.
The contrast between she and Glen is almost heartbreaking. We are so glad for Sandra and so sad that Glen seems to have made almost no progress by comparison. We all need to know that Glen is going to be OK too and just haven’t received much encouragement from the doctors. On the plus side, he is out of the RotoProne and in a regular bed and his breathing has improved. They are taking him off the paralytics as he is not in the RotoProne and he does not need to be kept immobile. It takes up to 36 hours for the paralytics to be completely out of his system. Then we should be able to get a better read on his mental condition.
Keep the prayers coming their way!
Sandra’s therapies went very well. She was lucid, conversational and appears to be remembering things better. Her other physical injuries are healing and the pain is diminishing somewhat. Combined with the positive prognosis on her brain injuries, a very good day!
Sandra has Mild Diffuse Axonal Injury to the posterior frontal and temporal lobes. It is not a direct injury to those areas but rather the result of her brain being shaken back and forth inside her skull. The doctor was very encouraging on her hopes for recovery.
Hope to have more details later.
The kids saw Sandra last night, and it seems to be a mixed blessing. I know they love seeing her, and I think it really helps her, too. The aftermath is tough, though. Steak ‘n’ Shake made the wrong milkshake for Alana. After the long trip there, by Grandpa and Uncle Tom, no one really wanted to go back. Mint Oreo – that’s not hard, is it? It’s a green one, they sent a red one, with M & Ms. She wouldn’t even taste it! Pretty big meltdown followed. When she began to scream “It isn’t fair!” and “I want it back!” we knew it wasn’t about the shake. My heart was broken watching her throw the pillows off the bed and attempt to strip it of sheets and blankets. I tried to be Sandra – encouraging her to breathe and count – but I am not Sandra. All Alana knows is that Sandra is not with her, and I desperately want to fix it. I can’t, though, so I waited and, perhaps against the experts recommendations, I had a thought. Zesto’s! Doug drove desperately up to Zesto’s. I think the woman was probably terrorized when he dashed in and asked her if she had mint, followed by “what about Oreos?” The funny part, and we are always glad for the funny parts, is when he arrived back at the house. He had a large shake and told me to come into the kitchen under the auspices of putting it in a smaller glass. Really, though, he wanted to know if it was green enough. We discussed adding food color, but opted to let Alana taste it. She liked it! Thank you, God.
We took Alana and Cameron to see Sandra today. It was just what was needed. The kids had been missing mom and she really needed to see them. She’s been asking more about Glen today and we’ve been giving brief non-specific answers. We’re not looking forward to the time when she pushes the subject harder. She keeps asking everyone to use their phone so she can call him. Today she asked someone to bring a laptop so she could get on her Facebook page. Good signs, in and of themselves, but I dread having her find out about Glen until she’s a little stronger.
They put tubes in Glen’s lungs today to drain some of the air pockets that have formed. That’s actually a good thing because it should aid in his breathing. I’m afraid they have postponed any surgery on his leg until next week, however. They simply need to be assured that he can handle it.
Sandra’s visiting hours have changed to 3:00 to 6:30 PM. She is in therapy until 3:00 and from 6:30 to 8:00 is usually her worst time of day so this makes sense. Sunday is still without restrictions so those that can’t make it between 3-6:30 could come then. She does not have any therapy on Sunday so anytime would be OK.
Sandra had a good day with her various therapies. Using a walker she walked about 14 steps, up from only several the day before. She did well with OT and ST, not getting quite as frustrated as she has been the past few days. Tomorrow they add ADL (Activities of Daily Living) into the mix. Things like bathing, brushing teeth, dressing, etc.
She still fixates on areas of pain, has irrational responses and many of the behaviors commensurate with Level 4 and 5 on the scale we shared last night. When she was working with her therapist and doing physical exercises, she said, “Well, the kids will never be able to do this!” She thought Alana and Cameron would be having similar therapy because they were in the accident too. We assured her the kids were alright and would not have to do therapy. Makes you laugh and cry at the same time.
I did not receive much information on Glen today other than he is stable and they are still going to try and operate on his leg Friday. Be sure to check Glen’s brother Michael’s and his wife Michelle’s Facebook posts as they usually have more information.
Cousin Dena leaves tomorrow morning and we thank her so much for being here and staying every night with Cindy and Sandy.
Yesterday, Chesney Elementary (Sandra’s school) sent a large box of clothing for the children. This included brand new winter coats and every type of clothing imaginable for both Alana and Cameron. Samantha has purchased socks and underwear with the gift cards they received. The kids now have all they need to be well dressed for the season! (Barring an intestinal emergency, I think that we are covered in diapers for Cameron, as well.) Meals continue to come – whoever brought the cheesy chicken noodle casserole made a huge hit with every one of the children at the Meeker house!!(That would be Ms. Dore, at Peachtree) Jim and Samantha have their needs met and ask that any further donations be WalMart, Kroger or Target cards to purchase the perishable foods they go through so quickly – milk, cheese, yogurt, etc. We are all so grateful for the kindness so many people have shown. (It has been UNBELIEVABLE. The thing that blows me away is that it is friends of friends of neighbors that know Sandy’s cousin that are getting involved, as well as the closer connections.) Thank you.
with notes from Uncle Jim :)
Sandra has been doing well with her therapy even though she fights it quite a bit. She rates a Level 4 on the Rancho Los Amigos Scale and a little bit of Level 5. The scale runs from 1-8 with 8 being best. I do not have the definitive answer on whether she must reach Level 8 before she can be released.
Her long-term memory is good but she still has trouble with short-term memory. It’s a little like the plot line of “50 First Dates” where Adam Sandler would have to bring Drew Barrymore up to speed each morning only to have her forget everything that happened each day and start over again the next day. Sandra still asks what happened and why is she there. She carries some information over but not much.
They are giving her fewer pain meds to increase her awareness level and not letting her sleep so much during the day. She kind of got her days and nights turned around and they’re trying to restore the proper order for her. At her best, she is funny and alert and at her worst she is paranoid, agitated and threatening. Not much fun to see.
She does, however, continue to make progress and we are thankful for that.
As we face the realities of the situation, I need to mention the silent army of family and friends that have stepped up and stepped in to help sort out the myriad details of Sandra and Glen’s finances, insurance, daycare, kid’s doctors, etc.
With both Sandra and Glen unable to provide any information, we have found ourselves unsure of how to go about making sure that their bills are being paid, insurance contacts are being made and followed up on and all the many details of their lives are being taken care of.
Fortunately, and without mentioning names, there seems to be someone who can help in almost every facet. These people have been working tirelessly in the background making calls, looking into legal matters, contacting people, filling out forms and trying to make sure that nothing falls between the cracks. Many of these same people are also frequently at the hospital. All this while they conduct their own busy lives.
So I would just like to acknowledge and thank these people for their contributions for, without them, I don’t know what we would do.
Sandra worked hard at her therapy today, complaining the whole time. She goes for 3 hours with 1 hour each of PT, OT and ST. She still doesn’t fully understand why she has to do it so doing it only agitates her. But she gets through it.
She is probably looking at several more weeks at least before they decide what the next move might be.
Glen should be able to undergo surgery on his left leg by Thursday or Friday. He has not fully regained consciousness since the accident.
Cindy finally left the hospital and Sandra’s side for the first time tonight. She and Dena (Sandra’s cousin) went to Aunt Margot’s to shower and change and go right back. Her brother Tom took up the vigil in their absence and everything went well. Hopefully Cindy will be able to extricate herself a little more so she can take care of herself. She simply does not want Sandra to wake up and not have Mom’s face to look at for reassurance. Between Cindy, Aunt Cathy and Dena, there has always been someone there, even in the middle of the night.
This interview was actually conducted about a week ago but there was never a direct link to it until now. A number of people have asked about it and it does show how much they have progressed in a week.
SandraGlen has over 20,000 views!
As you can see from the stats to the right, Sandra and Glen’s blog went over the 20,000 views mark! That’s a lot of people checking in a lot of times. They will be so pleased to know how concerned their families and friends were!
We hope to have some good news on both of them this afternoon. Please stop back.
I don’t know a better way to describe the only two emotions that I have felt this week. Up until this past Saturday, many of you know that I have basically been camped out at the ICU physician’s conference room since I was informed of the accident. I first started to slowly venture out from my brother’s side, Thursday night to escape to Taco Mac for a little bit, with a few friends and my wife/rock, Michelle. It was the night of the Ga. Tech game and it was packed, but we were able to figure out a way for us to sit and for me to wind-down for a couple hours. I was out of the hospital physically, but mentally wasn’t. I was sad to leave hospital, but happy to be with friends to recharge a bit. If you saw me you could tell that I needed it.
The next day, Friday, I again left the hospital that afternoon, but this time to venture home for a bit. Michelle and I had basically lived in the hospital for 142 out of 144, and we were both emotionally and physically exhausted. The only thing that was keeping us going we friends, family and the people and nursing staff that we met throughout those 6 days, so Michelle and I decided to go home for a few hours and recharge again. My father had to start doing some half days at work, getting up at 5am, then taking my mother and aunts by the hospital mid-day and staying until midnight. By Friday, he was exhausted and needed a little more sleep. In my fatigue, I wasn’t aware of the struggle and sacrifice he had made, and was irritated that they showed up later than normal. Once I found out, and they got to the hospital, I felt like a complete jerk…
By the time Michelle and I left, it was rush hour and we got home after an hour. I knew I was tired, but I wasn’t expecting to not even make it to the top of my bed for a nap. Again I was sad to leave my brother’s side, but happy to see my house, see our pet, and take a needed nap. By the time we got back the hospital, it was 11:30 and my awesome father was passed out on the couch. I knew my parents were tired, but this is the first time I realized and saw it. They hide it well.
Saturday was another sad and happy day for me and more likely Michelle. As we all know, Glen is a UGA Bulldog through wins and losses. This week’s game had a bit more significance since they were facing Auburn, Michelle’s Alma-Mater. Glen always called Michelle, his “Neme-Sis”, because he saw her as an equally competitive person, and also his sister. This game would’ve been the first time they watched together and actual family, and they both were looking forward to it since the season started. Michelle had her Auburn gear on and Glen’s friend, Stephen, let Glen borrow a UGA jersey, and other UGA gear to decorate his room. It was tough to watch the game knowing that I couldn’t hear Glen yell the UGA fight song, but was happy that the Bulldogs ended up winning the game for Glen, and by one of the largest margins in their rivalry. Trust me, Michelle didn’t mind one bit!
Michelle and I decided to finally try sleeping at home for the first time, and boy was it rough for me. The next day, Sunday, was Sandra’s 30th birthday, and I couldn’t sleep knowing how much Glen wanted to make it as special as possible. I woke up the Sunday morning in the dumps, and realized that I was not in the hospital. I realized how weak I have really been and how strong everyone else had. This was the first time I realized what my parents, family and friends had to do, and drive to the hospital to see Glen and Sandra in the condition that they are in. In the hospital you forget you are there sometimes and what is around you, and I had been stuck in my little room, knowing that in an instance, i was right by Glen and Sandra. The 30 minute drive hurt a lot, and knowing that my niece and nephew will see their mother for the first time in over a week, and that Glen couldn’t be with his family, had me in tears. By the time I parked, my best friends, Drew and his wife Meghan, were right beside us and we walked in together. These two have been nothing but heaven sent, and Drew was right there for a shoulder to cry on. As we got to the room to celebrate Sandra’s birthday, I was able to hear my niece and nephew laughing and playing, and I could barely keep my composure. I was able to get a hug and a kiss from both, before walking out and sobbing in another room. As I have said many times, I wouldn’t have been able to make it through a day without friends and family. In my time of need, I was surrounded by one of Glen’s many friends, Eric Rader, and Drew who helped me make it down the ICU area to see Glen. This was one of the first times that I had “lost it” in front of others, and needed help to get my strength back. Getting back to Sandra’s party, I finally, realized that I can’t do this alone, and that I need help and feed off of the positive energy, prayers and support from everyone. Seeing Sandra and Glen fighting hard and seeing all of support, and especially help has been amazing. Albert and his wife Kristen, have been one of hundreds of people visiting, helping, supporting, laughing, crying, and cheering the Walkers and Meekers through this. It puts a smile on my face as I type this, knowing that I am not alone to carry this tragedy and that together we all can help Glen and Sandra fight.
We have put up a strong fight and made it through week one. We will have many more to go, and a lot to learn, but with each other we can do it. Keep the prayers and support coming, and let do this together. We are suffering through and very sad time now, but all of our happiness will come in time. If you doubt this, look at the pictures posted earlier and look at Sandra and the kid’s smiles upon their reunion.
(I don’t think I have typed this much for a class paper! Sorry for the length, but this is therapy.)
Sandra had a very nice birthday!
After being reunited with her children around noon, the guests started arriving at about 1:00. There were probably between 40-50 friends and family throughout the afternoon. Everyone who wanted to see Sandra got a chance to visit. She was thrilled to see everyone and knew exactly who they were.
Thank you to everyone who left Sandra a birthday wish on the blog! Again, she will see every one of them!
She still is not clear on why she is there and does not like it. Everyday around 6:30 she reaches a low point where the pain gets to be too much and she gets easily agitated with everything. She is uncomfortable since she hurts just about everywhere. Because she is on a liquid diet, she needs to go to the bathroom frequently which requires nurse help. And they never come quick enough to suit her. But once she gets her evening meds around 8:30 she does much better and can sleep.
All in all, she continues to improve daily at a rate which surprises even the doctors and nurses.
Glen is stable and we are guardedly optimistic. I think they might be able to operate on the broken bones in a day or two. His breathing continues to improve and once he reaches and maintains a certain level, it will be a go.
Sandra turn’s 30 today!
We are celebrating at the hospital. We have a conference room a few doors down from Sandra’s room.
Anyone who can stop by and celebrate with us is welcome. We will start about 1:00.
She can only see two people at a time to keep the confusion level down but everyone should get a chance to see her.
For those who are not local and/or can’t attend, click the “Comments” to the left to say Happy Birthday!
Sandra and Glen will see every comment ever posted on the blog when they have recovered.
Sandra had a great day! She had to work hard with her therapists but she was also more lucid than she has been. It’s the first day she actually recognized me. That’s been difficult. I was walking by her therapy room and she spotted me and called me in. I leaned close and said “I love you” and she replied, “I love you too…but I don’t love this” referring to her therapy. Not only was I thrilled that we connected but I saw a little of the feisty Sandy too. Good stuff.
She had many visitors and knew who everyone was. She cracked jokes and was actually very funny. She seems to have a period every day where she tires and gets agitated with the pain and discomfort, but it is more than offset with the progress that she has made.
Glen’s condition improved some today in regards to the overall swelling of his body. You can hardly see much of him in that contraption, but his legs, back, arms and face have been very swollen. He is on paralytics to keep him immobile so we are glad that the swelling has gone done mostly on it’s own.
I just came back from seeing Sandra and making a couple airport trips. Cousin Dena has arrived – yea! Aunt Cathy has departed – boo hoo. Doug and I got to the hospital while Sandra was in occupational therapy (OT), but as we walked past the door and realized it was Sandra in the wheelchair, we asked if we could come in for a quick hello. I haven’t seen her in two days, so my patience was running thin. It was great to see her smile. As usual, lots of folks were already dropping by, and I was happy to get those hugs from Michael and Michelle and from Drew and Meghan.
I spent some time with Sandra during a particularly lucid period. She was funny – sometimes intentionally, sometimes not so intentional. With therapy and time, she is beginning to put the pieces back together again. She can be easily confused – e.g. “I haven’t seen my daddy or brother.” What she really meant was husband or son. Some things make no sense at all, like some talk of zones in Japan, but she recognizes every single person who comes to visit.
Nettie surprised us all when she called to say they had arrived from Nashville (we never knew they were coming!). This time, she brought the younger boys. They all went to my house, where Tom was playing nursemaid and spent some time with Alana and Cameron. I know the kids really enjoyed it. Both are napping now.
Tomorrow is Sandra’s 30th birthday. She had wanted to get a cabin and have a party up in the mountains. A lot of people were unable to attend, and I know she was really disappointed, so the plan was changed to party Saturday night. There is no party tonight, as previously planned. The party tomorrow will likely not really even include her – at least physically. I know, though, that when she hears and sees (we will do a video) all the people who came to celebrate her and her 30th birthday, she will be filled with the gratitude we are all filled with now.
Happy Birthday, Sandra. I love you so much.
Sandra had a busy day. She had PT (Physical Therapy), OT (Occupational Therapy) and Speech Therapy. Also, Xrays and a CT scan (Computerized Axial Tomography, CAT scan) to determine the extent of the damage to her left ankle and the 3 brain hemorrhages. Her therapy went well but no results on the scans until tomorrow.
She is eating some solid food which is a first. She keeps asking for chicken and pizza. These are good signs.
Also, for the first time, she has been asking about Glen and the kids and why was she in the hospital. Up until now she has been able to answer questions (mostly accurately), but has not asked many questions. She was told that Glen is there in the same hospital and that the kids have been with Uncle Jim and Aunt Margot. She seemed to be OK with that and didn’t really pursue it any further. Also all good stuff. Really don’t want her to be thinking too much about those things.
Glen’s day was decidedly different but nevertheless positive. He made some improvement in his ability to breathe of his own accord and was able to spend another 4 hours on his back. His recovery will be measured in smaller increments over a much longer period and we all need to be prepared for that. He has difficult hurdles to make and will require time to accomplish them. We are in it for the long haul with him and will do whatever is necessary to return both he and Sandra to full capacity.
Alana and Cameron are doing well and are missing their folks even though they haven’t verbalized it too much yet. I hope they will be able to hang in there for awhile. Aunts, uncles and grandparents are OK for now but we’re a poor substitute for the real thing.
There have been several requests for the Meal Train information.
This is to help Sandra’s Uncle Jim feed his squad. He has 4 girls of his own plus he has graciously taken on Alana and Cameron too.
Here’s the link: Meal Train
You can create an account or, even easier, sign in with your Facebook account.
Thanks for your interest in this.
This is a brief description of the services she will receive at Atlanta Medical Center:
Inpatient Acute Rehabilitation Program
The Inpatient Acute Rehabilitation Program offers specialized comprehensive therapy services for 3 hours per day for patients who meet the admission criteria. The rehabilitation team includes a wide range of professionals trained to work closely with the patient and his or her family to further the recovery process. Members of the rehab team include:
Medical Director specializing in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Patient Care Coordinator
We will let you know more when we have the details.
I didn’t get to see Sandra yesterday – a first, since the accident – because Alana and Cameron are sick. They both have bad coughs and congestion. Today’s job for me is to try and figure out who their pediatrician is. Amazing the things we don’t know about Sandra and Glen’s life. Each one of those things, as it arises, hits me hard with the knowledge that the kids are missing both parents right now.
Last night, Cameron was in my room in the pack ‘n’ play, while Alana slept with me. At about 2:00 this morning, as I slept with my back to Alana, I felt a gentle tapping on my shoulder. When I asked her what she needed, she replied, “I just want to see your face.” I think the face she truly wants to see is Sandra’s, and I hope we can make that happen soon.
She sits beside me now making a beautiful card for Sandra, while Cameron rests on the couch watching Toy Story 3. We are all there for them; we just can’t replace Sandra and Glen. Keep those prayers coming. Thank you, friends and family!