Every year on June 29th, my heart pounds heavily in my chest when I write about the day my brother slightly over-corrected on his motorcycle, leading to an accident, a traumatic brain injury, a coma, months of recovery. That day was eight years ago, and still, the wound it left on my family continue to heal.
It's not easy to write about, but I feel that I must. It's not pleasant to read about, but the story is important. I wasn't there when it happened, but I transcribed the only witnesses' story. There was a couple driving along the country road where my brother and his friends were riding and they saw it all unfold, frantically dialed 911, stayed there until he was medi-vaced away in a helicopter. The image that comes to me every year on this day is one that the woman in that car shared, of she and her husband holding my screaming brother in the field next to the ditch where his motorcycle lay.
I can't type out any more details than that. It's too painful. But the picture is there with the others -- my first sight of him in the ICU, his startled look as he realized he was in the hospital as he first came out of the coma, the struggle and triumph of his first assisted steps, the fear and pride when he finally was released.
Those are the images of the accident, of the weeks that followed when none of us had any idea if or how or when he might leave the hospital.
Those images seem to have a hazy quality to them now, as if they've been sitting on a window sill for these eight years or were taken with a long-outdated camera. Some of the details have faded and we no longer need to carry this all in our chest pockets against our rapidly beating hearts. But the record is still there, tucked away for days when we need a reminder of how scary and hard life can be and how damned blessed we really are.
I am taking those photos out -- not to make myself cry, that comes easily enough -- but to say thank you to the universe, to God, to the neuropsychologists and surgeons and nurses and doctors and and dentists and therapists, to our friends and family, to all of the people who soothed, prayed, visited, brought us coolers full of bagels and orange juice, who wrote cards and sent Maya Angelou quotes, who sang songs in Seth's honor, who were with each of us in the fight for his life. And I say a special hallelu for the two people who were there in our stead, who witnessed the real-time version of that day that I am so grateful I only have to imagine. They were so brave and I hope they know how instrumental they were in all the living that has gone on since that one June 29th.
There are new pictures now -- seeing Seth rest his child against his own chest, that baby's surprised face with the same big brown eyes as his dad, the circle of our family's group hug that now includes his wife and our sons -- and I'm holding them high today, too. There were tears. There's still thanks. There's more healing to do. There are now many more smiles and coos and cuddles.
And, thank goodness, there's still time.