Sometimes we accidentally prepare ourselves for what’s to come. Whether by chance or intuition, we provide ourselves with and squirrel away the tools we’ll need to handle what the universe is about to rain down.
Remember all that talk about gratitude? My resolution to make thankfulness a part of every single day? About three weeks ago, my resolve was tested when Brad was involved in a motorcycle accident.
He crashed during a desert race, breaking his femur in five places and sustaining a serious concussion (not to be confused with a silly concussion).
Like any marriage, mine has high and low points. What is harmonious one moment can be a battle the next. But when I heard, shortly after the start of the race, that Brad had fallen and was injured, there was suddenly nothing in the world but him, nothing as imperative as his being ok.
As I ran to find him, I switched to autopilot, dodging kids and dogs and motorcycles without seeing them. As Brad came into focus, I felt like I was watching a film.
He was in a C-collar, his face caked with blood and dirt, grimacing from pain. It was gruesome and frightening, unfamiliar. Some skilled medics, who were racing alongside Brad, saw his wreck and acted quickly, pulling his leg into traction, loading him onto a spectator’s 4-wheeler, and getting him to a waiting ambulance. The transition from 4-wheeler to backboard and then ambulance was jerky and excruciating, and throughout the ordeal, Brad slipped in and out of consciousness.
Later, after a 40-mile ambulance ride over bumpy, curvy roads, I held Brad’s hand as an ER doc in a small-town hospital quietly told us about the femur breaks, the concussion. He was so calm it barely felt strange to hear him say that a helicopter was on its way, and that Brad needed to get into surgery within the next couple hours.
Delirious from stress, pain, and trauma, his voice hoarse with the effort of speaking, Brad then told me that his femur was broken, he had a concussion, and that he had to take a helicopter to another hospital, where he’d have surgery.
“Ok, honey,” I responded. “Thanks for keeping me updated.”
After the heli-crew loaded Brad onto the ship (see? I’m savvy with the vernacular), I jumped into the car and high-tailed it North, toward the fancy new hospital where a surgeon was awaiting Brad’s arrival. The 75-minute drive was both painfully slow and over in a heartbeat, as I alternated between wanting the whole ordeal to be behind us and dreading what was to come.
Along the way, friends and family called, having heard the news of Brad’s accident via the mysterious viral network through which bad news spreads. About 10 miles from the hospital, I got word that Brad was heading into surgery within the next 20 minutes. I suddenly felt an overwhelming need to see him before surgery, to make sure he wasn’t too scared, to tell him—and reassure myself—that everything would be ok.
I dashed into the ER just as the surgeon finished explaining the procedure to an out-of-it (but trying hard to pay attention) Brad. Before they took him to surgery, I had about five minutes to hold Brad’s hand while he told me that he felt like he was in good hands because his surgeon was a rock climber (she says wryly).
In the three weeks since that day, Brad experienced debilitating nausea, anxiety, and pain. There was sleeplessness, fear, confusion, frustration. The head injury remained mysterious and scary, and I was humbled and thankful for every calm, coherent moment Brad had.
As the effects of the concussion waned, though, things began to improve. One day, Brad woke up feeling good. His leg still ached, but his head was clear for the first time since the accident. We began to talk about how the accident exposed what we’d been taking for granted—our healthy bodies, our support of each other, our freedom to play and go and have fun whenever we wanted.
I looked at him that day and for a moment couldn’t speak or move—I never wanted to lose him. I never wanted him to feel pain or sadness.
This morning I learned that a woman in the Crossfit community died. Melanoma. I didn’t know her, but less than a year ago Brad and I watched her compete in the Crossfit games (her outrageous tattoos and rock star style made her Brad’s favorite contender). From dead-lifting over 300 pounds to dead in a year—life is so fragile.
We learn from crises. We transform pain and fear into strength and understanding. We move on with richer, deeper perspectives. Three weeks after Brad’s wreck, I’m learning to let gratitude guide me, enlighten me, choose my words when I’m too shocked or weary to come up with my own.
With this new teacher comes new lessons, new plans. I’ll tell you about them soon. In the meantime, thank you for reading. I’m grateful for you.