"If something happens to me..."
Like most couples, Jeff and I had said this to one another on occasion - back before our lives were changed. This phrase was usually followed by us expressing our wishes for the other partner to carry on in life - together with our daughter - should some kind of tragedy befall one of us.
Every time we talked about this subject, the words "If something happens to me" were code for: "If I die."
Never once did they mean, "If I am paralyzed from the neck down and you have to take care of me for the rest of our lives."
Because that scenario was unfathomable.
And yet, that's the exact "something" that happened to us.
|I snapped this photo one hour before Jeff's injury. It is the last picture we have of him as an able-bodied man.|
This date comes around every year, and every year I feel it looming as it approaches.
I wish I could treat it like any other day. But I just can't. Not yet.
Yesterday morning, I woke up wanting nothing to do with this life. Perhaps it was my unconscious way of acknowledging the upcoming anniversary of the day our life abruptly changed. I was struggling and Jeff could see it. I was going through the motions with no heart behind it. I don't usually go about the day this way, so I apologized with tears in my eyes.
"I wish I could just say, 'I don't feel like doing this today,'" I told my husband. But neither one of us gets the luxury of saying - or doing - that.
And so like all tough days, we simply pushed forward.
* * * * *
July 27 - the day our "something" happened - yet not the thing we'd anticipated or feared.
I suppose if Jeff had died that day (he would have if not for our friends' help), in my effort to make sense of it all, I would have thought and said something like, "He wouldn't have wanted to live that way."
In fact, I've heard that phrase from other people - friends and strangers alike - who have said to us, "Wow, I wouldn't want to live like that."
No one wants to live like that.
There have been times - many days in fact - over the last four years that Jeff has wished he had in fact died that day because he doesn't want to live the rest of his life as a ventilator-dependent quadriplegic. Because witnessing the mental and physical toll his injury has laid upon his family is beyond difficult. Seeing his wife struggle with more duties than she can handle and hearing his daughter admit that she's sometimes embarrassed when she has to tell her whole class that her dad is paralyzed and in a wheelchair is absolutely crushing.
But there have been many, many more days that he's glad he survived.
I'm glad too.
Even though caring for my husband 24/7 is the absolute hardest thing I have ever done in life, I am grateful he's here for the caring. And I mean that both ways. I'm thankful he's here for me to take care of, and I'm thankful he's here to take care of me.
The last several months have been a pretty difficult stretch for us. Jeff had three surgeries within a four-month span, and the journey to get back to the new normal we'd established has been unexpectedly challenging.
But we both agree we're on the upswing now.
Over the last few weeks, Jeff and I have talked about how much we've grown in the last four years (heck, the last four months). We've become closer as a couple. We've become crazy good at troubleshooting. And our knowledge of living life with a spinal cord injury continues to expand.
When it comes to living the life we do - making room for paralysis - our approach is pretty simple.
We don't try to overcome it.
We don't try to pretend it doesn't affect our daily lives.
We simply are learning to live with it. We are continually learning.
And as for this day, what I'd like most is to just get through it. Get to the end of the day where everyone is asleep and safe, so I can let out a sigh of relief.
That's the goal for today.
* * * * *
Every year, on July 27, I write a post to mark where we are on this journey. Below are the links: