Sometimes we feel like there isn’t a lot that we have a choice on in life. The list can be quite limited actually. Our choices may be whittled down to a few things like what college we attend, what sport or activity we prefer to play or not play, or who we choose to spend our life with.
We don’t choose the family we are born into, the circumstances for which we are raised, or the events that occur while we are trying to make our way through this amazing and often trying life. But, one of the most profound things my father said after my accident was that I had a choice.
I thought he must be crazy. I felt like LIFE had chewed me up and spit me out. And I had been one of the other victims left on the side of the road that night. Even though my physical body had stood up from that kneeled position and walked on. My insides were slowly dying. My friends and family watched me as weeks slipped by into months and I was having trouble getting out of bed, keeping things organized in my brain, and controlling the mounds of tears that would well up in a moments notice.
All I did was sleep. My parents didn’t see a lot of this because I was living with friends and working full time as a first grade teacher. I would work all day, come home and sleep, eat a bowl of cereal, and sleep until my alarm went off again the next morning. It was like I couldn’t wake up. I couldn’t take a deep breath. If I did, it would hurt too much. If I stayed awake too long the tears would come, the memories would invade, and my insides would churn. So I slept. When you are depressed sleeping can be an escape. When you awake it can be another blow to the heart. You sleep because of sadness, but when you awaken you realize that everything you were trying to forget really happened. Then you have to re-remember it all in the morning and try to will yourself to be a person the next day. This continued for weeks, maybe months, I’m really not sure.
Sure I went to work. I know I read books to the kids, I may have even laughed, smiled and even acted like a normal person. I felt like just getting through the day was all I could handle. I would come home after school and slide my weary body under the covers and sleep and forget everything. Time, counseling, meeting Chris, slowly but surely I started to come out of my sleep induced sadness.
Through all of this my parents were there for me. One day my Dad said, “Two people could have died that night. But, you didn’t. And now you have to make a CHOICE to live.”
I can say that 10 years later I have made good on that statement Dad. I chose to live. I chose to love. I chose to believe in the good that exists. I wish I could visit that crying girl, who was 22 years old and didn’t see a way out of the torment and the sadness. I would talk to her, hug her, and tell her that it was going to be alright. I would tell her about the joy, the fulfillment that will come her way. The babies that will grow inside her belly. The sweet ones that will move and summersault inside her. And with every flutter remind her that there is good in choosing to live. There is a purpose, and they are right down the hallway at night. I would tell her that she would get to gather that purpose up in their warm pajamas and rock them to sleep. Listen to their squishy pacis and smell their sweet baby hair each and every night. I would tell her that it will all be ok in the end. Just a different ok that she might have pictured.
Chris opened my heart to love again, and Bradley, Ellie, and Grace filled in the gaping holes that had been ripped apart years ago. I was changed that day. I was altered in some strange way. Even though there weren’t any markings on me, I was forever different. I will carry a piece of me that night everywhere I go.
We will all face things in our lives. I know that there will probably be more pits and valleys that I will encounter on this journey. But I now know 10 years later that there are also choices. There is the way we live during and after these valleys that will define us. Will we use them for good? Will we grow from them? Will we snuggle up our teenagers one day and tell them the stories that formed us? I want to share my story with my babies when they are ready to hear it. I want them to know that there are sad and scary things that can happen in life. But there is also beauty. There is forgiveness. There is a choice about how we handle the sad and the scary.
10 years later and I take a deep breath and know that I made a choice to live. And live I did.