The other day as I peered into a rarely used kitchen cabinet searching for God knows what, I came face to face with a stack of sterilized cotton pads, bandages, peroxide, straws and styrofoam cups, and, whoosh, was instantly sucked back three years in time. The medical supplies were just as the nurse had left them for her to use when, for three months, she came daily to look after me following a car accident that left me with a broken neck.
Perhaps it was just a coincidence that I happened to choose that time to look inside that particular cabinet, but I tend to think that it was probably my sub-conscious giving me a little tweak to make sure I don`t get too blasé about the whole thing. It was a little reminder of how lucky I was to come out of that fiasco alive and still walking. Yesterday was three years to the day when I got hit broadside as I made a left turn on my way to work one wintry morning. As smoke escaped from underneath the front hood of my car, firefighters worked quickly to remove the door and get me out. That night, as I lay sedated and immobilized in the hospital`s intensive care unit, my husband came home to an empty house seriously pondering the possibility that I might return a very different person, with a very different future than either of us could ever have imagined.
As I write these words, the memories of that time are flooding back to me. The pain, the fear, the not knowing what was going to happen to me. Then the halo brace with metal pins screwed into my skull, the infections, the re-location of the pins, more pain. It was one of the most difficult periods of my life, coming second only to the death of my mother. But just as my mother`s death eventually became a catalyst for personal growth, the accident and its consequences also taught me some very important life lessons.
From that experience came the realization that the life we live from day to day is a precarious one. One that can be rudely shaken and turned up-side down in a matter of seconds. Between the accident and my mother`s death, I can`t ignore that there is an important lesson there telling us to be very careful not to take the life that we have for granted, and not to assume that things will aways stay the same. Sometimes bad things happen and these can mean very difficult times. Still, I believe that if you are able to try to maintain a positive outlook and hang in there, the difficult moments will pass and things will eventually get better. Unfortunately, it is easy to get caught up in negativity when things get rough and to imagine that life as you know it will never be right again. In my case, I was never far removed from the awareness that I could have lost everything. As a result of that awareness, I was in a pretty good mood most of the time during my halo days. The months that I was immobilized and had to put a temporary stop on my life were a challenge, but I nevertheless counted my lucky stars every day and did everything that I could to keep moving forward in a positive way. Before I knew it, the halo was off and things were on their way to being back to normal.
In hindsight, I am pleased with the way I was able to handle that situation. With the help and support of people who care about me, I made it through to the other side, stronger than I ever was before. It`s a cliché of course, but it is true; what doesn`t kill you does make you stronger. And although these kinds of experiences are not fun, in the end, there is at least a certain payback.
That period in my life will always be with me, and I am happy to receive the cues, however they manifest, to remember to not forget every now and then. Three years have flown by quickly, as time is wont to do, but the memory of those days still lingers fresh in my mind, and I suspect it always will. And that`s a good thing, I think.