I can hardly believe it is August 10th again. The date that forever changed my life.
But it didn't just change my life. It changed many lives. The obvious call-outs...my husband, kids, family. It also changed the lives of the other nine people that were there that day. It changed the life of the boat driver. It changed the life of the paramedics and the helicopter pilot. And who knows who else.
I'm starting to write this a little after 10:00 PM tonight and thinking of what was happening at this exact moment on that infamous day. My version of the Alan Jackson song, "Where Were You When the (er, my) World Stopped Turning". I'm sure I am not getting the details 100% right, but here's how I imagine what was happening from the stories I've been told.
I was in the middle of surgery, surrounded by ten or twenty people in a large operating room. Somewhere in that room, the new swimsuit I bought for that summer was discarded to the side.
Aaron was just arriving at the Springfield hospital, after a long car ride of talking on the phone to our families and close friends and preparing to walk inside to hear an update. He was initially greeted by the Chaplain which was a little scary to say the least. His ability to remain composed and deal with stressful situations is beyond me.
My sister had received the first phone call from Aaron an hour or so before, being told of the news and asked to return back to my parents' house to tell them in person. I had asked Aaron while on the dock not to call my parents as I didn't want them worrying, but of course he made the right decision and called anyway.
My parents had winded down the evening with my kids who were with them for the weekend to see my sister show back up and learn of the news. They would spend the next several hours pacing and praying and crying and attempting to sleep before finally giving up and driving to Springfield in the middle of the night instead of waiting until morning as Aaron suggested (he is always a pragmatist :).
Aaron's side of the family was hearing the news and preparing to go tell his Mom in person the following morning.
My boss at the time had been driving back from a lake trip herself to find out from Aaron what had just happened to me.
My kids were soundly sleeping, after being put to bed with strong faces and clear eyes hiding pain and fear. And my sister would wake up the next morning to take care of my kids and keep things as normal as possible for them in the meantime.
I don't really know what exactly was happening at that lake rental house at the time, but I can only imagine it was also excruciating for them during those hours. Definitely a distant cry from the fun we had as a group 24 hours before. These people - some of whom we met for the first time that weekend - were nothing short of incredible that Saturday evening. I'm sure they were each reflecting on their own vantage point from hours before. A couple of them had jumped in to help rescue me from the water. A couple of them ran to get a call through to 911, thinking on their feet to ensure to radio ahead for a helicopter life flight in our remote location. Several of them literally held me together on the dock and talked to me as I asked questions and stared at that little piece of blue sky and puffy clouds. And many of them helped talk me through those moments of utter disbelief and speculation about what was going to happen to me.
I haven't ever really talked about the boat driver. But I want to share publicly that I 100% forgive him for what happened that day. It was an accident, pure and simple. He was and is a good friend of mine and is honestly one of the most responsible boat drivers on the planet. And I'm not exaggerating when I say that. As you can imagine in a situation like this, there is no script on how to act or what to do. And there were some times that were challenging for all of us on the journey to healing as we each tried to navigate the best way to handle a very unique and unfortunate situation. There was a period when it was best to just take some time to heal without having to navigate all that complexity. I have had the opportunity to re-connect with his wife (a great friend of mine from college) multiple times over the last year and get our kids together for a fun night at the park (it took them about 30 seconds to get re-acquainted). And he and I went to lunch with just the two of us the other day and it was a great opportunity to connect and tell the other person what we needed to say. It felt great to look him in the eyes and reassure him that he has my complete forgiveness and my sincere hope that he has also healed from the accident.
So a few lessons I extract from these experiences, these memories, these reflections...
- Bad things do happen to good people, as cliche as that might sound. Things can happen no matter how much you don't think they can or don't think they will. There is a plan bigger than us.
- Forgiveness is essential in life. If you're holding on to something, let it go.
- We are not in this thing called life alone. My blog has mainly been about my journey and that of my immediate family. However, I recognize that many others have had a parallel journey to mine. Frankly, all ten of us there that weekend were victims of this extreme freak accident. I know some of them have had to endure nightmares and sadness and the coulda/woulda/shoulda's. But in all things, time heals all types of wounds both on the outside and inside. It was great to see the boat driver in person doing so well at our lunch the other day. Just like my progress helps those around me, seeing others not letting this event in life get the best of them helps me too.
- There are dots that reveal themselves that you can connect later in life. For some reason a very benign everyday event was emblazoned in my mind that is interesting to connect as a dot now. I distinctly remember 10+ years ago sitting in my friend's vehicle outside of my plaza condo (single gal living :). She told me her husband had always wanted a boat and they intended to get one. I remember thinking how cool that was. I had no idea how that conversation would be related to a huge event in our lives. Other dots... I also think of the irony in the post-college wedding circuit. I was a bridesmaid in the wedding of that same couple - the friends who owned the boat - around the same time I was a bridesmaid in the wedding that featured my later-to-become Orthopedic Surgeon. This was in the always a bridesmaid/never the bride era for me and now it's making me think of all of those characters in those multiple wedding parties! :)
- Parenting is a lifetime commitment. I physically left the house 20 years ago but my parents' heartstrings travel with me wherever I go. They feel my pain. They feel my joy. They have to endure whatever happens to me and get to relish in whatever happens to me. This is what we sign up for when we take the best ride life has to offer. It's that same love for my own children that willed me out from under that boat as I've said many times before.
- True character is revealed in the hardest of situations. From the first moments that day to two years later, I've had the privilege to see some beautiful true colors.
- Family, love and true friendship can endure all things.
I know this update was pretty deep as anniversaries of any event bring out our deeper feelings. With that said, I feel compelled to leave you with a few high notes!
- We were in Colorado all last week with Aaron's family which was a fabulous trip. I actively participated in everything we did, including alpine sliding, a little trail walking/hiking and horseback riding. I did have a funny moment riding the ski lift up the mountain wondering what would happen if my leg would fall off. Thank goodness it stayed firmly in place! I got a massage on vacation and the massage therapist told me he had heard about me from his friend who ran the ski lift. His friend had asked me (seeing my leg) if I needed them to stop the lift to give me time to get off. In true "I can do this/stubborn" fashion, I said no and hopped off as quickly as I could. He said I got off faster than most regular people. That made my day and cracked me up I was becoming famous as the "girl with the prosthetic leg" around Winter Park.
- I was fortunate to get to attend an executive women's conference in LA a couple of weeks ago. The theme of the conference was all about disruption as that is the name of the game in almost every business today. I started to think of how each of us learns to deal with disruption in one way or another and how that can be applied in other areas of our lives. Dealing with disruption is a new-world skill my friends. I like to think I now have my MBA in that - ha!
- To add on to my ongoing list of funny incidents, I had an interesting one at work a few weeks ago. When I got out of my car in the morning, I noticed my foot was coming loose. I made it to my office and thankfully I sit next to a group of engineers who promptly brought me every size of allen wrench ever made. I was thinking this is a whole new meaning to "having a screw loose".
- Like many of you, this is back to school season in our house. My little guy will be a big 1st grader come Wednesday. He is super excited and has been wearing his new school shoes in the house with great anticipation. It's the little things, right? (is this also a good time to reveal my dorkiness slash crazy memory that I can recall what my school shoes looked like almost every year of grade school?? :)
- I am raising a fearless daughter. While zipping super fast down the mountain on that alpine slide, she yelled, "Best. Day. Everrrrrr!!!" the first time and on the second ride as we were going very fast, I told her to tell me if she wanted me to slow down. She simply screamed, "Never Better!". And by the way, the definition of fearlessness isn't the absence of fear, but on the contrary, the ability to face it.
Good night, friends. I'm so incredibly grateful to be here to write this entry two years later...