Yesterday was Celebrate Life Day, and this year marks 4 years since my husband’s bicycle accident and subsequent brain injury. The year following his accident, rather than dread the date and the traumatic feelings and emotions that are bound to resurface during anniversaries like this, we decided to take back the day. We dubbed it Celebrate Life Day and have intentionally celebrated life on this day every year since.
I’m back in Boston this year for Celebrate Life Day. The city where the accident took place. Where we spent many weeks and months in survival mode. Trying to make sense of the brain injury and what it meant for our lives moving forward.
I was a little nervous about being back in this city on this particular day. While I love Boston and the deep friendships and many wonderful memories I have here, there are also lingering, traumatic memories from Brandon’s accident that are still painful when I recall them.
But Brandon had to be in Boston for work this week, and we wanted to be together for Celebrate Life Day. So I came along.
Which actually gave us a unique opportunity...to go back to the hospital and to celebrate with and honor the doctors and especially the nurses who worked so hard to save Brandon’s life on this day 4 years ago.
So we picked up a dozen donuts (Not just any donuts, mind you. The best donuts in the world, in my opinion. If you’re ever in Boston, you’ve got to go to Union Square Donuts.), jumped in a taxi and headed to the hospital.
It was startling how familiar the hallways felt - retracing the steps to the Surgical Intensive Care Unit. Steps that were unfamiliar to Brandon because he never made that walk. (He was in a coma when I was taking those steps day after day.)
We reached the 4th floor and outside of the SICU door, I picked up the phone to request access to the unit.
“Can I help you?” the receptionist said on the other side of the line.
“Ummm...my husband was a patient here 4 years ago today, and you guys saved his life. So we brought you donuts.”
I looked back at Brandon and laughed. I hadn’t really thought this part through. But sure enough, she came back on the line and buzzed us in.
We walked back with our box of donuts and shared our story. And they remembered us. And they were thrilled. Brandon’s original admitting nurse was there as was the caseworker who was on the floor during our time there. They were in awe of Brandon’s recovery and happy to hear that he had been promoted at work and that we had married and moved to Denver and that our lives had carried on in such a wonderful fashion.
My heart felt so full and so grateful showing up and giving appreciation to the individuals who saved my husband’s life four years ago. It was rewarding to see them so happy for Brandon’s progress - for our progress. And it was a great reminder for me of how far we’ve come. A reminder that even in the darkest, hardest of times - light will shine on the other side.
Which is a wonderful reminder for us all. That if you’re going through hell, keep on going. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. And this pain you’re in right now - it won’t always be there. It will pass. And sure, it will be replaced by other pains. But that’s the cycle of life - it ebbs and it flows. You never stay stuck in one ebb or one flow (though it can sometimes feel like you’ll always be stuck when you’re in the thick of a particularly difficult ebb). So when you’re down, know that relief is coming. Just take it one day, one tiny step at a time. Surround yourself with a loving community who lifts you up, and ask for help when you need it. And don’t forget to breathe. Because this too shall pass.