I learned an important lesson over the last two years: living through a traumatic experience can bring some life lessons home, even when you don’t think that you need them.
On January 2, 2012, my life was changed forever when I received that knock on the door. As the wife of a police officer, a knock on the door can only mean one thing, and it is never good news. My knock on the door came in the middle of the night, and it was followed by a fast trip across town to a hospital far from home, where I was met by sad police officers, and a husband in a coma. News spread quickly of his accident and his brain injury, and life became layers of chaos.
Life before the injury was chaotic – with three children, full-time jobs for both of us, one as an officer that worked overnights. Life was busy. Up early, home late, life was frantic – and frantic is not a way to live life. It is a way to get through the day. Life that is lived without paying attention has little meaning, and when 10 years go by and you cannot remember attending the events at your children’s school, life is passing by you.
And I didn’t even realize I was missing it.
When I was sitting by Frank’s hospital bed, wondering if he was going to live another day, I remember thinking about life, and how we had arrived at this moment. Why were we here? Why did this happen to us? What do I do now?
Watching the ventilator breathe for him, I often fell into a deep thought, almost like a trance. I am sure part of that was the complete overwhelming nature of the situation, but I think another part was just finding brief moments of peace, and allowing myself to try and relax when I was with him. Even though it was scary, knowing that this great big man may never wake up, may never walk, or talk, when it was just the two of us sitting in that room, I did find moments of peace and clarity.
In the quiet, I would find myself drifting to thoughts of our family – the kids and how school was for them that day, of Frank and wondering if he was missing work and his partners while in a coma. I thought about my friends that I had not seen in months because I was too busy working all of the time. I thought about our children, and how much I missed them right at that moment, and all of the moments that I had spent away from them working, or the moments that I was just not present, even when we were in the same room together.
In those quiet moments, I began to realize that life was passing me by – that although I talked about being “super Mom” and getting more done in a 15-hour day than anyone else could get done in a week, I was missing something every important. I was getting a lot of things done, but not doing anything important. Did my husband care if I finished 10 conference calls back to back in one day? Did my children care about the 200 emails that I read and answered in one day, or about the power point I created and sent off at a moment’s notice?
No, none of those things were important to them.
What they cared about was whether or not I finally said yes to an extra book at bedtime, an extra snuggle on the couch, a movie or a date night where it was just us. When did my life become about what I could get done, and not about who I was with?
This realization, as I rested my head on my husband’s chest, feeling the ventilator breathe for him, came over me like a wave. Where have I been lately? I have missed so much, and I may have missed my chance to have more moments with Frank. Living my life like there would always be another time, another moment, without caring about living in the present had lead me to that moment – a moment that was scary, and it filled me with sadness.
Silent tears on my husband’s chest led me to a realization – life is not meant to be lived as a spectator. Watching life whiz past you as you run with the pack at the fastest pace possible may get you ahead in the race, but what did you notice on the journey?
Did you see the beautiful sunset last week at the beach when you were on that quick phone call?
Did you notice the children laughing and giggling about the word “poop” in the story that you did not read to them last night?
Did you feel warm and secure while falling asleep at night snuggled up against pillows on another work trip while your family was at home?
The time had come for a change, and if I was given more time, I would relish in those moments that you can never get back – the concerts, the art shows at school, mowing the lawn, exploring the park, helping others and yes, just one more story at bedtime.
Life is a precious gift, and I almost missed it by not being present in my own life. We may have lived through a tremendous, heart breaking injury, but within that trauma we were given a gift.
The gift of living in the present. And knowing that if there isn’t a tomorrow, we were blessed to focus on the moments of today.
Have you had a moment where a life lesson presented itself at an unexpected time? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.