Two weeks ago a dear friend and member of this community was severely injured in an accident. He fell from a great height which resulted in serious injuries, most significant being a severely broken spine and torn aorta.
That cataclysmic event, totally unexpected and sudden, instantly changed the trajectory of his life. Now almost certainly a paraplegic, paralyzed from the armpits down, he and his family will have to alter almost every aspect of their lives.
My friend gets that – of course he understands that. And yet loved ones keeping vigil at his hospital bedside report that frequently when conscious he reverts to the necessities of life from before the fall. He needs his laptop so he can check on things at work, pay a bill, reply to an email. It takes persistent pushback to convince him he needs to do none of those things – all are being tended to by others while he does what no one else can do for him – rest, heal, and recover.
Part of that healing and recovering no doubt involves processing grief. There is a life formerly anticipated that now will not be realized. Its loss must be mourned and accepted.And then there will be the challenge of rebuilding – rewriting the anticipated life story with new goals and new dreams and new expectations.
Individually and collectively, every one of us has fallen from a great height in 2020. We talk about reopening society and getting things back to normal, but the reality is there is no going back.
For some of us, COVID-19 has or will rob us of a loved one. For others, it may rob us of our health. Many have lost their sense of safety and security. Too many have lost their compassion.All of us are in different stages of grieving – from denial that we’ve fallen, anger at others who landed differently than we did, bargaining between the risks and the payouts, deeply depressed from the isolation.
The stages of grief are valid, and feeling our feelings is important. We all grieve differently. We deserve grace as we do so. But the question is how much time will we spend spinning our wheels trying to force things to go back to how they were rather than plotting the course for the new realities we face?
My friend has the advantage of being optimistic and faithful, hardworking and dogged. He’s taken licks before and come out on top. One way or another, he’s going to get through this.It helps that many of the best parts of his life are anything but lost. He still has a spouse who loves him, children who adore him. He’s got friends and family who would sacrifice anything for him and are prepared to prove it in the months and years to come.
He has his faith and faith community. He has his memories and lifetime of experiences. He has a life thus far well lived, fully lived. And, God willing, he’s got years more of good living ahead of him.
God willing, so do we. We will never recapture the world we inhabited in 2019, but that doesn’t have to be all bad.
The new world we inhabit can be a slower paced one with more time and energy centered around our home life. More fresh foods as we have time to garden and cook, more sense of community as we share our bounty with our neighbors and barter or swap zucchini for rhubarb.
The new world can have parents more involved in their children’s education, their learning no longer relegated to the brick and mortar schoolhouse with their teachers carrying the full brunt of responsibility.
Parents will partner with the educators, and they’ll stay current on the actions of the school boards, recognizing the impact they have.
The new world can ensure everyone can stay home from work when ill and still provide for their families. The new world can recognize that the health and welfare of one benefits the health and welfare of all.
And hopefully the new world will be full of loved ones supporting one another as we each need time to rest, heal, and recover from the physical, mental, and emotional challenges we face.I’m rooting hard for my friend. If anyone can get through this, it’s him. I’m also rooting hard for the new world. If we work together, we can make it a great one.
Jade Stellmon set sail for a three-hour tour on the Palouse in 2001. She is now happily marooned in Moscow with her spouse and five children.