A double-sided coin with two different and opposing sides adequately describes my heart after receiving the knock on our door that changed our lives forever. On August 13, 2012, our sons Aaron (26) and Steven (22) were involved in a fatal car accident. Our first-born son, Aaron, didn’t survive. Steven, our only other child, barely survived, and he sustained a severe Traumatic Brain Injury.
Since the day of the accident, my heart gravitates between the two worlds of indescribable grief from earthly separation from Aaron and being thrust into navigating the ever-changing turbulent waters of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). No parent ever expects this kind of catastrophic news. It’s that one coin you are given without permission that you want to flip into a wishing well begging for a do-over!
Nothing prepares a parent’s heart for receiving double trauma news; the loss of one child coupled with watching your other child fight for his life. I vividly remember sitting in the hospital, feeling my heart flip-flop between the unbearable ache of earthly loss, all while knowing I couldn’t let the ache consume me. My focus had to be on ensuring that Steven received the best care available for recovery. I could not lose him. The words, “the life you once knew is gone forever” hung over our heads as bright as a blinking neon sign. Nothing would ever be the same. How could it?
Today, almost four years later, my heart remains out of rhythm. How could a Mom’s heart ever beat the same? It can’t and it won’t. In one heartbeat, I’m cheerleader to Steven encouraging him as he continues his journey without his brother, his best friend by his side. With the other erratic beat, I’m committed to ensuring that not one day will pass without speaking Aaron’s name as we share one of our beautiful memories of our first born son—our son who was born at a time when so many hearts needed healing from the loss of my grandfather and my husband’s father six months before Aaron was born. Those same broken hearts that were mended on Aaron’s birthday now need healing from the loss of Aaron…talk about double-sided!
Before the accident, we knew little about TBI. Today it is our second language. Funeral homes on the other side of the coin should be reserved for our parents and those that have lived a full life, not our children. I refuse to use the word cemetery; we go to Aaron’s place where there is a memory stone and a place to leave flowers. Aaron has his place at our dinner table, and a light shines brightly every evening from his bedroom window, representing the light of radiant love that had shown freely from Aaron’s heart each day of his earthly presence. These demonstrations of love for our son don’t represent denial as some may think; they are some of this mom’s many coping mechanisms, acting as Band-Aids for her shattered heart.
This life-changing journey includes lifetime memberships to two very opposite, but somewhat similar clubs. The cost of admission is astronomical, and it comes with a no refund policy. The members consist of others that have loved and lost. They have learned and embraced the role of caregiver. They have sacrificed. They have cried more tears than they knew their body could produce. They have screamed. They have asked, “Why?” more times than can be counted. They have begged God for a miracle and trusted Him each step of their journey.
Above all we have learned to face each day with a new set of eyes, deeply inhaling the newness of all the blessings bestowed upon us. We hug freely, say I love you more often, judge others less, and take the time to offer a word of encouragement to other hurting souls. We all need reminding that we are not navigating through this roller coaster of life alone!
If I could meet you in person and hear your story, I would challenge you to face each day with new eyes; those of a Noticer! I would ask you when was the last time you have noticed; really noticed the kaleidoscope of beauty all around you? I would beg you to change up your morning routine, from rushing off to conquer your to-do list to slowing down. Take a deep breath, be in the moment, and think in advance about how you can make a difference this day, just by adjusting your attitude to reflect thanksgiving for another day.
Trust me, I have replayed every possible “if only” and “what if” in my head; it doesn’t bring Aaron back, or take away Steven’s TBI, but it does make me thank God twice for the blessings in my life and for the brief, but amazing years I had with Aaron. Don’t miss a moment of being in the only moment that you are guaranteed. Make the most of right here and right now!