The Purest Joy

The Purest Joy

Never mind the “road less traveled.”

What about the road you never ever, ever wanted to travel?

But you did. You did because that road was the only road in front of you and there was no turning back. You took that road because any detour would mean abandoning someone close to you — someone who needed you.

Caregiving is that road for many of us. At first the unfamiliar landscape feels impossible to navigate. There are huge boulders blocking the way every few steps. There are hairpin turns that come out of nowhere. There are dead ends that stall your journey to an easier pathway.

But in the middle of all this confusion is the one you love, holding on to your hand.

Here is the caregiver’s strength. Here is what keeps you going.

It’s always easy in hindsight to see what you couldn’t see before, that love is more powerful than anything in its way. You’ll walk through fire, give up food, sleep, and comfort to care for the ones you love, without a thought of any reward. But if you’re fortunate, that reward will come.

On April 13, 2002, Hugh nearly died when a car struck him from behind as he rode his bicycle home from an afternoon workout. Two emergency surgeries in three days left him in a coma sleeping under an ice blanket in the ICU. For days, my twin daughters and I sat by his side wishing, hoping, praying, and willing him to return to us.  The nurses couldn’t rouse him. Tugging his eyelids and thumping his chest got no response. But my daughter’s small voice broke through. “Daddy, it’s Anna. I’m here.” As she held his lifeless hand, he squeezed, and we knew. He was with us; there was hope. In turn, he squeezed each of our hands in recognition, in a valiant effort to reach us.

Our hearts were bursting with joy, a joy unlike any we had ever known before.

Before this experience, I might have considered a well-versed note, a meaningful gift, or a wonderful vacation the joys of my life. After TBI, caregivers know the purest joy of all, as pure as the birth of a child. That joy is a life returned with the squeeze of a hand, the faintest of smiles, or the whisper of a simple word.

After my husband awoke from his coma, there were many difficult days ahead. I found that when I had descended to my lowest point, I could return to the feeling of his hand in mine, telling me he was still with me, and that feeling reminded me that anything can turn around, bad days will become good days, tears will dry, and smiles will return. That indelible memory has reinvigorated my heart and soul again, and again, and again.

Comments (10)

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Yes….that feeling when you lean over his hospital bed post TBI and brain surgery and he draws you close and says “I love you so much” - that is what you hold onto when you are on the rollercoaster of what lies ahead!

IN GOD YOU TRUSTED, It was GOD Whom allowed Your New Found Faith. A Miracle Indeed that makes Others of a similar Situation, even though not the same outcome, thrive to survive..God Bless.

Makes me want to read your book all over again.
What a beautiful post. I understand completely . When my own husband woke up from his 3 week coma and had to re learn everything all over again I felt this " pure joy" watching him walk a few steps or swallow again after 2 months, or the first time he said " hi" all of those moments were a cause for celebration in our family. Thank you again Rosemary for keeping up with your blog. Your book and this blog have been so helpful to me in my everyday challenges. Dawn
I appreciate the little things, the simple pleasures shared, the intense joy with the squeeze of a hand in the hospital "et al" but months down the track what I find most challenging and distressing is the lack of initiation...I have to be the first to say "I love you" to get the reply "I love you, too." I have to be the one who instigates a cuddle to get a response...I grieve that "he doesn't bring me flowers any more".
Beautiful blog. Sometimes, in life, while we are waiting for joy and happiness to come in the form of what we THINK will make us happy, it actually comes in the "purest" form as human connection. Thank you for reminding me to look for those pure moments,the small and often almost invisible signs of joy. Terry
Beautifully written. Marlene Phelps
Thank you Rosemary for writing what it is like for me also, just when I thought nobody could know what it is like and why you stay. My husband is 10 years into recovery or rather discovery. We have been married for 30 years. I dearly loved him before his accident (motorcycle no helmet) and now I truly know what it means to love someone.
Rosemary, thank you for this beautiful essay. It takes me back to nearly ten years ago after my husband sustained a TBI in a hit-and-run. He was never in a coma but he had severe memory loss and required several weeks in a rehab hospital after leaving ICU. The first time he remembered overnight that our friends had been to visit him the evening before, I practically jumped for joy. He still had a long way to go, but his remembering the visit gave me great hope.
Rosemary, you gave me chills. What a beautiful love story.