Trauma–an unwanted teacher.
I had an incredible experience yesterday……
Have you ever heard of the Nie Nie dialogues blog? This is an incredible story of a woman who with her husband was in an almost fatal plane crash. 83% of her body was burned, 35% of her husband’s, and the pilot died of complications from the accident. They have four small children and were living in Arizona at the time. After the accident, she was in a coma for three months, while they tried to heal her body. Last year, this blog won the award for ‘most inspirational blog’.
Yesterday, one of my dear friends emailed me the link to the blog and a new video about the blog author:
My New Life
As I watched the video, I about fell off of my chair. Stephanie’s mother speaks for a few moments about her recovery. Her mother was my relief society president when we lived in Provo. I know this family. Suddenly the story is personal. The accident was in August of 2008 but for me, it was literally yesterday.
I cried as I read what I could find about the story, recovery and life today. I cried because of all the pain and heartache and trial that they have experienced and the struggles still to come. She and her husband have complications, discomfort, and disfiguring because of their accident. But they are ALIVE!! They are AWAKE! They can WALK and TALK, LOVE, LEARN, and LIVE!! Their story is incredible and motivating!
We all have times in our lives when tragedy reaches out its cold arm and embraces us. Just a month ago, one of the families in our stake lost their 27 year-old son to a heart attack. Three weeks later, the same family lost their wife and mother to complications of bronchitis. Healthy 27 year-olds don’t have heart attacks and complications of bronchitis? Since when is that fatal? Another of my young friends told me yesterday that in the last 18 months, seven of her friends have passed away…..four from suicide. And in August, last year, another friend’s sister lost her husband, brother in-law, and father in-law in a plane accident.
How do we respond when we or another have such difficult and unexpected experiences become an immediate part of daily life?
When it was our turn, I just wanted to put on a brave face. I didn’t want to be a burden to others. I didn’t want to appear needy. As others offered their services, to clean our house or do our laundry or even just to come and sit with us, I told them we were doing fine. Don’t worry about us. I was told, very clearly one day, “You are denying others the blessings of service and I am not happy about that.”
Slim was one month old. He had perforated his bowel. Infection, stool, and air spread through his abdomen and all over his vital organs. He had emergency surgery. We weren’t sure he would make it through the surgery and so he was blessed in the hospital in an infant’s hospital gown with only us as his parents and our best friends, Vallen and Wendy, just the five of us in that sacred, sterile space.
Everyone wanted to help, but I didn’t know what they could really do. But they knew….someone anonymously paid our rent, someone else paid the utility bill, a friend stocked our fridge with easy to prepare items, another came over and did our laundry, some sent money, some sent letters, some just came by and sat with me and let me cry and held me. Now I know what to do when others whom I love experience tragedy.
It helped their hearts to serve us. It relieved our burdens to be served. Our hearts were knit in unity and love through our experience together. When we experience a trauma together, mine or yours, and we work together for healing, we become one. We must share these things with each other. Trauma is an unexpected teacher, with an unwanted lesson, but with unlimited and soul changing consequences for all participants, if we will let growth and healing take place.