I feel like turning forty was like looking into a big funny mirror at a carnival. All of the things I wanted to be were an illusion and what I really was was contorted into an image of someone I hardly knew. The fact is that when I turned forty I was disappointed in myself. I’m pretty aware of who I was created to be, and quite honestly on most days I fall so very short. I have every silly excuse for why this has occurred but the reality is that they are just justifications for why I don’t want to put in the hard work for being a better version of myself.
I started 2017 committing to myself that I was going to clean things up. My New Years Resolution was to donate a bag of household items a week. (So far I’ve kept it up.) I wanted to loose weight, travel, continue developing leaders in my business, and spend as much time with my family as I could because the kids are growing up way too quickly. I still wanted to be a sports broadcaster, even though that shipped sailed 20+ years ago (pipe dream)! I never really thought about this year beginning with the possibility that by years end someone I love dearly may not be with me. We had that last year, so I should have been aware, but I wasn’t.
For most of my life I have known people that struggled with things. Depression, anxiety, ADD etc have afflicted some family and friends, but never me (well not clinically, just normal girl stuff). I’ve seen posts on Facebook and other social media about mental illness and how just because you don’t see an injury or illness it is still real. Truthfully I was completely sympathetic to this but because I never FELT those things in my brain I could never completely wrap my mind around the severity or the complexity of them.
Let’s back up a bit. I believe that things happen for a reason. If you know me at all then I would hope that you know that I’m a Christian. I am certain that God’s plan is always greater than my own. I don’t have, by my estimation, an amazing salvation story. There were never any fireworks or great ah ha moments that I can communicate that brought me to my knees and ultimately to God. I have always known that he was there. He was in my heart and although I have screwed up more times than I could ever count, his grace and love have always been resoundingly felt in my life.
That is an important part of my story. Although I have always known Our Lord was with me, I’m pretty certain he has not always been sure if I was with him. I get things done and I’m always on the go, so when I have time for him, I’ll let him know because I know he’s always there. HA! As I stated before my actions and my deeds are not always reflective of my heart and who I was created to be. I think at the beginning of this year HE needed to call me back. THAT HE DID. In a big way.
In February, my husband of 18 ½ years gave me a trip for my fortieth. We were going to go on a 1 week vacation. You can count on one hand how many full weeks we have vacationed alone together in all of our years of being together so this was uber special. Doing nothing but reading, having a few cocktails, him smoking a cigar or two, basking in the sun and eating delicious food was how it all began and it was just what we needed! I even thanked God for the beauty of being in love with him after all of these years.
After having an amazing Wednesday morning full of sun and fun we were going to go watch the sun set and have dinner. An appetizer and drink later we began walking towards our favorite little spot. Holding hands, laughing, and thoroughly enjoying the many blessings that we were experiencing we were grossly unaware of what was going to happen within moments. Aren’t we all, always? We stopped on a street corner to observe the abundant beauty that was before us. We attempted to capture this image in a picture, but it didn’t do it justice. Then, like any mature adults (HA), we snapped a selfie, cause that’s what you do. We grabbed hands right after that sweet, self-absorbed moment, and took a few steps. (I can’t tell you how many times since then I’ve wondered if we had just walked back in the direction we came if things would have looked differently.) I looked back to say something (probably sweet- doubtful-but it makes for a good story) to him and that’s when our lives changed. Forever.
Let’s stop right there for a moment. How many times have you been told that in a blink of an eye your life can change? I have countless times. I’m quite certain that I didn’t believe it. I’m not even positive that I was capable of it. I would refer back to what I was saying about my lack of TRUE understanding for mental illness, unless it happens to you, it’s really hard to fully grasp the affliction that it establishes in ones life.
At this very spot a gun wielding man approached my husband and I. Jon saw him before I did. (I joke that it’s because I was so in love and consumed with him but really it’s because I’m a dingle head that lacks spatial awareness and certainly self-awareness.) He wanted Jon’s watch and as it turns out he was willing to get it at all costs. After brokenly demanding it, I watched as this man shot my husband through both legs. He was brave. I crumbled.
I saw smoke and blood. It’s an image that I pray away, but doubt it will ever leave. I watched as my husband controlled the situation, even after being shot through and through in both legs. I, however, lost all conscious command of my body and mouth. All I visibly saw was blood, but what I was seeing in my head was a life without him. I literally wondered if it was a bad dream. My kid’s faces were flashing through my mind like playing cards. It was as if so much was happening, but time was also frozen. In these moment’s I even managed to send out a text for help to my sister (in a different country mind you), that I can’t even recall sending. (I will forever regret the anguish I caused her.)
My terrified screaming drew people to us. (You know how in your dreams when something terrible happens and you can’t scream? Yeah, well I proved that theory false.) A nurse from Vancouver, an angel named Audrey and so many other people gave of themselves to help us in our desperate time of need. With no help from me, they were able to get Jon stabilized and transported to the hospital. I was sitting in the front of the ambulance, sobbing, as my poor husband was consoling me from the gurney in the back telling me he was going to be ok. This thought pains me to no end. I didn’t believe him. (I was probably not trusting God at that point either.) We didn’t clinically KNOW that he was alright until after he was taken to surgery and out, but he was! Praise God!!! Yes and no, and yes again.
The miracle of this whole story is that a bullet passed through both of my husband’s legs. In and out. In and out again. Not a bone, artery or nerve were touched by this warm and spinning bullet. One of the exit wounds missed his popliteal artery by a hair, yet a few days later he walked out of the hospital on his own accord! Bleeding and wounded, but walking nonetheless. Still brave, still worrying about me, still my knight in shining armor. Praise God again. Yes and no, and yes again.
God needed to call me back, actually probably us back (but I’m not going to speak for him right now). I’m not here to tell you that God made this broken man shoot my husband. I’m not going to try to explain why bad things happen to good people. I’m also not going to blame God or complain that life just isn’t fair, because in this horrible trauma I have found abundant blessings. The obvious is that Jon is ok, but the scars it left, although unseen, will most likely always be here.
I haven’t slept a full night in six weeks. I see images of blood and sometimes can barely look at Jon’s face without tears filling my eyes instantly, and without thought. I had no physical wounds but inside my head and heart I’m hurting, but I’m also healing. I feel certain that I needed to feel and understand what so many people in my life suffer from…issues that can’t be seen but only felt. In the last few weeks my heart has broken several times over for things that I’ve dismissed in my life because I just didn’t understand. I feel blessed that I can understand these people that I love now on a much more intimate level!
We experienced, first hand, that out of complete brokenness, beautiful people shine. I am here to tell you for certain that in your greatest hour of pain you can also feel rich blessings. (To be honest it’s like your brain is playing tricks on you sometimes.) I could give you countless scenarios of people that we barely knew and/or that will be part of our life forever (GOD WILLING) that have sat with us in the hospital (our angel Paola), flown to help us (a girl always needs her Daddy), prayed for us, drove to visit, stopped by or called, shared with us their personal trauma, or taken time to reach out in numerous ways. People are so beautifully made. I think I needed to be reminded of that.
When people say to me “God is so good” because he spared my husband’s life, HE is… but he would have been that same good God had he taken him as well. (Even though that very thought makes me want to get sick.) I feel incredibly blessed, but I’m also profoundly hurting from the images in my head. Had the situation turned out worse I probably would have wished that I saw what I saw and not what I was feeling then. Does that make sense? God can be good, but that doesn’t mean that your pain doesn’t exist. They can live simulateously within you. They aren't mutually exclusive.
In my heart, I KNOW, that God needed to call me (us) back. I NEEDED to be brought to my knees, and I needed to be reminded of who HE was. I needed to slow down and be intentional with my time, careful with my mouth, and deliberate with my conduct. I needed to spread blessings to others, instead of keeping them for my small circle.
My intentions for starting 2017 weren’t wrong. Cleaning things up and cleaning them out, getting healthier etc… all good things. The problem with all of those things from where I sit today, is that they were all focused on me. I wanted to do this. I wanted to do that. BLAHHHHHH… I don’t think I ever even considered who or what I could be that would honor Christ and/or the beautiful people he has placed in our lives. I realize today that my life needs to give Him glory, and to serve those around me. Life happens all the time, but it's no excuse for being any less than what I should be.
2017 was going to be the best year of my life. It started off the worst to date (one week later my beloved Grandma passed away), but I still have HOPE. God is faithful ALWAYS. We were all born to be in community with each other. If our trauma can help us relate and reach out to others, to glorify God and to be reminded of his abundant blessings (including each other), then I can’t help but think that that image in the mirror will look less like a contorted illusion and more like the woman (and man) that was created in his own image. I don't wish my husband to get shot again, EVER, but I am going to be grateful for pieces of this trial because perspective and hope have already started to blossom.