One of my favorite parts about our Easter Sunday service is singing the Hallelujah chorus. Anyone from the congregation is invited to spontaneously come forward and join the choir for the quintessential finale of Handel’s “Messiah” while the rest of the congregation stands and soaks it in.
This year, one of the 90 something-year-old cornerstone ladies of the church tripped and fell on her way back to the pew. A physical therapist and nurse practitioner from the crowd ran up to assess her while the kids stood still in their tracks and the rest of the held their breath while simultaneously sending their love and prayers.
A few eternal minutes later, the medical professionals helped Mrs. McCune to her feet and the sanctuary filled with the sound of clapping.
Although I wouldn’t wish a fall for anyone, it was rather fitting to experience a microcosm of the death and resurrection story of Easter in our midst.
To me, this is what faith community is about. We commit to showing up with physical and spiritual support when someone falls down. Then we help each other back up with rejoicing .
Every time I look in the mirror I search for what is wrong with me. Do I look tired? Is my hair weird? Do I have any new pimples to pop or hairs to pluck?
I wonder how much my life would change if I use my reflection to look into my own eyes and search for beauty instead of flaws. How would the world change if I turn the loving gaze outward?
“One more tug, Mama.”
I braced her in a headlock against my belly while reaching in between her jaws with enough trust to know I wouldn’t loose a finger. With a washcloth for friction, I yanked with all my might, attempting to persuade her top front tooth to release from the stubborn roots on the right side. I halted before distorting her face, the panic stricken look in her eyes paired with her stop signal hand were enough for me to get the message.
The next day and thousands of little wiggles later, our seven year old flashed her toothless grin.
So often, we get to the next phase through little wiggles rather than a big, passionate tug.
Today was the kind of snow day where people start closing and cancelling things the night before. All of a sudden I went from a day filled with appointments to absolutely nothing on my schedule. Instead of rushing from one doctor to the next, I snuggled and read with our kids. We made art together and shoveled. The do nothing day our kids hoped for had arrived and I got to join in.
In the world we’ve created, everything seems so urgent and essential. Then once in a while, through snow or illness or head injury, the Universe lets me know that what is essential is breathing and hope. Everything else is optional.
Sometimes I feel a bit silly saying happy birthday to my young children over the Facebook platform. They don’t even have accounts and two of them can’t read yet. Is it attention seeking? Am I bragging about my beautiful children and flaunting their amazing qualities? Perhaps.
However, when I read my children their well wishes and see their faces radiate with joy, I am reminded that this act is a gift. It is a connection to of all of the beautiful grown ups in their lives that love them and support them from India, Uruguay, across the street and countless places in between. It is a reminder of the human net that is there to catch them when they trip and fall.
Facebook has its shadow sides but creating moments like these are precious.
Here is a post I shared on Facebook. I thought it was worthy enough to share here too:
I have received a huge gift in the form of a brain injury. Since my fall in May, I have developed a deep understanding of folks with sensory integration disorder/autism. While I want to be in public and participate fully in life, loud noises, movements, strong lights, screens, reading and visual chaos cause sometimes debilitating pain, deep irritation, nausea and anxiety.
When I choose to be out and about for short periods of time, I must also plan for a long nap or quiet space afterward. Using tools such as noise cancelling headphones, prescription sunglasses, a brimmed hat and a weighted compression vest, make life more accessible but do not solve it all.
Simple things like checking Facebook or email have become pleasures I will no longer take for granted (for example, this post took three days and several naps to write).
Meditation, cranial sacral therapy, talk therapy, physical therapy and vision therapy have been a saving grace, teaching my brain to process outside stimuli without the trauma response.
The support of my family, friends, faith community and colleagues also play a key role in a healing journey I could never have imagined.
We all walk this world as a product of our past and current stories in bodies that have their own agenda. Before the gift of brain injury, I chose to judge myself and others based on outward appearance and an arbitrary set of standards for living, healing and interacting. Now I know judgement heals nothing. It is through compassion and acceptance of what is, that transformation occurs.
I share this experience not for pity or attention but in the hope of developing more compassion for ourselves and the people we meet each day.
I’ve been going to an incredible vision therapist for help with my concussion. One thing I’ve learned is that to survive the world these days I need to be geared up with high tech noise canceling headphones, prescription sunglasses and a hat with a good brim. On hard days, I double up the noise canceling headphones and tune out most of the sound that the world has to offer.
At my recent appointment, I had on on my gear including my hat balancing over the double dose of ear protection. The receptionist asked if the lights were too bright. I said yes but I’m used to accommodating to it and I am geared up and prepared.
She said you don’t have to do that here. We can just make it comfortable for you. Then she proceeded to get up and turn off the lights. In the therapy room the windows were covered, the lights turned off and my doctor blocked the strong reflection on a mirror with her hand as we walked by it.
While this isn’t a realistic expectation when going to Target or picking up the kids from school, it sure is nice to have little islands in my day where I don’t have to accommodate for the environment. The environment is accommodated for me. It will be a long time before I take that for granted again.