For a few days or maybe weeks, (I honestly cannot say how long) I’ve noticed a change. There is a tiny seedling of something lovely, taking root in my heart. I think it may be an inexhaustible Hope.
I must admit that Hope has been an unpredictable force in Patricks’ recovery; seemingly forever fleeting, then returning to me. Though we have presented a story to the world, that has purposely chosen to focus more on the positive than the negative, the reality is that we’ve survived an unadulterated TBI hell. It’s been arduous, grueling, painful and gut-wrenching for both of us. And while Hope has at times burned bright to lead the way, it has also during the darkest of times, felt like a candle nearly snuffed out.
I’d never given much thought to Hope before TBI came into my life. Nor did I think about how it differed from Faith. But TBI has taught me the difference between them, and why we need both to endure. The truth is that Hope has never abandoned me. I on the other hand, at times, left it behind in a mad pursuit of worry and fear.
I have found my Hope to be seated within my own will. I can choose to embrace it, and in return it makes me strong, bold, courageous and able to suffer and endure tremendous adversity. I can also choose to forsake it, snuffing out the candle completely, and leaving myself in the blackest of rooms. But it’s important for me to always remember, that when my Hope dies, so goes with whatever I hoped would come true.
Hope proceeds from tribulation, and countless times it has given me what I needed to push on. But TBI is also relentless, and has presented us with peaks of triumph, only to be followed by valleys of darkness. Every single time we’ve fallen into a valley, I have felt my freedom of will staring back at me, begging me to choose whether to cradle that now small candle-light and carry it with me, or to snuff it out. Thank God, Patrick and I have never lost the light of Hope.
Faith, on the other hand, I have found to be seated in my understanding. As a Christian, this means that from the moment of Patrick’s accident up until today, I have rested in the understanding (as best I could), that there was a plan for me and for Patrick unfolding before us. I rested in the understanding that we were co-writers of this plan with God; that our will and how we chose to engage each day and each other matters. That doesn’t mean it has been easy, but it has provided me with a place as I said, to rest.
My Faith has also given me a directive to Love. And so from the moment I found myself in Patrick’s hospital room, my Faith taught me what to do and how to do it. I had no idea how to be a caregiver, or a TBI advocate, or a girlfriend to someone with a brain injury. But I knew what I believed in, what I was placing my faith in, and that was something much greater than myself. I knew I believed in Love and that it was rooted in self-sacrifice for the greater good. My faith taught me why, and Love taught me how.
So where Hope has waxed and waned, Faith though sometimes shaken, has stood firmly rooted like an oak tree. And now, as we begin our 3rd summer since Patrick’s accident, I am finally starting to feel a calm wash over our life. Patrick and I have have turned a corner in his recovery. It’s not just the yoga, volunteering, his walking unassisted, the reduction in his meds, his stabilized emotions, or even how well we are getting along. It goes deeper. We are climbing to a peak now, which only leads to a valley of abundant sunshine. I know we are on our way, because I can see it happening. I know there will be sunshine, because we are bringing it with us.
Now, I’m not saying TBI is over. TBI never ends. And I’m not saying life is easy for us. What I am saying is that it is getting easier, and his recovery is snowballing in the right direction, and picking up momentum and speed. It doesn’t feel like we are trudging through mud anymore. Relief feels close.
This morning, as I stood outside of the yoga studio where Patrick has been practicing for 2 months, I recognized as I said, something settle over me. I was afraid to give voice to the bright feeling, but I left his session anyway to stand in the sunshine. Then, I vocalized the words out loud “All is well.” And I recognized in that moment the stirrings of an inexhaustible, undying, steady flame of Hope. It’s one that I’ve built over so many years, of having to push on even when I saw no hope at all, or was too exhausted to see anything in the first place.
Even so, I’m still afraid. In fact, if I let it, the fear that some catastrophe was around the corner to wreck our lives again, would eat me alive. But I won’t let fear have that satisfaction.
To everyone who has helped us get this far, who has supported us, cheered us on, and wrapped us up in love, I just want to say thank you. When my Faith was shaken, and my Hope waning, it was all of you that kept my gaze fixed ever-upward.
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