I am laying in my bed in an empty house. These rooms are quiet, and the darkness of everything around me would indicate that I should be sleeping, but my mind and heart are exhilarated. I am alive. I am potent. I feel concentrated. My senses are aflame.
For months, I’ve wanted to write about everything that I’ve experienced as a result of Patrick’s traumatic brain injury. But of course, I was too busy living it to write about it. Tonight, I want to share where I’m at right now, and maybe some day soon I can tell the amazing story of the past 3 months.
I struggle with an ability to comprehend all that has happened in such a short time. It’s been 88 days. That’s 2,112 hours. 126,720 minutes. 7, 603, 2000 seconds of my life that I’ve spent deep within his recovery. I feel as if I’ve died, been born, grown up, aged and died at least 5x in that short time span. Before Patrick’s accident, I was just going about my life, living day in and day out, and for the most part only expressing gratitude when all was well. When I found myself in the wake of the atom bomb of his TBI, I hung my head in envy of the clumsy, sleepy, somewhat dissatisfied people who were complaining about mundane things like rush-hour traffic, their favorite show being cancelled on TV, a spouse forgetting to do the dishes or leaving their hair in the drain. After all, I used to be a sleepy, somewhat dissatisfied person myself. I remember thinking that I never knew how truly fantastic it all was, until I had something devastating consuming my life. One thing was for certain, I would’ve given anything to go back to the way it was before.
But that was not an option for me. Instead, my life became a super-charged, emotional roller coaster ride of love and pain, where every moment of the day my heart was ready to burst out of my chest. At night I’d collapse with exhaustion, but never really rest. My body was hijacked by my emotions. My thoughts were not altogether rational. My mind reached a point where it became too fuzzy to process information, so I rode purely on what my heart and body could produce to keep me moving forward.
I lived in hospitals. I lost track of what day it was, and whether it was nighttime or daytime. There came a point early on when I thought I couldn’t survive it; that I wasn’t strong enough to handle it. But then somehow, something powerful took over, and I received access to this volcano of hot, molten passion inside me. It erupted and began to flow forth, covering every thought of fear and weakness and worry with a cool, rock-solid resolve.
As I gave myself over to the all-consuming task of care taking, something wonderful and totally unexpected took place. I became a part of a miracle. I was given new eyes to witness the world with, and as a result, everything felt clean and renewed. To think I’d lost someone I loved, and then to slowly watch him come back to life, was like watching the genesis of a universe every day. I saw supernovas and galaxies when Patrick opened his eyes, the sun and moon recreated when he first laughed, rivers running freely when he recognized me, and rock and stone crushed into beautiful beaches when he first said my name. And as his speech continues to improve, and his language returns, that world keeps growing in detail and splendor. His brain injury is like a distorted filter that this world operates through, and his words are also filtered by that injury. Yet every time we speak, that filter disappears a bit more than the day before, and Patrick comes more into focus.
And this is how it was, week in and month out, as I was changed by it all without every really noticing. Until finally tonight, I found myself in bed giddy and restless about Patrick’s return home tomorrow. Unable to sleep, I suddenly realized that I don’t envy the sleepy, somewhat dissatisfied people anymore. In fact, I realized that I didn’t ever want to return to that world I once lived…where beauty is too often missed, and trappings of ingratitude are all too prevalent. Living, being a human being, is about experiencing life in its most potent form, which mean that the good and bad, and bitter and sweet are ours to savor. I see now that the suffering I’ve witnessed and experienced has been matched these past months by the agonizing, haunting, transformative beauty of it all. I am better for it, and dare I say Patrick will be too. The energy of living, this life-force around us, has been crushed into a concentrate.. and injected into my heart. I’m not just breathing. I am living.
Tonight, on the evening before he boards a plane home to me, he laid in the dark of his hospital room, and I laid in the dark of my childhood bedroom, (the same dark room that two 16-year-olds once filled with talks of childish dreams and sexual tension). After a long silence, he opened his mouth and said…”I want you to know, that I’m alive because of you.”
All the creatures of our new world, every planet and thicket echoed his words. I clutched the phone to my chest, crying, and realized that there was only one thing left to say. So I put the phone back to my mouth and spoke.
“No, my love. I’m alive because of you.”