Friday, March 18, 2011

One year

I was sitting at my desk at work when I got the call.  I think it was around 3 or 4 in the afternoon, Denver time.  It was my dad.

"Emma's been in an accident.  She was hit by a car."

"WHAT?  Is she OK?"  My heart started to race.

"It's very serious.  She's being medevac'ed to Mass. General right now."

I began to cry.  "Is she going to die?"

"I don't know, honey.  It's moment-to-moment.  Everyone's one their way to the hospital.  As soon as I or someone else has any information, we'll let you know.  I love you, sweetheart."

I think I asked how it happened.  I remember some coworkers coming in to comfort me, because I was sobbing.  I remember driving home and thinking, even though I am not remotely religious, "please, God, please.  Don't let her die." 

I remember the next few days being a blur of tears and terror and trying to get news, any news.  My heart feeling like it was breaking not only for my beautiful niece, but also for my brother and sister-in-law, who were holding up remarkably well, considering.

At first, the big question was whether she was going to make it at all.  Then we knew she was going to live, but the question was, how?  Would she ever speak again?  Walk again?  Would she have cognitive function?  Would she be able to live independently?  Would she be the same, or as close to her old self as possible?

Miraculously, the answer to all of these questions was "yes."

It has been a year since that awful day.  And in that year, not only has Emma come back to us, beautiful and funny and strong and sweet, but we have all felt the power of having not only family and close friends, but acquaintances, and sometimes people who weren't even acquaintances, offer up help and support.

While Josh and Lori were spending months with Emma at the hospital in Boston and then at the rehab facility she was in for a few weeks, my parents were up there almost weekly to look after Emma's sisters and provide whatever help they could provide.  I went up for a weekend to do what I could.  Our brother Sam did the same.  Lori's parents and siblings pitched in.  Neighbors organized a food rotation, so every night for weeks and weeks, the family had dinners ready for them.  People who lived in the neighborhood, but whom Josh and Lori had never met or talked to, would stop by to drop off a meal.  Friends sent gas cards to help with the expense of driving back and forth to Boston.  She was on prayer lists all over the country, for every religious denomination.

Josh set up a "care page" on the Mass. General website (he still updates it from time to time) where he and Lori posted updates and pictures.  In the months following the accident, the page was inundated with comments from a far-ranging group of people. 

The comments and expressions of love, support and concern from family and friends was obviously appreciated, but not unexpected. 

What was incredible, what blew everyone away, was the daily visits and messages from people in their town who hadn't met them but had heard about the accident.  Or friends of mine from college, law school, and beyond, who didn't know Emma, but had heard me brag about her and who wanted to send their love.  Friends and bandmates of my brother Sam.  Friends and colleagues of my parents. 

In the year since the accident, 593 different visitors have logged in to the care page, leaving over 2000 messages.  I find that so extraordinary.  It moves me to tears.

The other day Josh wrote an post about how the year has affected him.  Obviously, to say that it's been difficult would be a ridiculous understatement.  But he was sending a message of love, and I'll let him tell it: 
One of the most important things that I have learned is how to love and open one's heart to accept love and kindness, how to be true to one's self as much as possible. Trust me, it is not easy to do in this day and age. People at times, me included, can get filled with thoughts of jealously, bitterness, pettiness, the list could go on and on. With the opening of my heart, talking to friends, family and strangers, I was able to begin this journey of growth. I was able to come to terms with the accident in a better way, accept reality, push away as much as possible the ugliness that can creep into one's life. As I said, not easy but worth it.
Where am I going with all this, not sure. I try to smile more, accept people for who they are, love my wife and kids as much as possible every day.
Amen, brother.

It's such a cliche, but life is so short.  And so fragile. 

So go out and live.  Let go of the bullshit.  See the world.  Try something new and scary.  Have fun.  Be kind.  Take care of yourself and the people you love.  It's the most important thing. 

The only thing.

Emma at the park with us a few weeks ago. 


  1. thank you wendy. it brought me to tears to hear the conversation you had with your dad that day.
    you were supportive and helpful in so many ways.
    one comment; i realize now that one of the reasons josh and i "were holding up remarkable well, considering" is that we were in shock still. we've talked about the day, first few days, week & agreed we cannot even recall some of the moments without digging.
    nothing short of a miracle,
    lori, your-sister-in-law

  2. also, awesome picture of emma! send me a copy, please?

  3. A miracle for sure. And thank goodness for shock, eh? The brain is a remarkable organ -- it knows how to take care of us. Love you xoxo

  4. Awesome post. Thanks for this, Wendy. And I'm so glad that Emma is okay! What a miracle.

  5. Beautiful post. I love how the community rallied. And I especially love that Emma is better!

  6. Suz - Thanks. And we're so glad she's doing well. It's awesome.

    Anne - thank you. The community support was overwhelming and humbling. People can be extraordinarily wonderful.

  7. I cried when I read this earlier today, and just glancing at it now made me tear up again. What an amazing story, and what an amazing smile she has. Thank you for sharing this.

  8. This post is very inspiring. In times of hardships we will definitely meet someone who will help us go through the problems. Thanks for sharing this informative article!