A few short hours from now will mark the 1 year anniversary marking the moment when my mom called to inform me that my older brother Bernie had been in a car accident. While information would be scarce, I’d soon learn that he had been rushed from the Norfolk General Hospital in Simcoe, to Hamilton General – a move that told me his injuries were significant and possibly life threatening. I’d eventually learn that he had been hit by a distracted driver; T-boned to be precise. The car would roll – several times I’m told – coming to rest on the front lawn of someone who likely just finished dinner. The Jaws-of-Life would be required to extricate him from the car.
In the days that followed I spent much of my time in Hamilton with my family; chatting while we could with Bernie. He was on a lot of pain killers for obvious reasons; so he was in and out of consciousness. Additionally, he soon would be intubated and wouldn’t be able to communicate verbally1. I learned of his injuries, monitored various tubes, and asked numerous questions about the set of machines-o-science2 that were feeding him drugs and other things necessary to repair himself.
Eventually he would have surgery to fix what needed to be fixed. Eventually he would be moved back to Norfolk County Hospital to begin the long and painful process of rehabilitation. We would spend Christmas at the hospital – a fantastic Christmas in fact. Family and friends would visit, helping Bernie (and all of us) get through the seemingly endless minutes and hours of his recovery.
The seemingly endless hours spent horizontally were replaced with some vertical (albeit bedridden) time. The angle of inclination would grow until he was able to sit. A wheel chair soon became his mode of transportation. After some time in rehabilitation, he’d be able to put weight on his left side – testing the reconstructive efforts of the surgeons and his own resolve. Eventually he’d get about with a cane; comparing features of his cane with that of my Granny‘s.
It’s amazing what can happen in a single moment. A dropped cigarette, a text message, or any number of other innocuous things that can completely alter the course of someone’s life.
It’s even more amazing what can happen in one year: a span of time filled with an infinite collection of moments. Some moments filled with pain; some moments filled with so much joy that it’s almost too much to take. In a year since my brother’s accident I’ve seen a lot of amazing things. I’ve been able to travel and teach and do all of the things that I love to do. I’ve seen friends get married and have babies. I’ve known many who have lost loved ones. I’ve seen other friends conquer mountains and raise money for people they’ve never met. I’ve watched students graduate, and I’ve witnessed moments of transformation from not understanding to understanding. And for all of this I am thankful.
But as I sit here and write this I know that the moment that started the past 365 days could have led to a very different outcome. For this reason, and above all else, I am so thankful to be able to say that my entire family is present and accounted for this year.
1 Although we could communicate using ASL, as Bernie had learned it when he was younger. This was a very positive sign that his brain was going to be just fine.
2 I’m a nerd. Sue me.