Life in the Face of Death

There are people who we meet in a particular season and then they are gone. And then there are people who are forever friends. You know the ones. The ones that no matter what road you journey down, somehow it just seems that your life twists and turns and reconnects. I have a friend like that. I met her when I was 24 and she was 15. We are 9 years apart, and our stories are so different, but the weaving and winding and journey, well, they are life. I watched her fall in love for the first time. She was one of the first people to babysit my first-born. I cheered her on as she graduated from high school and went off to college. I celebrated with her at her wedding. When you are lifetime friends, you share the blessings but that also means you share the hard days. The really, really hard days.

November 5, 2008. I woke up with excitement in my heart. The night before, I watched my country elect the first African-American President of the United States. Not only did I see the need for and desire a change in our national rhythm, I was on the precipice of breakthrough in my own life and it just felt right and good. I went to work at the C.O.R.E. office at Gloria Dei that morning after dropping Ally off at pre-school. As I drove up Egret Bay Blvd. just before 9am, I had no idea how my world was about to shift courtesy of the approaching intersection.

Minutes after I passed the new overpass intersection at El Camino Real and NASA Rd 1, an accident occurred. I did not know it at the time, but by all accounts I missed witnessing the event by only seconds. I worked in the office for the next few hours, picked up my kiddos at school and prepared for the evening. On Wednesdays, we had our small group in my living room and I always looked forward to dessert and good conversation. I received a call that afternoon that a car accident had taken place. The details were unclear. The outcome was unknown. One of our group members would be at Memorial Hermann that night, so two of us left for the hospital while the others began praying in earnest.

As we drove to the trauma hospital, it seemed unreal. Could all that we were hearing from the EMS reports and updates be true? How can a healthy 23 year-old be driving to work one minute and on life support the next? I can honestly say that the next few weeks were a blur. It seemed like yesterday that this young man was breakdancing and playing his trumpet on Easter morning at our youth service. And my sweet friend. There is not one part of her fairytale story of young love that makes sense in the world of brain injury and Neuro ICU and the jaws of life. This is not how the story should go.

In a crash course on the Glasgow Coma scale and Medicare and Nerts, I was thrust into a new world of pain and devastation. But something happened in these desperate hard places. We were a few weeks post accident and I was learning about rehab facilities and meal scheduling and one day I realized I was not holding on for dear life. In the midst of the overwhelming pain of Kristen and Brandon’s journey, my strength-less legs had been given a steroid shot of purpose. When my friend could not stand or breathe or drive or carry weight, I had a job to do.

Ike had propelled me out of myself and joining team Brandon gave me a mission statement. I had a charge. I had a fight. And most importantly, I was not looking at my weaknesses and inefficiencies but rather focusing the strength that I did have to help others. Sure, I had “served” others before, but this was different. It was in this season that I learned that my joy was found in the beautiful messy journey of authentic life. My friends knew my pain. They knew my inadequacies. They knew what I could offer and what I could not. I could be completely me and completely broken and completely enough, all at the same time. This was possible because I knew from first hand experience that there is nothing more authentic than staring death in the face and holding on tight to the ones you love in the process.


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