If you had told me at the beginning of 2012 that I’d end the year standing on a bar, crying, and proclaiming miracles to exist, I’d have insisted it would take more than half a glass of wine to get me up there. Yet last week (and very much sober) TC and I shared that very moment with a room full of the most incredible people. The well of tears I work so hard to contain most days spilled over as I looked down at each of the faces who had come to support us: old friends, new friends, family, and strangers. It was the last scene from It’s A Wonderful Life, except that it was real. And it was my life. There have been a handful of heart stopping, powerful moments during the last year and this was most definitely one of them.
How is it possible that we live in a world that juxtaposes such hideous acts of hate alongside examples of awe inspiring love and goodness? How can we make sense of these competing dynamics, especially as they relate to our own lives? I know many people are asking this same question as we all struggle to process the senseless murders in Newtown. This is the question I meditate on every single day.
When I look at my husband, who only four months ago was a strong and handsome man with a promising career, a sharp wit, and unlimited capabilities, I see a living example of these diametric forces. As I examine the deep scars on his head and torso, all I can think of is pain and the permanence of this event on the rest of our lives. As I instruct him to wipe off food from the side of his face he cannot feel, I feel a knot of ugliness in my belly. And as I watch him struggle to dress himself, get frustrated with his buttons, or start slurring because of fatigue, I wonder if there will ever be a time in my life again when he will be able to take care of me. Those are my reminders of the hate that exists in this world. It is the knowledge that three young men did this to us intentionally, coupled with disgust at my own moments of negativity and doubt.
But then there is the good. And for our family, 2012 has been filled with more goodness than I ever believed could exist. Underneath our Christmas tree sits a heavy wrapped box. It’s labeled “To: TC. Love, The World.” Tomorrow morning TC will open this box and discover hundreds of handwritten notes, letters, messages, and prayers that were sent to him in the days following his attack. They were sent from all over the country, from churches of every denomination, and from people we’d never imagined would know our names. I’ll never in my lifetime be able to thank all the people who have reached out to us in one way or another to show their support. The kindness, the compassion, and the genuine concern overwhelm me to the point of speechlessness. I ask myself how I could ever doubt the power of goodness or consider surrendering this battle when I know that TC, Jack, and I have been the recipients of such massive blessings. And while it is easy to look at TC and be reminded that we live in a tough world, the most essential reminder I can give myself is that he is still ALIVE. More than that, he is thriving – defying what we all thought was medically possible. Even though I remain cautious and guarded at times, the miracles we have received this year have more than convinced me to ditch the notion of impossibility. That word “impossible” places unnecessary limitations in life. It breeds sadness and disappointment. And most importantly, it extinguishes faith.
Keeping faith throughout this experience has been the bravest and most challenging task of all. Faith requires the demonstration of immense vulnerability and courage. And as I’ve found, maintaining faith is far more difficult than entertaining doubt or fear because faith involves opening yourself to a million possibilities and trusting that there is happiness in each outcome. Faith is an active mindset and one that I have admittedly abandoned at various moments in the process. But it always returns.
It returns when I receive a kind and unexpected message from an old friend. It returns when I read a Christmas card from a family who has never met us. It returns when I learn that a homeless man I frequently pass on the street has made a donation to our family. It returns when I feel the strength and power of your collective prayers as we approach the next hurdle in TC’s recovery. My faith is derived from all of you and what you have made abundantly clear over the past four months: that good is deeply entrenched in our world and that there are truly no boundaries for the kindness and love of which we are capable.