For those who are interested here is the article recently published here in Australian Christian Woman Magazine…
Grace in the Unexpected by Me
The unexpected comes in exactly that way … unexpectedly, without warning. All of a sudden the whole world changes and a single point of impact sets off a chain of events that alters the whole course of your life…
A motor vehicle accident did that in our family.
In June of 1998 my mother Wendy and a work colleague were returning from a meeting some distance away from their small New Zealand rural community.
As they drove the familiar road home chatting about the events of the meeting, they were struck head on by an oncoming car whose driver had fallen asleep at the wheel crossing the centre line of the otherwise clear road. The impact of the accident was so great as to spin their tiny work car 180º and force it into an embankment killing the driver, Mum’s friend, instantly and leaving Mum unconscious and bleeding from multiple wounds to her head and her legs.
In the melee that followed the accident, the air ambulance was called to lift Mum to the nearest hospital and the process of identifying her and determining her injuries began (unbelievably she was unrecognisable even to the ambulance driver, a family friend!).
It was not until 4 ½ hours after the accident that the police delivered the fateful knock to our brother’s front door. He was asked to come to the hospital to identify her – (still no one was sure if it was her) and at his positive identification the calls were made to friends and family to bring them up to date with the days shattering events. One by one we came to intensive care unit to keep vigil.
The list of injuries was extensive, but the one of most concern was a blow to her head, a major knock where the impact of the crash, in spite of her seatbelt, had thrust her head against the left pillar of the car windscreen and then flung her back against her seat.
As the days passed it became clear that the injuries were not of sufficient severity to be fatal and we started to breathe a little easier, and after lying unconscious for some 10 days we finally started to see little signs of life – a squeeze of the hand, a flutter of the eyelids, there was great rejoicing as each little thing became a milestone on the road to her recovery. It was truly a bizarre state of affairs to find ourselves excited about solid food … about getting Mum out of bed and into a recliner chair… But every step felt a little more like we were getting back to normal!
Even in the midst of the tragedy there were some hysterically funny moments – Mum’s regaining the power of speech was a slow process and having the right words find their way from her memory out into the conversation didn’t always go according to conventional English!! Even now we occasionally pull out the tapes we made at that time and have a jolly good chuckle to remind ourselves of how far she has actually come!
Because a number of factors had made Mum’s accident a fairly high profile one nationally; we received many letters of support, gifts of flowers and meals; we were remembered in the prayers offered by total strangers from one end of the country to the other. It was all totally unbelievable sometimes but was always very welcome. Even as we began making the day to day arrangements for the support which was going to be required when Mum came home, everyone seemed to have heard her story and went out of their way to be of some kind of assistance. It was extraordinary the lengths to which ordinary people would go to give of their time and support. It’s true that a crisis brings out the best in people!
On that landmark day when we finally left the corridors of the hospital, the Mum who came with us was significantly different from than the one that had left for work that morning 3 months earlier. Her memories from childhood were as vivid as yesterday – her memory of her recent years, of her university degree hard won, of weddings, of new friends were basically gone. Her speech still a little stilted and her vision distorted, she was very wobbly on her feet and her confidence in herself was shattered.
Gradually in the 6 years that have passed, the leaps and bounds of her recovery have slowed to the point we are at today. We are thrilled that Mum is fully independent, living alone, with her precious Amber (a thoroughly spoilt Fox Terrier…). She appears for all the world as though nothing had changed. But they have changed of course. Mum is no longer able to work, the emotional strain and concentration required would make it impossible for her to cope. Her altered vision makes driving beyond her bounds as well, but she keeps an immaculate house and garden (her pride and joy), she entertains her friends, her children and grandchildren. She walks into town to run errands and drink the occasional cappuccino at one of the many local cafes. She is, in fact, a triumph of modern medicine and the restorative power of God!
In all of the positive results we still face that as a family we have changed as well; we found ourselves dealing with a kind of grief we hadn’t really expected. We grieve the mother our kids will never know. Instead Gran will always be for them someone kind of kooky – a bit sensitive – a bit silly sometimes! We grieve the loss of our shoulder to cry on – our port in a storm; nowadays we are her shoulder, we are her port and if I am really honest, our selfish youthful plans didn’t include having an even slightly dependent parent before we had left our thirties.
There are times I miss having a conversation about things of importance – not just day to day routines and activities. I miss being known – my achievements, my tastes, my cares often seem forgotten. I miss the carefully thought out gifts, I miss feeling comfortable about introducing her to people – instead I worry about how strangers may react to her and how she will react to them when they realise she is a little different….
But, the more I contemplate the things that I grieve and the things that I miss, the more I am convicted of my own selfishness. I am challenged by the Scriptures in Romans where it reads, “We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Let each of us please his neighbour for his good, leading to edification. 3 For even Christ did not please Himself” Rom 15:1-4 New King James Version.
Ouch, I am reminded once again that it isn’t actually all about me…
As a family, have so much to be thankful for! First and foremost of course, is that we could have lost her altogether, she is still with us, still loves us, still cooks the family favourites, and she laughs even harder these days at our tragic jokes!
Our children love her and respond wholeheartedly to her childlike ways and her joy in simple things, and we, her adult children are learning to appreciate life’s simplicities through her as well!
Primarily, in all of this, Mum has taught me about loving God above all else, about trusting him when all seems so hopelessly difficult. She has drawn much comfort and support from the teachings of Joyce Meyer, Benny Hinn and Brian Houston, her close friends in the sleepless early hours of the morning. The encouragement their teaching has brought has made her strong in the Lord and has even meant healing for some of her disabilities.
Without her even being aware, I have been inspired by her example to keep ploughing through times when all hell has broken loose for me. She may not be able to be a shoulder to cry on but if she can pull through 6 years of rebuilding her own life, I can live with 6 weeks of stress or 6 months of rebuilding areas of my world that turned out different that I expected. Because in the face of her trials, she can draw from the power and grace of God so can I. I can keep stepping out, one foot in front of the other until the finish line is closer than the starting blocks.
It will probably take Mum half an hour to read this article, stopping every time her dodgy eyes have to rest and refocus, but when she gets to the end I hope she will know that even now, she is still a woman of great influence in my world. She is still precious in God’s eyes, still the woman he created, a pearl of great price, loving, generous, funny and a woman of destiny; and if the next generation of our family are half the person she is even now, they will be extraordinary!