Every October, I remember. Of course, I remember throughout the year, but when leaves start to turn and there’s a chill in the air, I often find myself having to fight off some fears and steady my heart as my memories turn to two days, two sons, and two events in October of 2012.
Two days: October 25th, 2012 and October 26th, 2012
Two Sons: Josh and Tanner
Two Life Changing Events:
Major Car Accident (Josh- October 25th, 2012)
and Cardiac Arrest (Tanner – October 26th, 2012)
October 25th, 2012. Josh’s car accident in South Carolina.
Josh’s car. Flipped multiple times and topped a tree 15 feet up. Yep, 15 feet up with the metal still hanging in the tree. And there’s Josh to the left…standing. He’s there STANDING with only scrapes and cuts on his arms and hands. I couldn’t wait to travel down to South Carolina to see him the next day, but then….
…then came Event Number Two. Next Day, October 26th, 2012. Tanner’s Cardiac arrest at middle school. He was “out” for 5 minutes. Revived by school nurse, Amber Payne, and parent, Edna Farrington, with use of AED. The good news was he was revived and breathing. The bad news was that the medical team couldn’t stop the seizures. A principal from the school had rushed me to the hospital and I was there to hear the sirens as the ambulance neared the hospital. Nothing could’ve prepared me for seeing Tanner in the condition he was in. He was soon airlifted to Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte, put in a polar suit to stop seizures, and was in an induced coma for three days. We weren’t sure how things would turn out when he woke up.
Two Days. Two sons. Two events….felt like a bit too much. And well, it was.
Time kind of has a way of feeling like a blur at times like these. But the amazing thing is, we only have to live one minute at a time. Thank goodness for that. We live one phone call at a time. One fast car drive at a time. One hug, one kiss, one cry, one itty bitty moment at a time. One doctor’s prognosis at a time. And the cool thing is, there’s grace for the moment, for the minute that we’re in, when we’re in it. Grace lives right there in the now, not in the past, not in the future. It lives in the minute that we’re in right here, right now. And that’s what I saw in those days and the days to come…grace that covers the needs of the moment.
Every family has their stories…the spoken and the unspoken, the beautiful and the incredibly hard. We all have our own takes on what these stories do to define us, refine us, shape us, and change us. I so believe that what God allows, He uses, but I don’t pretend to understand the ‘reasons’ for why or why things did or didn’t happen. I can see it from different angles for sure, but my sights are so limited. (Of course when I was 20 I saw things perfectly, knew it all, but 50 years have helped me to see what I don’t see more than what I do.)
Yes, we all have our stories, and how we respond becomes part of the narrative. I could grieve that it happened, that two sons came so close to losing their lives.I could grieve that not only did Josh endure the accident, but also that when he needed us to be there for him, we all had to rush to another tragedy. I can’t even imagine how hard it all was for him. Or I could be so incredibly thankful that he survived a car wreck that no one seeing the car believed he could have survived. I could grieve that Tanner has a heart condition or I could be so filled with gratitude over the grace that allowed the school nurse and a mom who “just happened” to be a nurse had “just happened” to be stopping by the school at the same time that Tanner’s heart gave out. Or I could be so incredibly thankful for the grace of the miracle that these two sons were still breathing, living, and right there. I could grieve or I could be thankful. I did both.
I’ve told the stories so many times…because, well, it’s therapeutic. Those days changed me. They changed my family. As hard as the day was, what I remember most is the grace that held us all together and provided just what we needed at just the right time. Our family and friends and community supported us in amazing ways and came to be there in those first moments, hours, and days. My family was in 5 different cities in the Carolinas and we all got to the hospital at the time when the doctor called us into “the room” to share the gravity of the situation. We were all there, including Josh, who was still bruised and scraped and reeling from his own trauma the day before. The news from the doctor wasn’t good. Wasn’t good at all. But we were together in that moment, and that’s what mattered.
Sometimes it’s easy to jump ahead…to fear what that prognosis might be. To fear what might come, what might not come. There was definitely a battle going on in my mind about not fearing the unknown of what the future might hold. It’s also easy to regret what’s behind. So easy to lose so much time and energy and heart over what we can’t control in the future or in the past. It’s one thing to learn from mistakes. It’s another thing to dredge them up and keep living in them. It’s one thing to prepare for the future. It’s another thing to fear it. We don’t know what the future holds. Worrying only steals our present, and we have no idea how long we have this gift of our present. Trust me on that one…
But here’s the thing.What’s my takeaway from all of this? Sometimes the very things that are just too much for me, point me to the grace that is so much bigger and so much greater than I can even conceive. Where there are gaps of feeling “too much”, the voids point me to my needs that I can’t fill on my own, or those of my kids. What I want to guard my kids from might be the very things that grow them up in amazing ways. Voids make room for more grace. Voids recognize the need for grace. Grace to endure. Grace to be thankful for what is rather than what isn’t. Grace to recognize but not fear what could have been,but be thankful for what is.
Tanner, Hope, and Josh in July 2016
Grace that Josh survived a crash that no one believed anyone could survive. I mean, look at the car. And he came out with only scratches and gashes on his arms and hands. The scars today are a reminder of his survival, of grace that said that there was more, so much more of his story left to come.
Grace that Tan survived. Grace that people rallied. Grace that not only did he survive, but that after not breathing for 5 minutes, that he still had the capacity to do all that he had done before the ‘event’. Grace of having so many people who were there for us in countless ways. Grace for nurses who were incredibly passionate, professional, and blessed us in ways that I can’t even explain. I’ve tried. But words just don’t suffice.
And maybe, bottom line, that’s the heart of this story for me. It’s not the story, it’s what the circumstance, the story brought about. Between the lines of any story are gaps…gaps that are filled in by the writer, by the reader, by the teller, by the listener. And maybe sometimes it’s not as much the “what” of the words of the story that impact us as much as the “HOW” it is lived out and responded to . I’m thinking that I never would’ve chosen to write in a 13 year old son’s cardiac arrest and a serious car accident of a 21 year old into my family’s story, not in a million years. I especially wouldn’t have written them in two days apart. No, I would’ve never chosen that “what”. But the “how” of how it grew our family, changed us, knit us together…I’m more thankful for that than I can even describe. Yes, the two days four years ago helped me see and feel in tangible ways that where there are lots of twists and turns in my story, that the gaps are filled in by the grace of God that carries, protects, and keeps. Grace keeps.
So, as the leaves start to turn and the winds start to change, I’m going to remember. I’m going to remember the grace that carried me and my family through a dark time. When fear starts to grip me, and at times it really does, I’ll choose to remember that I’ve faced some of my worst fears and seen God’s Hand in the midst of it all, leading, protecting, and loving…..filling the space with grace. Like mortar on a stained glass window, His love fills in the gaps of the broken pieces of our lives, and makes something absolutely beautiful. It is mine to keep offering the pieces of my life to Him, ALL of them, one by one. It is His to fill in the gaps and make something beautiful. I love that. “He makes all things beautiful in His time.” His time. His moment. It is mine to live in the moment, it is His to show up. And when He shows up, everything changes, because grace…grace changes everything.
By His Grace~
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”