This letter was written April 30 2018, was never given to the driver, will never be and was never posted till today. Most often, writing is a healing for me so, through writing, I felt some release. Maybe someone, somewhere will read this today and stop driving distracted, or under the influence. Maybe a life can be saved.
Dear Driver of the vehicle that rear-ended my husband while he was patiently waiting for a red light to change. The guy, that for whatever reason be it texting, changing his radio station, watching a person on the sidewalk….or looking down because he dropped his cookie…whatever the reason you rear ended him at approx. 50-60 km’s per hour, you changed our lives. The chain reaction of hurting him didn’t just devastate that one person…it negatively changed the lives of everyone that is in his life. You didn’t know my husband at all…..but I can tell you a little bit about him. He was the kind of guy who would work hard at his place of employment. Even those days, where I asked him to stay home because he was battling a cold or a flu, or awful weather, he would shake his head and affirm that people are counting on him at the work place. He loved people, loved the guys at work….oh, I’m sure there were those guys who drove him crazy, but he would probably give them his last Coke if he thought they needed it. 🙂 I didn’t see him at work, but I know that he was the type to be caught singing, or rhyming crazy words together, or telling people to calm down when they were aggravated. I know when Christmas was coming, he would be the one doing the verbal “countdown.” He misses those guys terribly. Sadly, he hasn’t worked in 985 days and oddly enough, he finds it embarrassing. He feels less of a man because he is no longer able to earn a pay check. So many times we will pass a building…..”I helped build that building,” he would say in pride. Or, “I could help build that building, if I could work.” And I know that whatever he did build, he did his best. He had pride in what he accomplished and he brought that knowledge home. He would build me things like a big cedar chest…too big for me to move! He loved to build me arbors made out of cedar trees….they’re getting old now and he can’t replace them. He built me fences to outline my gardens. He built a lovely shed out back that years later needs maintenance…he’s unable to even think about the work involved. It will overwhelm him.
My husband absolutely loved Christmas. He was the guy who loved the challenge of chopping down a Christmas tree, sledding down a huge snow hill, shovelling the driveway, taking family walks in the snow, walking our German Shepherd that us women couldn’t manage, or cooking in the kitchen for Christmas, making croquettes that take a strong arm to stir the batter. He absolutely loved Christmas shopping, wandering the malls looking for the perfect gifts and stocking stuffers. Something, I didn’t enjoy. He was handy that way. He loved shopping for the groceries, and took pride in telling me to “go away,” he’ll carry the groceries in. He loved driving around at night and looking at Christmas lights on the houses…choosing the best ones….or driving my elderly parents or his Mom…around to share the festivity of beautiful lights. Well, he’s not chopping any more Christmas trees, he can’t walk long enough to find one, and certainly can’t lay on his back or bend over to chop one. He no longer sleds. Our yearly tradition of tobogganing doesn’t involve him. He’s missing in all our pictures. He can no longer embrace the cold, his circulation has been off since the accident. He can’t go down the hills, as his muscles are weak and he could either hurt himself further in going down or possibly never get back up the hill. He can’t shovel….he can barely snow blow. If he does try to snow blow a small portion of snow, he’ll either overdo it and sleep for hours to recuperate….and take a couple days to revive himself or come in the house frustrated because he was only able to accomplish a partial clearing. Family walks don’t involve him any longer, be it in the snow or in the summer. He tires easy…and stays close to the house or his van. Our German Shepherd was dropped off for adoption shortly after his accident, as the dog stressed him out. He couldn’t walk him any longer and didn’t want me throwing out my back trying to get Simon his exercise. We couldn’t afford the vet bills any longer as well, because we were living on a fixed income. Cooking in the kitchen is kept to a bare minimum. He no longer stirs the big batters of meat and flour combined, but rolls the croquettes in bread crumbs. He misses that vigorous workout but, in his state could cause him to pass out or just fall. Christmas shopping no longer excites him. He gets overwhelmed by lights, music, people, traffic, and a lack of money. He no longer fills my stocking….and feels less than, when I attempt to fill up his. He still intends to shop for groceries, but often turns around and heads home, even before arriving. “My head got fuzzy, I had to come back home.” Or, since his “Cervical Disk Surgery,” he isn’t confident enough to drive. If we happen to be in town at night, I have to drive as my husband can’t handle the glaring headlights…he hangs his head with his eyes shut. Towards Christmas, I pointed out different homes with Christmas lights, but..he only would look at a couple on the way home as the strain he could only handle if he’s soon headed to the couch or bed. Where we used to listen to the volume on the TV at 10, we now listen at 30, so he can understand words being said. When there’s a crash or a bang, he cringes. He loved putting up our Christmas lights. He was just like a big kid at Christmas, but it’s just not going to get done, unless I get out there myself or have my kids help me out. Our celebrations of Christmas visiting with family…he lasts maybe a half hour and then disappears from the group. He does this with birthdays as well. Some of our family functions, he doesn’t attend at all. He gets embarrassed that something so simple as spending time with family stresses his body out. Sometimes, it’s just easier to stay away. Sad, isn’t it?
My husband absolutely used to love music. He would sing so loud in the van to our much-loved playlists. We loved the loud music around the house…..all kinds of music. Much of the time now, the music stays off. During the Christmas season, we were at a Christmas Comfort Service for those grieving loss and he unselfishly attended with us. Only a few words he said during the service, one sentence was…..”I miss singing.” I thought to myself, I miss singing too! I loved singing with him in the van. I loved singing and dancing silly with him around the house. I miss singing with him in church. We don’t even attend any more. After 30 years of church almost every Sunday, he can’t handle the music, the lights, the speaker systems, the people, sitting still, or clapping….if we’re going to spend our Sunday together, I stay at home with him and watch a service on TV. We tried to slow dance to our favourite love song a year ago, he almost fell from dizziness. Music is no longer a big part of our lives.
We used to love seeing a movie at the Cineplex once in a while. He can’t watch that big screen any more or listen to the loud production. It will literally make him ill. At my father’s funeral a year ago, the music in the church, the lighting, the people, the message and then couple that with the grief, brought him to a place where he actually fell forward towards the stage upon leaving. I walked him out like a drunk man and had to sit him in a room to the side, away from the crowd, while family and friends were able to come together and have snacks and drinks. He couldn’t accompany me on stage to say my eulogy….as he kept his eyes shut throughout most of the service to block out all that was overwhelming him. Again, he felt less than, because he couldn’t stand beside me and support me the way a husband would want to. It took him four days before he was back to “normal.” What is his normal now? Well, it changes every day. But on a good day, he can wake up and do a very small chore, rest and take a long afternoon nap to revamp his body. On a bad day, he misses his afternoon nap for whatever reason, and sleeps that night for approx. 15 hours to heal.
Dear driver…I don’t even want to know why you hit my husband and in my heart, I’ve forgiven you…..but, I really don’t want to meet you. I don’t want to put a face to my husband’s pain. I am positive that forgiveness is a huge part of healing, but problem is..when I’m driving and I see someone texting…or balancing a hot coffee with a cigarette…or even reading something..the pain gets reawakened. I think of you again, and I literally hurt. Someone else is vulnerable to getting hit…someone else will go through the same pain, the same loss or even greater loss because the vehicle we drive is a deadly weapon when drivers become impaired for whatever reason.
My husband was athletic in the sense, that he was an awesome goalie for over 30 years. He was sooo proud of his ability to stop that puck in so many instances. He loved the challenge of playing every week during the winter season and even though work tired him out, he seemed to get powered up from the play. He loved joking with the guys. And, because he was over 50, he thoroughly enjoyed saving the puck when the younger guys shot at him. I would get some of the play by plays when he returned home. He loved badminton in the summer, hiking, boating, BBQing, croquet, Wonderland, Niagara Falls, and zoo’s. Well, hockey is definitely out and his brand new goalie pads he so patiently waited to get, had only received a half a season work out. They’re resting in my big old cedar chest…in hopes he’ll recover. Badminton is not even a thought. Moving around like that, would do him in. And….he was the type to play to win…..he was a perfectionist, did I mention that? Hiking is only a wish, boating is nausea waiting to happen and fishing needs to be done only when he has access to a chair or a safe place to sit. BBQing is now a chore that frustrates him. Too much responsibility to cook so many burgers at one time….and in the heat. Heat bothers him to no end. Winning stuffed animals at Wonderland, or riding ridiculously large roller coasters..is no longer an option…Wonderland and such places offers too many people, too much noise and commotion. Walking would be insane….and a wheelchair isn’t an option for him as yet. It takes a long time for someone to admit they need one.
Speaking of wheelchairs, he did use one for a time, when we visited my father in hospital. He got to the place where if he didn’t use one, he wouldn’t be able to see my Dad. It was hard on my Dad to see him in one. It was hard on all of us. But hospitals are big….and walking means…he’ll need to rest much. It’s funny how…..for years being the doting husband, he would drop me off at hospitals or church doors or mall entrances and he would park. Now the table has turned….and in the dark, in the rain…..my husband tears up when I drop him off and park. He’s passionate about looking after me. He’s a good, good man.
Reading no longer interests him. He hasn’t picked up his Bible since that day and reading the newspaper flyers overwhelms him. If he does read mostly because he has to, he now needs glasses, for his eyes suffered muchly from the accident. His eyes cross when he sees an object too close and has to shake them loose. It’s a little freaky for us family members….and we take deep breaths as we wait for them to return to normal. After 40 years of playing video games, he refuses to indulge and board games, where he used to yell and cheer (for himself) no longer interests him. We’ve bothered him enough to get him to agree, but he has vomited as a result. I can’t explain it, other than….the noise, the concentration and even laughing…exhausts him.
All in all, I look at my awesome husband and my kids look at their wonderful father and while we will always see the blessing he is to us to this day, we see a shell of a man, a shell of all that he was. Oh, we have much hope that he will heal. We are battling each day with a plea to win. Antidepressants, pain management, physio’s, vision therapy, surgery, massage and counselling….they all are part of his every day life and it would be phenomenal if it lessened, but today yes, 1040 days in, he’s trying to stay hopeful and we, we push him to keep trying. I see myself as a bit of a nag now, where I never wanted to be. I find myself explaining many times over, how he needs to take his meds, his vitamins and yes, we need to leave the house and attend appointments. It’s very difficult for me as his wife…to feel “naggy.” But, I find myself choosing that, over letting him give up.
And this just in yesterday: We have two weeks booked for camping in a tent trailer this summer. Our family are huge lovers of camping and spending any time we can in Canada’s Algonquin Park. We lived for that camping date for probably 25 years. We are completely second guessing his ability to safely stay in the tent trailer as, with the brain injury comes a lot of unpredictable personality changes. When his body gets over-stressed, he is not able to focus and “think” about consequences to his actions. He falls very easy and any kind of fast movement throws his balance off completely. This happened again yesterday and the “onset” personality change can last for up to 17 hours. It’s a scary thing to watch and live, scary for him and scary for us. Thankfully an Occupational Therapist came to slow him down for a couple hours, however the rest of the day was very upsetting.
This isn’t just directed to the driver, who changed our lives. I don’t even know his name. This is for those drivers who have been distracted enough to change the lives of others. Drastically, some lives have been taken. Please, please…..I beg of you. Pay attention. PAY ATTENTION!!! The lives of all we love are depending on that. The lives of all those you love depend on us to drive well too.
December 1 2019: This letter is also about forgiveness. There is nothing more in life that I would love than, to have my husband back as he was, one hour before that car accident August 14, 2015, He was helping me clean at my work, after working his own job. He was a multi-tasker that lived to make others happy. Don’t get me wrong. He still lives to make others happy. He just disappoints himself to no end, because he feels limited. I would have to say….that as a result of the accident, I am missing maybe 80% of the man I married in 1985. Oh, his heart is just as big, and that’s probably the most important personality trait, I fell in love with…..but, in sooo many ways, his heart is broken…and that’s where most of the pain lies within the family. We forgive the driver. We forgave from the onset and that alone brings tremendous healing to the soul, But, how awful for the next person who lives the same pain. Every time I see an ambulance in traffic with their lights blaring, I cringe. I always did cringe and pray. Now, I cringe and beg in my prayer for the next person, and usually bawl if I’m alone, with the anxiety that someone else may be standing in line with that same outcome, or worse, fatality. As it sits, anger and resentment will not help to mend the physical, the mental or the emotional. It promotes a broken link to healing and really, a huge broken link when praying. Drive safe, everyone. We can only do our best…..and really, with the luxury of a driver’s license, we need to do our best, lives are depending on it.