68: Our Silver Lining

68: Our Silver Lining

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Hope & Miracles

Our Silver Lining

Let your hopes, not your hurts, shape your future.

~Robert H. Schuller

Life for our family was as close to perfection as I ever imagined. I had four healthy sons, secure jobs for both my husband and myself, a nice home, and good friends. I mean, what else could you ask for?

Jason, our oldest son, was in the Army. He was getting ready for deployment and while my heart was heavy with worry, I had to believe that he would return home safe and sound in a year. I knew I had no control over what was happening in the Middle East and, as he reminded me over and over, this is what he was trained to do. I had to accept his words and believe that my nineteen-year-old “baby” would come back to me as perfect as he left.

On March 2, 2003, just days before he was to leave for Iraq we got a call that would forever change our lives. “There has been an accident . . . .” I will never forget those simple, yet crushing words. Even now, eleven years later, my eyes fill with tears and my heart aches as I recall the moment that our world came tumbling down.

Within hours we were on a plane to Kansas City where Jason had been airlifted to a trauma unit. As we stood vigil at his bedside we listened as the word “paralyzed” echoed in the room. The doctor spoke, we listened. I wanted to scream but I was frozen in place. My perfect “baby boy” was now confined to a life far from what I imagined for him in the delivery room nineteen years before. His neck broken, he was “dead” from mid-chest down. At that moment I was paralyzed with him. My limbs could move, but my heart was broken and I knew I would never recover from this darkness.

They say that information is power, so why was it that the more I read the more powerless I became? The more I learned about spinal cord injuries the more I was consumed with fear, terror, hopelessness. I knew I would never smile again.

I watched Jason work hard to gain as much independence as possible. The people at the VA hospital were amazing. They say when you lose one sense you gain intensity in others. Like how the blind come to “see” with their ears. Well, while his arms and legs lay still, his heart and mind kicked into full gear. I was dumbfounded by his new purpose. Suddenly he liked to read. His bookshelves were bursting at the seams. Academics became his friend. Philanthropy was on his radar. His desire to make the world better was what drove him every day. I found myself staring at him in awe.

It took years for me to learn, to accept what was all around me, to embrace the energy that surrounds us. The power of positive people, the love of true friends, the support of a community. It is truly amazing how strong and resilient we are. It still blows my mind to know that there was laughter and joy hiding behind our tears and despair. Little by little I learned to “weed my garden,” to remove the negative forces around me, whether they were things or people. If there was anyone or anything in my reach that would allow me to return to the “darkness” I had to let it go. I had to walk away from people I had known my whole life if they were not good for my healing or the healing of my family. I had to be strong enough to move on, to say farewell.

I gathered only hopeful, positive, loving people. I chose my army carefully. I needed people who would be strong when I was weak. I had three other children and a husband who needed me.

The thing that amazed me the most was that Jason was my strongest soldier. He was the one sitting in that wheelchair, but he was also the one who taught me that there were two choices. The first was to allow his tragedy to swallow us up. The second was to embrace it and figure out the best road to follow so that we could get on with life.

The proverbial “silver linings” were the lessons we learned. We learned the meaning of true friendship. We learned compassion, looking at others and realizing just how lucky we were. We learned patience since normal, everyday things took just a little longer to accomplish.

Most of all we learned the true meaning of unconditional love. My husband and I saw, with wider eyes, just how strong our marriage was. We watched as the bond of brotherhood grew between our four sons, seeing how they meshed together in ways we never knew possible with siblings. We saw that the love of a true friend can help you breathe when you are suffocating in your own sorrow. We learned that having hope when things are hopeless is a lifeline that keeps you afloat even as the waters rise around you.

As Jason’s mom my hope transformed many times over. In the early days, weeks, and months it was my hope that he would be “healed.” I hoped that a miracle would find its way to his door and make him “whole” again. I hoped that I would turn on the television and hear a report that they had found a cure for spinal cord injuries. I was using these hopes, as far-fetched as they might have seemed, to allow me time to heal and to feed the strength that was buried inside me. Once I was armed with the tools I needed, my hopes changed; and this time they were more attainable and in many ways more favorable to moving forward in the world we were now a part of.

Today my hope, my dream for my son is the same as it is for all the people I care about. I hope that he loves and is loved in return. I hope that he lives his life to the fullest. I hope that he won’t allow his disabilities and/or challenges to stop him from being the very best he can be. I hope he keeps positive powers all around him. And more than anything, I hope that no matter what life throws his way, he always finds the laughter and the joy that are hiding behind the tears.

~Trish Bonsall

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