The holidays can be a wonderful time of the year for most people. However, with the trials of life, our ability to enjoy the holidays may change. Losing a loved one or surviving a life-altering injury or illness can change the way we view the holidays. Some might become bitter and a time that they use to love might now make them sad as they long for the holidays of the past. The thing I quickly realized after my husband became paralyzed 2 days after Thanksgiving in 2011 was that I had two choices. I could choose to be bitter or I could choose to allow my new life to make me better.
I spent Christmas Eve and a good part of Christmas day of 2011 by my husband’s bedside in the ICU. It was a horrible place to be for Christmas which is my favorite holiday of the year. Our children had to come to the hospital on Christmas day just to see their Daddy. They weren’t allowed into the ICU so my husband had to be wheeled outside in his hospital bed to “enjoy” a few Christmas moments with his children. It was such a difficult day, I wanted to feel joy because my husband was still alive and with us, but I was also completely devastated that we were missing out on the wonderful Christmas morning at home that I had grown to love with my family.
When Thanksgiving rolled around the next year it was a difficult day to celebrate. I couldn’t help reflecting back at the year before, the last time my husband stood up and carved a turkey for our family’s celebration. I looked back at the pictures from the previous Thanksgiving and I was filled with sadness. These pictures were the last ones I took before he got injured. Me and my husband standing together and smiling as he carved the turkey, hubby on the ground wrestling and tickling our 3 children and our 2 foster kiddos that were in our care, and hubby running around playing basketball with our boys.
It would have been very easy to just be angry and bitter about having the expectations I once had for the holidays taken from me. But instead, I chose to be thankful that my husband was alive and with us. Thankful that we had 3 healthy children. Thankful that my husband’s pressure sore that he got in the ICU (due to their gross negligence) had finally healed and he was able to start therapy at the gym as well as water therapy. Thankful that even though on paper we were completely broke, God provided the money we needed to pay every single bill we owed with out missing a single payment. Thankful that my husband didn’t have a traumatic brain injury or suffer from PTSD as a result of the accident that caused his injury. Thankful that I had an amazing family, friends and church family that came along side us and helped us get through that first year.
The first Christmas he was home was also challenging because it was so very different than every Christmas of my entire life up to that point. My husband was no longer able to hang the Christmas lights on the house, help me set up the tree or shop for and wrap presents (not that he did much of that, but he did always shop for and wrap my presents at least). Again, I was faced with the choice to be bitter or better. I chose to appreciate the fact that we were able to take our family Christmas photos again that year, having missed taking them the year before for the first time since our first child had been born. I chose to be glad that my whole family was under one roof that year for Christmas. I was filled with joy as we all attended Christmas Eve service together again. I chose to be grateful that my husband was there for Christmas morning traditions with our children that he missed out on the year before. I chose to rejoice that we got to enjoy Christmas dinner that year at my grandparent’s house once again. I was even pleasantly surprised that my husband got my Mom to shop for some gifts for me so I had something from him to open even though he could no longer get to a store to shop or hope to wrap a present on his own.
Every year that passes it seems to get a little “easier” and even though every Thanksgiving brings the reminder of my husband’s injury, it also brings a reminder of how far we have come since that first Thanksgiving he was home. There are so many things that have changed in our lives, things that will never be the same again. But honestly, that is just how life goes. We don’t get to choose the trials we are going to face, but we do get to choose how we will get through them. Deciding to enjoy to the holidays by focusing on all the blessings that I still have and all the things we still get to enjoy has made all the difference for me. There are still times I feel sad when I see old photos of holidays before paralysis, and I don’t feel guilty about mourning the loss of the normal we once had. However, I have learned that choosing to be grateful for what we have in spite of paralysis makes everything more enjoyable, especially the holiday season that I have always loved.
Thanksgiving has just passed this year and it was one of the best ones yet. I am looking forward to Christmas and New Years and all the celebrating we will do with family and friends. I am so thankful that Amazon Prime delivers gifts to our home so hubby can shop and my Mom is happy to wrap the gifts he orders. I know I am blessed and I know not every person whose significant other has suffered a life altering illness or injury has it as good as I do, but I truly believe that our own personal attitude towards life plays a huge role in our ability to be happy and find joy in the holidays. I hope and pray that each of you reading this is able to reflect on the good things you have this holiday season, count your blessing! I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year as well.
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