I can’t recall much of the month I spent in the hospital after my TBI, but countless numbers of people have expressed their praise and admiration for the way my wife, Jacqui, handled herself during this time. At first, it was a life or death situation, but even after that passed, the prospects for my/our future were unknown and scary to think about. My wife managed to keep her faith and trust God in the midst of this storm. I have to confess that if the roles were reversed, and she would have been the one lying in the hospital bed, I wouldn’t have handled it nearly as well as she did, and her steadfastness continues to this day. Because of the strength and character she has continually shown, I asked Jacqui to share some of her thoughts on my blog about her experience. There are many times I think she has more wisdom to share than me so I am glad she agreed to do this.
Thursday, May 3, 2012, the day before my 34th birthday, my whole world fell apart. I received a phone call that would forever change my life. My husband, Jeff, had been in a horrible car accident and had been airlifted to the hospital. That was all they told me. One can never really be prepared for that kind of phone call. You can imagine what you would do or how you would react, but you really just don’t know until it happens to you.
It had happened to me. I was in a state of shock. I was crying but still thinking clearly, almost too clearly. I remember thinking to myself, “How am I still in my right mind? How am I able to remain logical and function at a time like this?” It is interesting how a high-stress situation can teach you so much about yourself. A sense of calm just laid itself on top of me. I can’t explain it. The Bible calls it “peace that passes all understanding” and that is exactly what it was, beyond understanding.
I have never been one to want attention. All eyes on me make me uncomfortable, I am much happier being a wallflower. When Jeff’s accident happened, I was forced into the center of everyone’s attention. Question after question, visitor after visitor all wanting me to tell them what was going on and how they could help. High-stress situations teach you a lot about others as well.
I tried my best to field the questions and greet the visitors. But the truth is, I needed time. I needed space. I needed to process what had just occurred. I needed to figure out a plan moving forward. I needed to take care of my kids and my husband. I needed to take care of me. I felt guilty at times for thinking that way, but the truth was, that was my husband lying in that hospital bed, those were my kids who were hurting and needed me, and I had to allow myself to be a little selfish and focus on what was most important. I needed to take care of me. I needed to grieve the fact that the life Jeff and I had spent almost nine years building was gone in an instant. Everything had changed.
I knew that it was all going to be ok and that God was in control. I never doubted that for a second. Faith comes into play when you trust in what you can’t see and what you don’t know. My faith was strong, but I didn’t like what was happening. Fire refines, but for me, the heat hurt. I was completely at a loss for words to pray. I would often find myself just breathing. Breathing to make it through the brutal hours spent at the hospital. Breathing to make the 1½ hour drive one way. Breathing not to feel guilty leaving my kids with different people day after day. Psalm 38:9 in the New Living Translation says, ”You know what I long for, Lord; you hear my every sigh.” I knew that in spite of my lack of words, I trusted that He heard the groans of my heart and that He would care for me.
People would come up to me after the accident and say, “I don’t understand why bad things have to happen to good people?” I’m sure a confused look would come over my face as I would think to myself, “But why wouldn’t bad things happen to good people. God put me here to be set apart, to be different, to be an example of Christ. If bad things never happened to followers of Jesus, how would non-Christians ever see a difference? Why would they ever want to change or even know that there is another way to live?” They would never be curious enough to ask questions like, “Why are you not angry?” or “How are you still holding it all together?”
I saw Jeff’s accident as an opportunity. I knew eyes would be on me, watching what my next move would be, how I would react, if I would fall apart, but amazingly, God gave me an undeniable strength to endure this trial. When Jeff was in the hospital, I remember thinking, “So much of my world is lying in that bed…my husband, my provider, my best friend, my lover, my comforter, the father of my children, the one I can tell anything to…,” but I learned to lean on God for everything. He became my comforter, my provider, my rock. I simply learned to lay my head on His chest and let Him carry me through.