Hi everyone, this is Julia speaking! This is me above teaching my 90 year old grandmother Backgammon! My mother has been brilliantly capturing my journey thus far, but I’d like to have a moment to tell you myself.
For about half a year now, my day has consisted of a series of therapies to help my walking and my memory. Although the therapies have truly been a blessing, and I do feel myself improving, it hasn’t made up for the fact that I can’t return to Saint Joe’s.
That being said, I did get to go back to Saint Joe’s earlier this month where I got to see some teachers and friends, and an added surprise of the head of school, Mark Reed! I was greeted at the writing center by my old professor, Dr. Spinner, and we met my friends Emily, Javon, and David as well as friends who have graduated, George and Peter. All of us walked around the campus visiting other past professors, Patrick, Julie, Jamie, and PK, among others.
They have been working hard on campus on safety reforms so what happened to me doesn’t happen to anyone else.
They recently passed this Public Safety Resolution. I am very grateful.
My visit to Saint Joe’s wasn’t my only return to school. I have also started taking a class at my old boarding school, Westtown! There, with my teacher, Kevin, returning to my greatest passion makes my life feel a little more right.
The class is World Religions. It is one I have taken before, with the same set of readings, so it is a good level at which to start my scholastic return. That being said, each reading I am assigned is one that I have to read one or more times, and take notes while reading in order to retain the content of the chapter sufficiently. You would think that this would be frustrating, however, I am so grateful to be back to school that it isn’t.
Religion was one of my majors in college, and greatest passions because I am deeply curious about the infinite, diverse views of the world. Religion is the most important aspect of many peoples’ lives. I’m curious about how beliefs can be so defining and bring us together or divide us. The more I learn about varying beliefs, the more accepting I am of people I meet, which is my first priority.
I think this accident has shown me the quality of the friends that I’ve chosen. They’ve all been so loyal and present.
I also this past month had the privilige of spending time with a college classmate of my mom’s who flew in to meet me. She’s a physician and gave us hope about what she thought were signs of my physical and cognitive progress, considering my injuries. She works with Doctors-Without-Borders and invited my mom, my brother, and I to come on one of her missions this summer in Africa. This is a pure dream of mine. I hope I am fit enough to go.
Thank you Dr. Gretchen for Giving Me a Goal
I met with a surgeon who thinks he can help me walk better and with less pain. My mom left there saying, thank God for first world medicine. The surgery is scheduled for November 28th.
Lastly, my brother arrived at my mom’s last week leaning on the doorbell instead of using his key. When we opened the door, all 6’3 of him was standing there, with the tiniest kitten in his arms! His friend, Joey’s cat had kittens. He looked so funny my mom and I kind of freaked out and burst into laughter. We didn’t know whether to be more shocked or happy. She is a sweet addition to our family. Despite that Bo wanted to name her Rodeo, I’ve christened her “Hillary Kitten”. My PT asked if we were going to put her in pant suits.
Thank you for reading and for your continued prayers.
Note From Mom:
6 months post-discharge, Julia’s physical progress is microscopic.
We work daily on her left side, in PT, OT and and at home. If we didn’t, she might slide backwards. No one really knows. We’ve invested our hopes in an aggressive surgery at November’s end. If she could walk better, she’d have so much more independence.
Where Speech Therapy is concerned (a.k.a Cognitive Therapy), there have been significant strides. Cognitions have improved at a steady pace since we started at Bryn Mawr 6 mos ago. You wouldn’t believe the conversations she’s capable of. Since this is the one thing Julia cares about, we are grateful. Short-term memory is still an on-going challenge.
If you’ve followed this blog, you know Julia’s parents differed about her discharge plans last spring. Each with our own ideas of how to best orchestrate her out-patient recovery.
Sister-in-law Jennifer and friend Kerry nobly put themselves between us like human shields. Brothers Bill and Richard supported further. All walking the fine line of keeping their eye on the prize: Julia.
My friend Elisa, years back, said, “When you’re pushing against something that’s pushing back on you with equal strength, how do you win? Move out of the way. That’s how you win.”
In an elevator last week after scheduling her next surgery at Penn, Julia’s dad and I mused over the number of hospitals she’s been in. When he added Christiana, Julia asked when she was there. When you were born, we answered! Her birthplace hospital… something melted in me. Remembering a hospital where we were in each other’s fox hole, together against the risks, made me move out of the way.
The way Julia and I get through this is to look for the gains and learning from her accident. I’ve highlighted extensively here the compassion, sensitivity and generosity it has brought out in others. Crisies draw out our strengths. Many previously unrealized.“
The strengths I want to highlight in this post are her father’s.
I wrote earlier that I believed Julia and I, because of our spiritual approach toward suffering and the opportunities it offers, were built for this. From watching Pat since discharge, I believe he was built for it even more.
He has his mother’s work ethic. Disciplined, uncompromising, intractable and laser-focused. Many of the things that worked against our marriage are working for Julia now. There are many elements to the insurance-coordination since she has 2 streams (1 from college). Pat is on top of it all. We have different ways of advancing our goal of getting her better. The minutia organization is squarely within his bandwidth and I have to say, he’s great at it. Towards her independence, he’s myopic and relentless. Him doing his part allows me to do mine.
No one is any one thing. We’re a mixed bag of light and dark, all. What we have in common is: We’re most alive when allowed to do what we do best. Many demands of Julia’s recovery are in her dad’s wheelhouse. It’s a pleasure to see someone do what they do so well. We all benefit.
Professors Patrick,Julia’s Dad, Dr. Spinner and Julia on SJU Visit
I also acknowledge Pat’s partner, Chris, and her mother “Grammy”, who spends a lot of time with Julia.` This is something Chris did not bargain for. Along with her very cool kids, she has responded to it generously, with stamina and with grace.
Julia’s accident is tragic. It has changed the trajectory of her life. I’m no Pollyanna, blowing sunshine everywhere. The losses, I grieve in waves. Some days, on the 8th day, when I give her back to Pat, I lay on the couch with the curtains drawn watching Super Soul Sunday on OWN, looking for inspiration and praying to regroup.
We fight to let it bring out the better in us, anyway. Finding meaning through trauma means accepting the daily losses as well as celebrating the gains. Realizing we can be more for both.
As inspiration goes, the following is from my college roommate, Mary Kay, who I have not seen in 20 years:
“I have begun teaching GED classes at the local jail here, in addition to bible study.
Back in Jan/Feb, I read your entire blog to the inmates – in the women’s class and the men’s – and handed out copies. It had a profound effect. One girl cried through the whole class. The guys were dead silent, you could hear a pin drop.
I was really moved by your ‘Restorative Justice’ post. I read that section to the classes and we had a really good discussion. One guy, from Philly of all places, was a Heroin dealer in the midst of his apology to family of a guy who overdosed on his stuff. He said his father was blaming him for the entire situation. He couldn’t believe how mercifully you and Julia were handling the defendant, The other guys really opened up and I can say that they all identified condemnation as never-ending, but that forgiveness keeps us connected to one another and frees us and makes us want to do better. I had one guy ask me about Julia for 6 months until he was transferred. He couldn’t get her out of his mind.
There were tears… hearts and minds were opened. There are prayers coming to you and Julia from this remote local jail. One of my favorite inmates, a young addict off to rehab, took your blog with her to Southwest Colorado.”
On an unusually sunny morning back in March, a week before Julia’s discharge from the rehab hospital where she’d been living for nearly 4 months post-accident, I was about to wheel her into the Speech Therapy session where I was about to receive the upcoming bomb: Where memory is concerned, this is the best it’s going to get.
As God would have it, 1 hour before that, I wheeled her into the cafeteria for coffee and had an unexpected conversation.
In the 4 weeks prior, once Julia began to get language back, I’d often ask her what she was thinking. Every time, my question jarred her and she lost her train of thought. “I’m not sure,” she’d answer.
On this morning, before we got the grave news, as I approached her by the cashier where I left her in the sun while I got my coffee, I asked gingerly, What were you just thinking about?
“I was thinking how grateful I am that we met in heaven and chose to walk this path together.”
I wheeled her to the elevator. I felt like I could push her wheel chair the NY marathon. I felt ready for anything. I told her about a quote I found scribbled on a bookmark I found in a book 2 nights ago. I don’t even know the source. This was it.
Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you’ve chosen it.
Make it your friend and ally.
This will miraculously transform your whole life.
As we made our way up to Speech, where I’d hear the news I wasn’t expecting, Julia was present and peaceful. “Accept everything as if I’ve chosen it,” she repeated to herself on the way there, “I feel like that’s going to change my whole life.”
Accept everything as if you’ve chosen it. We’ve been operating on that mantra since.