The anniversary of Zack’s injury is on the horizon. This conjures up many, many feelings- anger, sadness, hope, grief, joy, and many more shades and combinations of those emotions that are nearly impossible to explain with written language. Thankfully, this year is better than last year and if we keep this trend going, next year will be better than this year. Certainly, a bad year, week, month will rear its ugly head here and there, ce’est la vie! Even so, the goal is to keep trudging on.

For a long time I thought moving forward or moving on was forgetting about the past. I was strictly and  adamantly opposed to forgetting about what was. Because, friends, what we had was so special and beautiful and wonderful and, and, and. It was everything. We had everything and we lost it all.  I was unwaveringly focused on getting it back. It was such a weird place to live: in the middle, not sure where we were going or even if we were going anywhere. Nothing was certain, everything was scary. But I sure as hades wasn’t going to admit to myself or anyone else that things weren’t going to be just the same as they were before Zack was sick. When I let myself think about that, it hurt so badly I thought I would never stop hurting, never stop crying, if I let myself meditate on that. It was a deep, dark place that I wasn’t willing to go. That was so good and healthy for me during that season. I just had grace for today, moment-to-moment grace. I was angry during that season, ooooooo child, I was angry. The anger didn’t scare me, it felt right and natural, and I knew that I loved Jesus and that he would work it out in me. I trusted Him to do that for me, and He did, He has. I had to let it run a natural, good, and healthy course for it to get better. (This is another blog post entirely…don’t get me started on Christians not wanting to validate any emotions other than joy.) Anyway.

When I decided to let myself start to move forward, I didn’t know how to navigate our new life. What was gonna happen? Would Zack ever get any better? What if he didn’t? What if he did? How much better would he get? Would this injury hold us captive forever? It was like being trapped in a glass bubble, everything and everyone around us were doing life and all we could do was watch it all happen while Zack learned to talk, walk, clothe, bathe, emote, love, eat, and…be…while he learned to be again. It’s a lonely, scary place. It felt like there was nothing sure this side of heaven. One day I was chatting with my therapist and she told me that I needed to find something stable to grasp onto. “Do you have anything you can hold on to and direct your focus toward?” she asked. Suddenly, it hit me, I knew what it was. Tears gathered in the corners of my eyes as I made the confession, “Zack will be my husband and I will be his wife. No matter what, we will be together.” And it has saved my life. That has been my constant, my battle flag, my comfort when I am scared, tired, and lonely. It helps me to keep fighting. It’s my mantra. Zack will be my husband and I will be his wife… Suck it brain injury.

I now have no illusions that our lives will be the same as they were before. We are forever changed and impacted in the kind of way that you can’t reverse. But, this is my love story. It’s not exactly Disney material, but it’s mine and I am going to own it and love it and embrace it. I want, more than anything, for our lives to be marked by love. They are, oh they are. The deep grief we have experienced has been matched by deep love for each other and for humanity. There is an entire community of amazing humans we wouldn’t know anything about if this didn’t happen. People I would have previously walked by and assumed they were “born that way” or even (shamefully) that they were a little scary. These people have stories, lives before injury, talents, dreams, hopes, families-they are mothers, brothers, sisters, fathers, aunts, uncles, friends, someone’s child. I love that I know these people and that I get to share life with them. What a special, important, and mysterious group of people we now belong to. They have changed my life. They have made me a more compassionate, accepting, loving and inclusive human-being. I won’t let them go unknown any longer.

Moving on means: hoping for Jesus’s return like never before, it means being brave enough to discover the truth of your personal situation and daring to do the hard work of seeing it through, honesty, it means shining light to the darkness, vulnerability, saying things no one else will say, it means stepping out and being known even when you feel like the most unlovely person on the planet, it means giving yourself grace.

Own your story, it’s beautiful if you let it be.

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