Thursday, April 5, 2012

“Life is what happens while you are making other plans.”

We have discussed scheduling, planning, goals, and things that help make you go. 

However, life sometimes throws curve balls at us.  Life is not fair.  Life is hard.  Dealing with those curves is the challenge. 

I’ll illustrate from personal experience, not to garner sympathy, but because I can show how I’ve had to deal with life’s challenges and in so doing perhaps help motivate someone else.

Fourteen years ago, I was driving with my family on a wet interstate highway.  I went to change lanes and in an instant found a car in my blind spot.  I swerved back into my lane of traffic, and avoided a collision.  However, the rear end of my front wheel drive minivan began to fishtail. I corrected, but then things went from bad to worse.  I fought to regain control of the van, to no avail.  We went off the road into the medium.  The van rolled.  The rear hatch flew open and my then four year old son was catapulted out of the back of the van, and flew across two lanes of oncoming traffic and landed on his head, causing a sever skull fracture.  While he was airborne the van rolled down the guardrail on the other side of the medium.  My door was ripped open and I was turned sideways in my seat.  The seat belt holding me in place as the family vehicle continued to roll.  The van landed on its side, pinning my legs in the door cavity.  It was bowed outwards and the door couldn’t close tight, but the van was on its side, and my legs were outside the van, pinning me inside.  My wife climbed out of the van, saw our son lying on the side of the road just as an 18-wheeler drove by.  The rear tires ran over my son’s foot.  Medically it is called a traumatic amputation; the tire severed four of his toes.

Emergency crews came, life flight landed.  The freeway was closed and traffic diverted.  An hour later, I was in the emergency room.  I had a fractured pelvis and a broken tailbone.  My son was in critical condition in the PICU. 

It took months to recover.  My oldest son took my injured son outside with his walker and taught him not to be afraid to kick a soccer ball.  We had wheelchair races.  Slowly we recovered.  I missed a month of work. 

We survived, we recovered.  It wasn’t easy.  There was a lot of pain, heartbreak, and such.  I did not like the time I spent in the wheelchair and on crutches.  Once I could walk again I vowed to enjoy taking a walk.

The day of the accident we had plans to go to a friend’s house for a barbeque.  We never made it.  I remember lying in my hospital bed, my wife sitting in a chair against the wall and we just looked at each other across the room.  Our son was fighting for his life on the floor above us.  Our other children were at my sister’s home.  It was now 3 AM and things had finally settled down from surgeries, meeting doctors, figuring out what would happen next.  Exhausted in the wee early hours of the morning I discovered that things could have been worse.  I looked at my wife and said, “We are all alive.”

She nodded.

“It has been a bad day, but as far as bad days go, it wasn’t too bad was it?”  

She thought a moment and nodded agreement.  We were all alive, my son and I were the only two injured, my wife and two other sons walked away from the accident.  We were blessed.

A lot of little things went right while a big thing was going wrong.  My son kept his big toe, his arch and his heal.  The doctors took a muscle out of his back and wrapped it around what was left of his foot, took a skin graft off his legs and wrapped it around the muscle.  They rebuilt his foot.  None of the remaining bones were broken on growth plates, so his foot would grow normally.   I didn’t suffer a “traumatic amputation” of my legs because the door was jammed in such a way as to hold the weight of the van off my legs. 

Needless to say all the plans we had for the summer were cancelled.  Recovery and discovering what the new normal was changed all of that.

Now, not all life interruptions are as dramatic as a car rollover, or other accidents, but life does send things at us that we are not expecting. 

I received a phone call at 1 AM Monday morning.  One AM phone calls are never good.  I rolled over and picked up the receiver and after a groggy “Hello?” I heard my assistant manager’s shaking voice.

“Mr. Dean, I’ve been robbed.”

That declaration set in motion a whole chain of events that have derailed my well-planned week.  The whole routine has been shattered.  

So yes, things go wrong.  You can’t plan on things going wrong, but expect them to.  Have contingency plans, have emergency plans.  Take time to think of what if this happened….  Then come up with plans to deal with those things. 

That is one reason to buy life insurance.  We know we will die at some future point.  Having funds set aside to deal with that is a good thing. 

We cannot control everything that life throws at us.  We can, however, deal with how we react to those things.

What are some of your contingency plans?  How have you dealt with some of life’s setbacks? 


Joyce Alton / @joycealton said...

Oh, so true, Dean! Sorry to hear about the accident (you had me rivited in my seat reading that) and sorry to hear about the robbery. I hope everyone was okay.

I've learned to take things one day at a time and to have no illusions regarding sudden change. My life is always in flux, usually influenced by the people closest to me. It's so easy for general goals or plans to be derailed in an instant.

Over time and with a lot of experience, I've found I can survive and deal with these abrupt path changes better. They keep coming, so I guess you could say, I expect them. Life's never boring or still for me. I kind of like it that way, too. =) For me, a big attitude change has been a life-saver.

Michelle 4 Laughs said...

That was a truly moving account, Dean. My heart was in my throat.

Those rejections that keep rolling in mean nothing compared to family and health. Thanks for the reminder of what's really important.

T.W. Fendley said...

Thanks for sharing such a personal and moving story. It is truly important to remember the priorities, and people (especially family) are always at the top. My husband had surgery for cancer last summer, which had us examining our lives. Each day of life is truly precious.