Today is a good day to be mobile, especially because 18 years ago I could not walk. A drunk driver had shattered my left femur and broke my hip and pelvis with his truck.
Despite the seeming tragedy of it all, June 6th is always more sweet than bitter. While the memory of the accident still haunts me, I anticipate the anniversary as a celebration of second chances. To move. To breathe. To live again, and hopefully thrive.
I like to do two simple things on June 6: one for myself and one for others. First, honor my mobility by doing something physical. Either a hike or a bike ride, but because it’s a weekday and work beckons, I hiked my favorite loop in the Marin Headlands and passed a bobcat, wild turkey, and horses along trails fringed with lupine, paintbrush and poppies. The views overlook Mt. Tamalpais, the Pacific Ocean and the Golden Gate Bridge, glowing orange as the sun arced over the bay.
Not a bad hour to sweat uphill simply because I can.
Second, I like to do something for others. It’s a way to remember the kindness of strangers in Crested Butte, Colorado who put me back together and brought me comfort when I was so far from home — while I was creating a new one there. I began last night by cooking a special dinner for my husband and this morning, brought my officemates the chocolate cupcakes I baked to remind them of the sweetness of life. A secular Seder in June.
The gesture is so small as to seem insignificant, but I know the intention is everything; one of my office mates received a clean bill of health after a month of white-knuckle medical tests and biopsies suspicious of breast cancer. She has a husband and a son. She has a second chance, too. Maybe she’ll pick up her bass guitar in her own private party.
Another friend is watching Parkinson’s too quickly ravage his father, who was an avid outdoorsman, a fly fisherman and mountain biker. My friend and his family have convinced their Dad that they can overcome his mobility and move him to Lake Tahoe and keep him comfortable for a weekend so he can enjoy a change of scenery, a breath of mountain air.
Take a walk. Move your body. Celebrate the life force inside you. Dance. You don’t know what might happen. You really don’t. Take a moment to appreciate your mobility and life.
I remember June 6th so vividly as if it were today – the catering job I got that morning for backcountry weddings, the ‘last hike’ I went on that night, the video of Patriot Games I had left at home and wanted to return so that I didn’t have to pay the fine, and on the way back, the decision to stop my car to give two mountain bikers a flashlight because I didn’t want them to get hit by a car. Then after we were all struck, thinking they were dead.
I kept hearing a voice, ‘it’s only broken bones’ over and over, and to this day, do not who was speaking to me from that winding road where I lay and stared up at a mountain. All I knew is that broken bones, like most things we endure, can eventually heal. What I didn’t know and what I’m still learning, is that the shattering might even help us to evolve.
It’s been 18 years and these memories play again and again, like some theme song to remind me of the path I’ve chosen, how I got from that dark night to such brightness. I’m living my dream life and yet it has its many challenges, of course. Finances, raising a toddler, marriage itself. But I’ll take them and the lessons as the price for being alive.
When we shatter, we lose parts of ourselves, some of them forever. When we break, we break open and the pieces that remain sometimes contain gifts hidden deep inside the pain.
Yesterday, I swam 2500 meters in 50 minutes with no pain in the shoulder that was torn out that night. Today I hiked in comfort with no limp and a cadaver’s bone aiding each step. My daughter kisses my scar whenever I wear shorts and calls it my ‘boo boo.’ She has yet to learn the story of June 6, but she knows the sweetness of a chocolate cupcake. And maybe that’s enough?