I’m kicking off this Monday morning by sharing a piece written by Mrs. Tawana Farley. There is power in sharing our individual and collective experiences. I am grateful for Tawana’s willingness to join the conversation. -Tonza
April 5th, 1999, my life changed forever. Growing up, I would go through heartbreak and hurt, and every time I did, I felt like I was experiencing the worst pain of my life. I lost my father November 25th, 1996, and that hurt was like no pain I had EVER felt. But, on April 5th, 1999, I learned that no matter how much hurt you have experienced in life, it can get worse. And, as if it were not enough for my good old companion pain to show its face again, on April 5th, 1999, pain decided to have some of its staunchest allies join as it reentered my life. Those allies were fear, anger, hopelessness, and helplessness.
On April 5th, 1999, I was 25-years-old, standing at my husband’s bedside in ICU, watching him fight for his life. My husband was a passenger in a car that was struck by a drunk driver. This single, random incident left my husband unresponsive and on life support for 3 months.
One month after that fateful day, doctors told me that there was absolutely nothing left for them to do, and I should consider turning the life support off. My husband was suffering from a brain injury and many broken bones, including a crushed hip.
I could feel my husband’s spirit in the room even though the doctors and the machines hooked to his body told me he was not there. Despite the hopelessness surrounding me, I spent my days anticipating the moment I would hear him say, “I love you” again. I thought about all the small things that he had done to piss me off before the accident and realized that none of it mattered. I wanted to hear my husband’s voice again.
That meeting with his team of 8 doctors turned my fear into faith and my hopelessness into hope! I went from the woman that cried herself to sleep on the ICU waiting room floor every night for over a month to being the resilient woman that was hidden deep inside of me. You see, from a very early age, I had mastered the art of fight and survival. So, I pushed aside the tears and deep pain I felt, and kicked into “survival mode”, for me and my helpless husband. I walked back into my husband’s hospital room and began to pray and cry out to God. Although I was not raised in the church and had very little exposure to religion as a child, I always had faith, and that faith kept me close to the higher being. You see, God had been the one to keep me comforted through a pretty rough childhood or the lack thereof. So, knowing that God was in control no matter what, I knew in order to fight this fight, I had to get grounded in my faith.
Eventually, my husband would wake from the coma he was in, but the battle was far from over. The doctors, when they realized my husband was coming to, met with me again to set my level of expectations. They emphasized the fact that he had a brain injury, and his life would never be the same again. But my strength and faith would not allow me to expect anything less than the very best outcome for my husband.
When my husband was released from Grady Hospital to begin his recovery at Emory Rehabilitation Center, he was 75 lbs lighter, his memory was slowly returning, and he had to learn to eat, talk, and walk again.
My husband, at 24-years-old, had always worked as a manual laborer. I was a high school drop out and had just landed my first office job as a receptionist weeks before the accident. We had a one-bedroom apartment together and a car, but not much else. The night my husband was moved to Emory Rehabilitation Center, I knew that if I wanted us to maintain our life together, I would have to figure out a way to make it work on one income. I also knew I had to get some help taking care of him once he came home.
Rehabilitation complete and my husband still not the man he was before the accident, he returned to our home in a wheelchair. My mother in law moved in to help nurse him back to health so that I could continue working. As his wife, I could see the physical pain that my husband was experiencing as he went from a wheelchair to a walker and then a cane. But, resilient himself, he fought his way back to my arms, and together we worked on his physical healing. Eventually, my husband was able to get around and take care of himself, although he suffered from some permanent injuries that would keep him from working in the capacity he was use to.
I have always been a very independent driven woman! This speed bump in my life took that quality (maybe curse) into overdrive. I was determined to make sure we moved forward toward living the American dream, even if I was the one holding the wheel. I made promises to myself and God when my husband lay in that bed fighting for his life, and I intended to follow through on those promises. I wanted to make sure we lived the American Dream, and I was not only going to cook that American pie, but I was going to slice it up as well. I never stopped to consider how this would make my husband feel. As he was trying to adapt back to everyday life and feel as normal as possible, I was pushing my way up the corporate ladder despite the fact that I did not have a high school diploma or college degree. Now when I look back, I think I pushed myself so hard at work because I felt helpless when my husband expressed how this accident changed his life.
The harder things got for us, the harder I pushed myself at work. I now had a career and not just a job. I went from receptionist all the way up to the 1st Logistics Manager the company I worked for ever had. I was making a great salary and decided that we should start planning for a family. Again, very driven and goal-oriented, I thought I could plan it all out, and if I worked hard, we would be in the fast lane toward the life I always wanted. Again, God had a different plan. We bought a 4-bedroom house and an SUV so I could be a suburban soccer mom. There was only one problem, I could not get pregnant. Determined, we suffered through the failure of IVF. I was devastated at the thought of never having the opportunity to be a mother. And I must say, my husband, despite the pain he was still dealing with, was extremely supportive and encouraging.
I am ecstatic to share that despite the IVF failure, things worked out, and we have an amazing son. I went back to school while I was pregnant and finished while my son was a newborn. I had fulfilled the goals I set, and my husband was there every step of the way.
My marriage looks different from what society says a marriage should look like. I have never been the type of woman that needed or wanted a man to take care of me financially. I require and must have emotional support. After my husband’s accident, I continued to work hard and excel in order to earn a six figure salary. Although the accident caused my husband to be limited physically, he reset and poured all of his energy into me. He encouraged me no matter what we were facing. He gave me the freedom and support I needed to work hard, go to school, be a wife and a mother. He got up late with our newborn while I did homework. He cooked for me every day to make sure I ate healthy while I was pregnant and nursing our son. He kissed my forehead and told me to slow down every day. The harder I pushed myself, the harder he pulled me close. He made our life run smooth when I felt out of control. He provided the love and support that I needed.
I am almost 50 now, and I have had some tough and trying life experiences. There are times that I wonder how different our life would have been if that drunk driver had not turned our life upside down on April 5th, 1999, but then I remember that things are just the way God planned. Our life together might look different than most couples, but “WHAT WE HAVE WORKS”!