I saw the twinkling of Christmas lights all around me. I heard soft strains of Christmas music punctuated by machines beeping loudly.
It was Christmas Eve. My back was severely broken. I was nine years old and all alone.
I often think how hard it was for my mother to say goodbye to me. Her face was streaked in blood (she later needed facial reconstructive surgery), and I barely recognized the person who had always been there for me. And yet they wheeled me away from her after a tearful goodbye because in that moment she couldn't help me or go with me.
My older sister walked away from the crash to sit in a warm car nearby. It was so very, very cold, but I had refused the kind stranger's offer, holding myself up with my arms and fearing what would happen if I were to let go. I was told later that if I had tried to walk away from the car, I would have become paralyzed.
I remember the long ambulance drive, being taken away from my family while clutching the softest white teddy bear with a velvet red bow tie and smooth brown nose.
As the week progressed, I remember my Sunday School teacher driving two hours to sit next to my hospital bed to read me the Christmas story. I remember my violin teacher bringing some of her students to perform a show for me. I remember so many stuffed animals being thrown my way at one point I almost had to give up my bed for them to take over. I remember painful physical therapies in which I had to relearn to walk. I remember the back brace that I had to wear forever.
I'm a grown woman now. I'm 30 years old, and I am the mother. But yet every Christmas I get sad remembering how big the hole of loneliness was inside of me that night as I stared at the Christmas lights in painful isolation from my family. I was such a little girl, and yet that night I had to be strong. I didn't have any other choice.
But to me, Christmas is successful when I can tuck my children into their beds safe and sound the night before. When they can wrap their arms around me and leave wet kisses on my ear. When we can watch a Christmas movie all leaning into each other on the couch in a giant pile of limbs (spoiler alert: tickling will ensue). When we can live our loud, messy lives together-- quiet moments blending into the unforgettable ones because of the intensity of joy that comes from simply being.
I am overwhelmingly thankful to be surrounded by my three beautiful children and handsome husband this Christmas season. I am grateful for their love to me. And I look forward to pouring out my love to them this season of celebration. No, my Christmas plans won't be up on Pinterest. But hopefully, these moments will be etched in my children's hearts. Etched and framed by the filter LOVE. I am thankful for the moments that we have to fill by simply being. Togetherness is a gift I will never take for granted.
Thank you to my friend Sarah Pinard for taking these pictures!