To recap – on a roof, very quickly came off a roof - involuntarily. Broke my legs bad. Life had changed dramatically in an instant. Now I was faced with a future of being dependent on either a wheelchair or walker to even get around. I was an invalid. Life became nothing more than existing within the rails of a hospital bed.
I had no perspective. There was no way to see anything positive with the terror of being crippled screaming in your head. Kyra, our youngest daughter – 4 at the time I believe, had a friend over for a playdate. Kids are extremely adaptable. It doesn’t take long for any type of new reality to set in and be accepted as the norm. This is how all of my children reacted to seeing their father, 24 hours a day, confined to a bed in a room that had once been a loud, joyous Family Room. Now it was where Dad lived. Kyra and her friend were crawling around in the bed – looking at my bound legs. Kyra’s friend asked, “Why is your Daddy always in the bed?” Without missing a beat Kyra replied, “He doesn’t know how to walk.” It was then I realized what a burden I was going to be for my family. It was also then I decided that I was going to end it all. For the next week or so as I was given my prescribed pain meds I started saving some up. If Summer’s attention would turn to something else while a pill bottle was in reach – I’d snag a few. Very quickly I had enough ammo to do the job.
The evening came and I knew it was the last time I would kiss my kids good night. Even now I distinctly remember the smell of Jackson’s hair as he crawled onto my chest, gave me a hug goodnight, and ran off way too quickly. Summer had went about the business of getting the house “ready” for settling in – drawing shades, cutting off lights. Our second floor sunroom had become my hospital room. Lying there I had to physically fight back the retching that had begun knotting my stomach. There is no way for me to accurately describe what is going on physically and mentally when you have decided that you are ending the light inside of yourself. Snuffing it out.
As I lay there looking out the window at the darkening evening, I heard the sound of the doorbell. This wasn’t normal. Sumer and I are early to bed, early to rise by nature folks anyways – so someone ringing the doorbell at 8:30 in the evening was as odd as someone ringing the doorbell at 2 o’clock in the morning for us. The sound of a male voice coming from the front of the house drew all of my attention now; I could hear Summer speaking and then the sounds of footsteps on the hardwood coming from the front of the house, heading back to the sunroom where I lay. I was dumbfounded when I saw an insurance adjusting colleague of mine and Summer’s come through the doorway. Barry was/is a great guy. In the years since this evening I am describing, Barry and I have remained in contact but we aren’t best friends. We don’t run in the same circles, he lives 5 hours north of us in Ohio. He had never been to our home, never any reason for him to be at our home, hell, I didn’t even know he knew where we lived . . but yet there he was. “I’ve been working in the Gulf for the past few months and finally am finished up and am heading home” Barry said. “I’ve known about your accident for while and wanted to stop by on my way back and check on you.” I can only imagine the look on my face.
I can’t tell you what Barry and I even talked about. Nothing. I can tell you what I was thinking. . I was thinking that if this feller here who knows me only professionally in passing, that hasn’t been home in months, sees enough value in me as I lay broken here that he stopped to check on me, ME. . .. what in the world do I mean to Summer and the kids? This will shatter them forever. My God, what am I thinking. . get the hell off this insane ride, Brian . . . I broke down. I’m sure Barry thought it was from being happy that he stopped and to a degree it was. Most of it was the realization of how close I had come to breaking my wife and kids forever. I developed instant perspective.
I didn’t kill myself that night – obviously. Or any night for that matter. Years went by before I ever acknowledged that evening; even more time before I actually spoke it aloud. I don’t know if I ever told Summer directly. A combination of being ashamed of myself and just the fear of bringing it back up might think it into existence again prevented me from sharing for a long time. This is the first time I’ve shared it publicly like this. I’ve never spoken to Barry about that night. I can’t imagine he knows what an impact his small act of kindness had on my life and my families’ lives.
Life is very different now. The Stoic’s “view from above” practice is an effective way for us to pull back and look at our situation, to some degree, in comparison with the life situations others are experiencing. It allows us to remove quite a bit of the emotion, worry and mental gymnastics we often put on ourselves so that we can make solid, hopefully objective decisions about our world and how we function within our scenarios. The big picture. From 20,000 feet, an overview . . .
Sometimes . . .sometimes . . . it is a small genuine action by another right in front of you on the micro level – that can make the most significant change; possibly for you. Possibly for others. Everything counts. Kindness counts, empathy counts, love and concern count. Don’t get so bogged down in the minutiae that you lose sight of the big picture. Don’t become so emotionally invested in any one thing that you lose all perspective. Conversely, don’t forget relationships. Don’t underestimate your impact on one person. In one instance you can change a life or even save a life.