Day 72: Not So Serious Accidents

A few weeks ago, on the night before my birthday, I wrote my good friend, Joe, an email.  I've known Joe since 3rd grade, longer than I've known almost all of my friends.  Joe and I were really close in high school and the first few years of college, but then he moved to Gainesville to be a serious scientist. Between school, work, and distance, we don't get to see each other as often as we did years ago.  Still, when we do it's like no time has passed.

I wrote Joe this email the night before my birthday because I realized that I had not done what I had promised myself I would do: call him on his birthday. Joe's birthday is exactly a week before mine and even with our busy schedules and intermittent visits, Joe


calls to wish me a happy birthday. You know how often I've had the forethought to call him on his birthday? It's probably less than half the fingers on one hand. Sad.

So the last time I saw Joe I said, "I am calling you on your birthday this year." I made this big deal about it, even when he tells me, "Nyssa, it's no big deal." It was to me, I thought.

Fast forward a few months and I found myself the night before my birthday realizing that no phone call from me to Joe occurred within the week prior.  Though I didn't keep my word I figured I'd do the next best thing and write him an email sharing how much our friendship means to me.  I may not be able to remember to call at the right time, but I can express how I feel, and I thought that Joe would appreciate that more than a birthday wish.

And he did.

So today I found out from another really good friend of mine, who's also Joe's long-term girlfriend, that Joe was in a biking accident recently. Her email said that it wasn't too serious but that he did have to get surgery and metal plates in his face. Though I was shocked by this news, I was calmed by the word that it wasn't too serious.

I couldn't help but think of that email I sent him a few weeks ago and how I was so glad that I wrote it when I did. It was my reminder that things can get real serious, real fast, and birthdays or not, I better tell my friends I love them and that I'm glad they are still here.

Life may not give me any guarantees but that doesn't mean that I can't give it gratitude. I am thankful to be here at all. And I am thankful Joe is still here too.

Day 60: My TBI Clients

Years ago, I was hired by the VA hospital to come in twice a month to offer chair massage for family members in the poly-trauma unit. This meant mostly moms and wives of traumatic brain injury victims, who had left their lives from often across the country to be the main care-takers of their loved ones.  Talk about people that really need massage. There were  few who started to see me privately; several of them then asked if I could work on their son. This was how I began my experience with working with people suffering from a TBI.

It has now become one of my specialties. I have three clients I see regularly and cherish my time with them. These sessions have made me think outside the box of typical massage and learn how much communication can take place without words.  Though I can not "cure" them of their condition, or even guarantee that I can make them improve, it is obvious that they enjoy our sessions immensely. The mom of the client I saw today said once, "I think this is the only therapy that he really wants to come to."

These clients may not know it, but they teach me so much. Learning to connect with someone that can not talk, has severely limited mobility, and only sometimes is able to answer a yes or no question with gestures or facial expressions is possibly the most valuable lesson in human connection that I will ever get.

When I see them I have two main goals beyond relaxing them. The first is helping them to feel seen. Not just looking at the traumatized body in front of me, but the person within that. Though I am working with their body I left them know through words but mostly eye contact that I am acknowledging them as a person.  And it goes both ways, I know they see me too.

The second goal is to make them laugh. I'm no longer surprised by their ability to pick up subtle humor or remember a story I told them months ago. I know when they laugh I've connected with their spirit, and its in that moment they may forget their limitations or condition. Its in that moment that I do and all I see is a dear friend expressing joy.  

They've shown me that the way to deeply connect with another isn't through words or touch or anything that complicated. Looks and laughs, that's it.