Today I am honored to share with you a guest post written by a friend from my childhood, Jason Erickson. Jason’s dad sustained a significant traumatic brain injury two years ago. Since the injury, I have been following Jason’s posts on CaringBridge, and have been continually moved by their family’s faithfulness and love for one another in the midst of such life changing trials. Before I launched the blog, I asked Jason if he would be willing to guest post about his dad. Although I originally intended him to guest post months ago, Valentine’s Day seems a perfect fit.
In this post, Jason shares the heart-warming and inspiring story about his parents – their love for one another, their love for their family, their love of an Almighty God, and the promises that remain true even in the face of a significant traumatic brain injury. Jason so beautifully reminds us that we should not “take even one day for granted with those we love and cherish most.”
Her words and the panicked sound of my mom’s voice will forever be etched into my mind. “Jason, come quickly, your dad is hurt really bad.” These were the words that introduced me to a life-changing chapter in the life of our family. As the helicopter made its way to the parking lot of our family-owned lumberyard to airlift my dad away, I was beginning to wonder if my life had changed forever, in the blink of an eye. What I would later find out on January 12, 2011, is that my dad had sustained a traumatic brain injury from a fall while working on an overhead garage door at our business. His initial prognosis was very dim, but now, over two years later, our family has grown closer and I have witnessed first hand the covenant my parents made to each other and before God.
The story of their marriage began on a typical fall day, for most of the world it would prove to be a very ordinary day. For a young couple, this day though, would mark their beginning. The beginning of a life together, one that would have many more ups than downs, many more smiles than frowns, and one unshakable foundation. On that fall day, October 24, 1970, I was not even a twinkle in my parents’ eyes, and little did I know how much of an impact that day in history would eventually have upon my life.
When I arrived on August 12, 1974, I was completely unaware of what had just occurred. Unaware of whose gentle hands tenderly held me, unaware whose loving eyes stared into mine, and unaware of whose hand caressed my head while whispering in my ear, “I love you.” Over the next few years, my love for these two people would grow exponentially. Initially, not even knowing who they were, to being the ones I looked to for love, support and strength.
My parents would provide all I would need growing up, including a foundation of faith. I remember growing up how important it was to show and tell how much we loved each other. I remember feeling my “love tank” fill up as my dad wrapped his arms around me to give me hug. I remember the special moments Jill, Mom, and I shared on the deck eating lunches during the warm days of summer. As I grew older, I began to admire more the relationship my parents had. Throughout my dating years, I recognized their marriage as one I would like to model my own after. Granted they were human, and their marriage was not perfect, but considering all life tends to throw at us, it was a very healthy relationship.
Growing up in our home, it was always comforting to hear my parents say that they loved each other. The love they shared was more than just words, it was nurtured and followed up by actions. Actions, not in the sense of expensive gifts, but in simple gestures of kindness – my dad scrubbing the kitchen floor at night even after a day of logging in the woods, my mom leaving supper for us when she had to work evenings at the hospital, and the fun-loving sight of seeing my dad steal a kiss from my mom as they walked into a restaurant. To some this may seem irrelevant in the greater scheme of life, but to a son and daughter, it helped provide the security needed in order to form the foundation of who we are today. Our home was a home in which two children knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that their parents loved each other, loved being together, and would stay that way until one day God would call one of them home.
Our family had the blessing of being a pretty normal family, even as Jill and I grew older and had families of our own. We all lived relatively close, so we could spend time together. Jill and I had all of our grandparents still living and we were all generally quite healthy, so life was very good.
The “normalcy” of life abruptly changed on that brisk winter January day in 2011. Initially, after the surgery to stop the bleeding on his brain, I didn’t know if my dad would live through the night, and even if he did, our family would have a new “normal.”
Since that difficult day in early 2011, my mom has not missed one day, or may I say, one opportunity to be with my dad. She has been with him, by his side each day, encouraging him, spending time with him, and making the most of what time they share together. Granted, it is not what she would have chosen for this stage of their life or their marriage. But on that fall day in 1970, her covenant before God and with my dad did not have an exit clause. As they stood in that small town Minnesota church, their promise to each other was not only for the good times, the safe times, or the easy times. It was a promise made for life, and included the words for better or worse, in sickness and in health. I’m sure they never would have envisioned this present day scenario, but then in reality, on one’s wedding day, who does envision such a tragedy?
While growing up, I admired my parents and their love for each other. Since my dad’s accident though, I still not only admire their love and devotion, but I now cherish it. I have witnessed, specifically on the part of my mom, her love for my dad lived out on a daily basis. A love that at this point, is not reciprocated in a way that she would choose, but nonetheless not prohibiting her from continuing to share it with dad. Considering the fact that my dad is still in a transitional care unit, I don’t necessarily know what my dad ponders as he is in his hospital room. We are hoping to eventually move him to a rehabilitation center, but for now he is still bed ridden and on a feeding tube. One thing I know he is not concerned with however, is the dedication and devotion of my mother. Each morning, whether sunny or snowy, when he opens his eyes he sees his bride, and each night as he closes them, he has the assurance that she’ll be there tomorrow. As a wife, she understands her need to make time for herself in order to remain healthy and “charged,” but there is always time and a place in her heart for dad.
My parents’ love for each other during this difficult time did not just happen. It is a love cultivated by many years of loving on each other. Years of loving acts that continued to bring them closer to each other, and in that, formed a bond that nothing in this world can break. As much as my parents love each other, and thus demonstrate that love for each other, that is only part of their story. On that day in October 1974, the covenant that my parents made with each other, at the same time, they also made with Christ. They promised themselves to each other, and their marriage to Him.
In a world that is not always conducive to keeping one’s marriage a priority, He was and is the rock that my parents have built their life on. I recently heard someone say, “sometimes God allows you to hit rock bottom, in order for you to find out, He is that rock.” That fact somewhat summarizes the past couple years of my parents’ marriage. This life is not always going to be easy, and there will be times we may wonder “why?” My dad used to remind me that in this life we were never promised it would be a rose garden. It is in the midst of these difficult times though, that we hold to our faith in Him, and His plan, even though we sometimes have many more questions than answers. It is this simple act of trust that brings us peace, knowing that His plan will ultimately work out for good, if we continue to put our faith in Him. Work out for good, not necessarily on this side of eternity, but we will one day understand “why” it had to occur.
One day my parents will say good-bye to each other on this earth. One day they will hold hands one final time. When that day arrives, they will let go of each other, knowing that this though, is not the end of their story. For there is coming a day when they will be reunited again and their tears will be wiped away, never to return. A day when the Rock they built their life on here, will welcome them home for eternity. It will be on that day, that their story, will simply become a smaller part of His-story.
As Valentine’s Day is upon us again, may we each remember our closest loved ones. May we not take even one day for granted with those we love and cherish most. As we celebrate the day that celebrates love, I am reminded of a few verses.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these…is love. 1 Corinthians 13