Sunday, December 7, 2008


It was mid-November when the phone rang. It was "the" phone call every parent is afraid they might one day receive. Paula and I were asleep and were pulled out of the foggy state by the ringing of the phone. It was her mom on the other end.

"They've been in an accident and the doctors aren't sure Doug is going to make it", she whispered with a voice that was barely audible through her stress-strained voice.

I tried to console mom and then handed the phone to Paula. They spoke for a few moments and as Paula hung up the phone and handed it back to me, the tears began to flow from her beautiful, blue eyes.

"What happened?", I asked. She shared that the Northwest College basketball team that her brother Doug coached had been in a serious accident driving from Spokane to Walla Walla. The van he was driving his a patch of black ice as it went in a corner and Doug lost control. The van left the road way, rolled four times and skidded nearly 900 feet before it came to rest.

I almost couldn't get the words out of my throat. "What about Jason?"

Jason is Paula's oldest son. I consider him my oldest son as, even though none of my blood flow through his veins.

"Mom said he was taken to the other hospital. She isn't sure, but she said he's not as bad as Doug is." Paula lay there in bed next to me, her body trembling. I pulled her close and simply held her. It was all I could offer her. After a while had passed, I told her that I would call the principal of the school where I taught and tell him that I would need a substitute and we would leave to go see them as soon as she was ready.

Her brother did nearly die. He didn't breathe on his own for the first several day and spent the next month in the hospital. In describing his injuries, the Seattle Times said that they would "take up several chapters of Grey's Anatomy." But he finally came home before Christmas and spent the next several months slowly recuperating. Our son Jason suffered a broken collar bone and a fractured vertebrae in his back and spent three days in the hospital before coming home.

It's been over 15 years since the accident, and from the outside, both Jason and Doug look healthy. Their bodies appear unblemished. But that's not what they look like on the inside, especially Doug.

Doug is one of those people who now have one of those hangers on their rear view mirror that have an image of a wheelchair. He's legally physically disabled. His doctors have described him as a man in his 50's with the body of a 90 year old. Five of his ribs were crushed in the accident and it's pretty difficult for the body to stored bones that looked like mush back into strong, solid rib bones. His knee joint is bone rubbing on bone...all of the protective cartilage gone. His shoulder shares the same fate.

But looking at Doug, you would never know. In fact, it's not uncommon for him to have people make rude comments about him being "one of those" who somehow got one of "those" decals for his car so he could park close to the front door. He's been called "lazy" and "selfish", simply because people see his unblemished body, and not the damage that has been done to him on the inside.

I spent this past weekend with my older sister. She came to up visit and watch me perform with our church choir as we presented our Christmas concert. Her visit was a beautiful gift to me. As has become our custom when we are together over the past year, we talked and shared. And revealed more of ourselves to each other.

My sister is five years older than I am, and I have discovered that I really didn't know very much about her. Through her gift of writing, she is revealing the painful past that is her life that I never knew....that I never saw. My sister is a beautiful woman...professional and distinguished looking. You would notice her in a crowd because she has the aura of someone who is someone. From the outside, she looks "unblemished".

But like Doug, that's not the case. Her injuries inside are not the physical kind, they are the kind that are much more difficult to heal. Sadly, I never saw them...I didn't realize they were there. Maybe she didn't know they were there either. Through God's grace and love, she is healing...slowly, but still healing.

I realized as I sat and visited with Debbie this weekend that my own wounds are much deeper than I realized. I feel such pain deep in my heart when I encounter certain situations and see a particular group of people that it is almost unbearable and inevitably leads to the tears flowing from my eyes. I'm slowly discovering that the pain comes because I see myself in those people and circumstances. I see a boy who was hurt in ways no one else saw because the wounds were of the heart and soul, and not of the skin and bones.

I thought I had come further in my healing process than I have, but I still have so far to go. There are still traps for heart that have been laid out there like the black ice hidden in the darkness of a curve up ahead on a cold, wintry night. I don't have a "damaged inside" hanger to place on my rear view mirror. Like my sister, when people see me, they see this person who looks like the have it all together. I guess that's probably what I want them to see. Not the man who feels so broken at times. Not the man who seeks understanding for the confusion that he feels at times over his own identity. Not the man who finds himself with hot burning tears streaking his cheeks whenever he see a teenager alone...or bullied...or unloved.

Unblemished? Only on the outside!


Deb said...

The gift of your love and of your knowing of me is almost more than I can receive. I'll need to go back and reread this when I can see and when the eyes of my heart adjust to the bright clean light of your words.

I am so proud of you for hearing my question and for accepting the feelings that it unearthed. Healing will follow.

More at the next reading. I love you so much.

Deb said...

I just reread this. It's one of your best, both as a piece of writing, and as a work of insight.

One of the things I've learned in my healing process is that I'm never quite prepared for the next layer of woundedness. It's not a failing. It's just part of the process. Every wound is its own unique imprint on our soul, and as such requires our full attention and respect.

Not being as healed as you thought is not a bad thing, or a weakness, or a sign that you've done anything wrong. It just means you're finally feeling safe enough to allow those things to the surface.

I can't tell you how much I value our conversations of the last year. I'm still thinking about last weekend's. You help me find meaning and healing.

I love you.