In years past, I’d sent holiday cards and letters to 50 or more people. The ease of sharing on the Internet has significantly reduced the list of people who receive cards from us via snail mail. Enjoy my holiday letter, and pretend it was snuggled in a fancy, glittery holiday card that arrived by mail.
Family and friends,
This is the hardest holiday letter we’ve ever written. Both Rich and I have figuratively lived through a horrific hurricane, which shattered the trajectory of our well-being, activities, and future.
The first half of 2019 was glorious.
We were both fully employed, Rich driving a bus for Island Transit, and me working as a contractor, writing content for Microsoft from the comfort of our home office. With almost all our home improvement projects completed from hanging pictures to replacing the futon in our front room with a real sofa and getting a new-fangled, wall-mounted flat-screen TV with a sound bar, our focus was on finishing our garden complex.
The year before, we had bought a large garden shed, and a redwood greenhouse kit, which Rich assembled over several months. He’d also installed a series of four rain barrels, gutters, spigots, and other paraphernalia to catch the water from the shed and greenhouse roofs, and set up drip irrigation.
The large cardboard boxes from the greenhouse kit were spaced on the ground and covered with sandy soil, compost, partially decomposed kitchen waste, and horse poop from our neighbor. We then placed heavy black plastic over the eight beds, which we weighted down with bags of sand.
In the spring, we uncovered the beds, rototilled, and planted a wealth of seeds. In addition, Rich built a deer- and rabbit-proof fence around the garden and added drip irrigation. I embellished the shed by sewing floral curtains, and planting herbs in front. Everything looked amazing.
In mid-May, we chartered a 33-foot Hunter sailboat from Nanaimo Yacht Charters on Vancouver Island. We spent 10 days sailing to various ports in the Canadian Gulf Islands, wandering through small towns, reading, and relaxing. While we had some mishaps because of unexpected stormy weather, we had a great trip, which included eating dim sum in Richmond, staying at two fabulous Airbnbs in Nanimo and Sidney and taking a leisurely ferry ride back to the states.
When we got back home, Rich learned he’s finally secured a fixed route driving for Island Transit, which meant he wouldn’t have to call in each day to find out his schedule. We spent the next week working, surveying the progress of our garden and making plans for the Memorial Day weekend.
Having gotten caught up on chores and gardening, on Memorial Day, we decided to take a ride on our beloved Harley Davidson Heritage Classic motorcycle, named Gatsby. Seven miles from home, riding down a two-lane state highway, a woman, who was obviously not paying attention, turned left into our motorcycle.
Rich’s left leg was instantly severed. My left leg was broken in five places from the top of my femur to the bottom of my tibia.
Two witnesses came to our aid, immediately calling 911. The EMTs arrived within 15 minutes, and must have contacted Airlift Northwest, because they commented, “Two birds are in the air.” Within an hour, two helicopters flew us to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, a level 1 trauma center.
Because we live on an island, and news travels fast, waves of people came to our aid, including three women who we barely knew, taking over the care of our pets, house, and garden. Rich’s children, Stacey who lived in Bremerton, WA, and Chris, who lives in Camas, WA, put their lives on hold for weeks, coordinating our care, ensuring our bills were paid, communicating with the people overseeing our house, and most of all, providing emotional support while we were hospitalized, and later transferred to rehabilitation centers.
We will be forever grateful for the “community” of people who rushed to our aid and continue to provide support and encouragement, including harvesting our plenitude of vegetables, herbs, and flowers. You can read more about our accident and continuing recovery on rajalary.
Six months after the accident, and with the help of exceptional physicians and medical professionals, Rich’s prosthetist, and compassionate physical therapists, we’re both back on our feet. I walk with a limp, which will gradually improve as my left leg gets stronger. Rich has an elementary knee and can walk without the use of crutches. In time, he’ll graduate to a more advanced microprocessor knee, ankle, and foot, which will enable him to enjoy physical activities from using our pedal kayak to hiking, sightseeing, gardening, and working on home improvement projects.
In November, we spent a memorable Thanksgiving in Bremerton with 4 grandchildren – ages 22 months to 7 years old – and their parents. It was fulfilling to see everyone and works towards a new “normal” when it comes to activities.
A few days after the accident, a dear friend from Temple B’nai Torah visited me, and shared the Yiddish adage, “Mann tracht un gott lacht,” which means “Man plans, and God laughs.” Despite our careful planning, the road of life is unpredictable. While our future might not include trekking for miles and climbing mountains, it’s still bright, filled with healthy living on Whidbey Island, supportive friends and family, and new adventures.
Wishing you and your family happy holidays and start to 2020,
Cheri Anderson said:
This letter lifts my heart! I am a fellow Whidbey Islander who has been following your story with all its ups and downs. I am so glad to see that you have gone from bad days and weeks to bad moments. The road ahead is not the one you thought it would be but you’ll be able to travel it together and continue to heal on our beautiful island! May the days, weeks and years ahead be filled with beautiful memories.
Cheri, thank you for your wonderful comment, and the statement “…you have gone from bad days and weeks to bad moments.” You’re so correct. Our downs are now “moments.” It puts our recovery into perspective.”
I adore the artist Mary Engelbriet, and have her daily inspiration calendar. One of the days, which I have taped to my computer says, “It’s just a bad day not a bad life.”
People like you have inspired us to push ahead, and as Engelbriet would say, “Make lemonade from lemons.” Thank you for being one of our fans. It’s sincerely appreciated. ”
While I was in rehab, I was told to write a book about our experience. You’l be seeing more articles as I have a chance to detail what occurred (I’m still writing about June), and more current happenings. Then in a year or so, I’ll turn the articles into chapters into a book.
Have a grand holiday season, and start to 2020!
Love and light to you and yours! In admiration. xoxo
Deena leavitt said:
Thanks for the update, you two are fantastic folks! So upbeat! We’re great here in Sherwood,grands growing, kids doing great! I’m off to Haden lake today to spend two weeks with my brother, done with my gifts, baking and such when I return, have a great season my friends!