Just about two years ago, my wife’s parents were hit by a truck while crossing the street.
The past two years have been both difficult and wonderful. Wonderful in that two people who were on the brink of death following the accident are still with us (her mother in particular has had a miraculous if incomplete recovery from a shockingly awful head injury) – and also wonderful in that the experience brought us closer in some ways. Difficult in that not only was the recovery an overwhelming ordeal, but the life that we / they are left with now is fundamentally different, an in some ways, permanently broken.
Life happens slowly and quickly. It continues to amaze me how change both accretes imperceptibly over time, and also comes crashing through in instant bursts. In this case, that one moment, at around 7pm on Sept 29th, 2016, was an inflection point for the family. I think we all still have some amount of PTSD at this time of year, when it gets colder and dusk comes earlier, and every dark crosswalk feels like a danger zone.
I was talking to a friend this week whose family suffered an even more awful trauma several years back — a trauma which shook the family and altered the course of their existence and their relationships. In that case as well, the longer-term outcome both horribly bad, but with some silver linings.
Every person, family and community has small and large versions of life-altering trauma. Bullying, sexual assaults, suicides, natural disasters, accidents of all kinds, gang violence, political violence.
I would like to think that in each case, there is an opportunity for some surprising growth, resiliency, antifragility. And no doubt in some cases there is. But what I am sure of is that sometimes awful things happen really quickly, and they can change everything. I don’t know that there is any way to be ready for this, expect perhaps to expect it.