The holidays... ugh.
The whole season came crashing down on me like a mountain of clothes in a packed up inherited storage unit, leaving me helpless and trapped. Struggling under a mass of responsibility and inability. Life had been that way for a while now, I guess that's not a feeling i can blame solely on the holidays.
I lay here, helpless, motionless, watching. My daughter was turning two, I was watching her spin circles around me and blossom into a curly headed toddler.
There was a missing ring on the curtain rod letting just a ray of light in. There was a smudge on the mirror that hung over the dresser. The never-ending heap of laundry avalanched from the wicker basket in the corner of the room. My daughters beautiful autumn curls were pulled back in pigtails... one slightly fuller than the other. The sheets were tangled around my feet in a way that would've been uncomfortable if only I could feel it.
My husband could only do so much on his own. I suppose its ludicrous for me to focus in on these little inconsistences when he's facing this world alone.
When you become a mother, when you bring a new soul into this world and hold this helpless being you make a promise that you'll be there for them every day of their life. I made a promise to her I would take care of her. Six years ago I made a promise to my husband to be there for him as a partner, wife, soulmate, equal. Everyday I fail to fulfill both those promises.
The accident was just over nine months ago, the doctors said it was a miracle I was even alive. The car flipped four times, enough to land my brand new luxury SUV back on its wheels. I was pronounced dead for twenty three seconds and was revived. Those twenty three seconds, I remembered my promises. The two biggest promises I've ever made in my whole life. The promise to be there for my at the time new born baby and the promise to be there for the love of my life. If I could have just known it would end up like this I would've never fought for my life.
I wasn't always this gloomy. I was a lawyer. I met the love of my life in law school, he was one year ahead of me trying to sell me some coffee stained, highlight riddled one version too old of the books I needed that year. Love at first sight, like the movies always say it'll be. Our first Christmas was one for the books, we were both broke college students but we went out of our ways to find meaningful gifts to exchange. He had given me a copy of a book I had read since I was a little girl and I had referenced countless times. When he gave me the book I could tell some of the pages had been fingered through and some of the corners slightly bent or torn.
"Did you read this?" I asked.
"Our hearts were like embers from a bonfire on a cold winter night, they burned so fiercely and burst through the air as the heat rises. They circle around each other, their light flutters so brightly in a world of cold and uncertainty it makes even the fireflies jealous. My ember chases yours until they join each other on the ground to burn together for all of eternity. The real question is, will they fall into a pile of pine needles and catch fire setting this world alight or will they fade to grey in a pile of ashes?"
I think about this memory so often and every time I do I cant help but cry. The inability to wipe my own tears was by far the worst part of being in this vegetative state. As a lawyer I was seen by many as a cold hearted, ruthless, I put a front up that was only to come down when I was around my husband and daughter. But now... my despair was for all to see.
I wanted nothing more in this world than to go to Target or ToysRUs and buy something for my little girl. Or to go to Barnes and Noble and get my husband the new Stephen King book but this year I wouldn't be so lucky.
My husband came through the door holding a package. Strange.
"Hey beautiful, as you know Christmas is in a week and you know I'm no good with surprises... I don't know if you recall our first Christmas but I've been thinking about it a lot recently," He moved over some of the medical paperwork from the nightstand revealing the original copy of "Winter Embers" he had bought for me. The spine was twisted from years of reading and the pages were falling out of place, the stiches were so worn they were almost as thin as fishing line. He sat down next to me on the bed and held my hand. He was so warm, his hands were rough after having to take up a second job to support us. He was so strong but so gentle. He used his other hand to pull something from the package. A book. My eyes darted around the room trying to dam the flood of tears that were coming. I knew what book that was.
"You know our first Christmas I was... well I was broke... and I know this past few months has been really hard on us but I still have more money than I did then. And I never told you this but I did read this book... but I wasn't the only one. I went through every single used book store in the county and after four I finally found your book. It wasn't in the best shape but it was only seventy five cents and I knew you didn't have a copy, that you had only read the book at your library. Well... now you have a brand new copy."
"Oh great" I thought "a book I cant hold or feel or even read unless its held up to my face. Being a vegetable sucks. This is the most thoughtful gift I've ever gotten with exception to the first time he'd given me this book and I cant even apricate the book the way it deserves!"
The dam broke, I started crying uncontrollably.
"Baby, don't cry I'm going to read this to you and I'm going to start right...here...Our hearts were like embers from a bonfire on a cold winter night, they burned so fiercely and burst through the air as the heat rises. They circle around each other, their light flutters so brightly in a world of cold and uncertainty it makes even the fireflies jealous. My ember chases yours until they join each other on the ground to burn together for all of eternity. The real question is, will they fall into a pile of pine needles and catch fire setting this world alight or will they fade to grey in a pile of ash?
You're that ember Ana. You are not to be blown out by the winds of misfortune. You're an ember being carried on the breeze waiting to catch fire. You're going to get better. I know it. You're going to catch fire." He leaned down and kissed me on the cheek right on the track marks the tears had left from months of staining my skin.
My heart was on fire just as it was when I met him. And for once I could feel a burning under my skin. I could feel my finger tips itching to move, the blood flowing under my finger nails and the nerved up and down my forearm. Squeeze his hand! Do it! You are not a candle to be blown out by the winds of uncertainty and insecurity... you are an ember of red hot fire floating on the breeze just waiting to set this world ablaze. You can do it. Fall into a cushy pile of pine needles and oak trimmings and set this forest into a raging inferno, send the fire up in pillars of orange and yellows dancing together in harmony. Do it for your daughter, do it for your husband, do it for yourself and for the world. Do it for the promises you made.
"Did you just squeeze my hand?!" He exclaimed "Move your finger! I want to make sure I'm not dreaming!"
He laid my hand on the bed beside me and with all the force i could muster I looked down and lifted my index finger, pointing it right at the book.
It was me. I was the winter ember.