My childhood was very challenging. I felt plagued by darkness, as deep-seated family issues dominated what was meant to be a carefree childhood. So as a child, faeries were my best friends; I owned Jupiter and I was Queen of Mars. These fantasies I created on Mars became my escape; it was an imagined solace, and my beacon. It helped me survive and mend both my broken spirit and heart.
Now, in adulthood, I am fully aware that I do not own Jupiter, and that I am not the Queen of Mars. Though, I still hold on to that same childhood magic and passion for life because the challenging and difficult personal experiences never ended, I just happened to grow up. I believe magic is what binds the fabric of everyday life, and if you know how and where to look for it you can feel it, sense it, hear it and see it all around you.
March 10, 2015. One day, one moment would forever alter our lives in ways we could not possibly imagine. Connor, my eldest son was 16 years old and a sophomore in high school. As we finished up breakfast, we lost ourselves in the typical teenager / parent argument of expectations. I felt he was not meeting our expectations and he could set and achieve so much more. A disagreement that usually ended in “make good choices and I love you no matter what” ended in slammed doors and unkind words. As he walked away, I instantly felt parental guilt and failure to help my teen thrive and grow.
Five minutes later and roughly 1000 yards from our house Connor was struck by a driver, thrown 25 feet in the air, and left alone in a ditch, unable to move from the waist down on that cold spring morning.
Connor was permanently paralyzed, instantly becoming a T-12 paraplegic. I summoned that magic and the strength I relied so much on as a child. As an adult, I found magic in the kindness of others, the strength in our family and community, and our ability as human beings to find blessings even amongst tragedy.
At its heart, magical tendency is found in the most unexpected places. I experienced this during a restorative justice mediation program, whereby I met the man that struck Connor with his car and drove away. Face to face, two years later across from the man who blew up our lives, I sought to understand where we were both are at in our lives and our current journey and figure out what had led us to this point. Arriving at the point of forgiveness and understanding was what I needed to release and move forward.
As I sat across and look in the face of the man who altered our lives forever, I felt forgiveness, release and acceptance. It was one of the most beautiful moments of my life when I asked him to be better, to be better than the day he left Connor on the side of the road, alone. I told him that our family was trying to heal and figure out our new normal. I told him we were trying to make our small corner of the world better.
As he sat across from me, I tried to understand him. He looked at me and started to softly cry. He looked up and said, “I don’t understand how or why you are doing this? I fully expected you to yell and cuss me out.” In response I said, “Why would I do that? Let’s both be better than that.” Today, we are doing just that. He talks to parolees about the restorative justice process and counsels them to grasp the opportunity to meet the person they harmed and make amends. To realize the impact crime has on the person you injured.
When Connor was first injured, our family started sharing our story on a public blog called Caring Bridge. It was on this blog that I wrote about my hope of bettering the lives of both Connor and the man that irrevocably changed his life. I knew in my heart that this would be the best outcome. I am proud to be able to say that so far, we have achieved this outcome.
I have always believed that when our hearts and spirits break, it is so that more love and light may enter. This in turn mends the heart so it is able to grow bigger and stronger. It is then that we can share our strength and love with others, while also strengthening ourselves in the process.
After the restorative justice meeting and emotional release that came with it, I was able to move forward with my own life, as well as pursue my own hopes and dreams. I started to focus on a simple yet powerful idea — to provide support for family caregivers. In 2017, I started the Arch Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to this mission. I have been a family caregiver in some capacity my entire life: whether for my father, grandmother, and Connor, or being on the other side of caregiving when I was personally chronically ill. These experiences instilled my fierce passion and unwavering dedication to this often-overlooked cause.
I managed to harness the magic life offers and used it to make my dreams come true. I am not the Queen of Mars, but I found a new passion and appreciation for the brutally beautiful moments life has to offer us. And to me, that is just as magical.