Wednesday, October 20, 2010


It has been five months since I last wrote.  Maybe a five month hiatus, five months to focus on something else, five months to absorb.  As I was walking today in a suburban area of Connecticut, I came upon the image of water, flowing freely through my entire body, a stream of endless supply.  I felt the empathy that flowed in its contents.  As I learned more about the people around me, space opened up for water to disperse.  I couldn't help but connect to their experiences, to see the humanity, the struggle, the suffering, and the gratitude.  An appreciation for life itself, for the will to survive through circumstances that seem unbearable.  I could not help but to notice how close we all are, separated by arbitrary circumstances that seek to define our qualifications toward humanity, however, all they do is separate us from seeing each other for who we really are.  Judgments follow me everywhere, anywhere I go.  Now I feel restless with that idea, uncomfortable, for I realized I was somehow comforted by the judgments, as they served to simplify such complex details in my life.  It took sitting in a training today for me to completely understand this.  I think about my brother, and then I think about all those whose lives have been altered by unforeseen circumstances at young ages.  I think about all those who are affected by those circumstances and the effects.  I feel an unending amount of empathy, of willingness to explore, of time and patience to seek knowledge, to expand my limits, to throw away judgments, to really truly understand what it might be like...but the moment is fleeting and I am back to myself, back to a fast-paced, multi-tasked, goal-oriented life where these moments cannot exist in the interest of time and I lose myself.  Yes, I am back to myself and I lose myself, simultaneously.  And so I challenge myself to come back, again and again, to a moment of empathy, a moment of humanity, a moment of true courage.

Monday, May 24, 2010


The blog seems hard to continue in this space of settling into what is.  I realized that when the tragedy first occurred, it was easy to write, easy to tap into the pain, the fear, the urgency of the matter.  As we head toward the six month mark, I feel lost in a different sort of way.  Things are better, yes, thank God, but things are much different now in my whole being. 

I distracted myself quite cleverly, starting a new job, throwing myself into my life, taking my dog out for long walks, avoiding much time to pause, to really take in the weight of what has occurred.  In the midst of all this distraction, my back went out a month ago and it has not healed.  My back has always been strong.  I have always been strong, but then I found a weakness in it and I wonder if my sudden difficulty sleeping and walking and moving freely and lifting and playing and running and biking is in connection to my brother's pain.  On the same day, we both ended up with a heel lift for our left foot...apparently, my left leg is shorter than my right and is putting additional pressure on my spine, which has fairly significant scoliosis.  My brother's left leg is also no longer symmetrical with his right.  All this is happening around me and I haven't stopped to sit quietly, to listen.  I wanted it all to be over.  The tragedy ended, why won't the effects?  And so I realized, our minds have an amazing ability to cut off from our bodies, allowing our bodies to take on and endure what our minds cannot process.  Our hearts, our hips, our backs bear our burdens and we don't even reconnect until we are forced to...bedridden and in pain.

I talked to my yoga instructor, Nianna, a wonderfully intuitive woman with insight and knowledge and compassion that pours out.  She suggested I come to the Core Empowerment Workshop and then to Yin Yoga following.  I hesitated because of my back and I decided to go because of my back.  She suggested I sit quietly and listen.  I realized then that listening, feeling, is what I had been avoiding all this time.  My back, yes, is susceptible to injury, to stress, but it also speaks to the tightness in my hips, the holding place of our deep emotions.  The pain is in my low back, toward my pelvis, the power center of our bodies.  I did my best to allow comfort in, to allow the pain to release, as much as I could.  Tears flowed freely as I rested in a beautiful studio overlooking the choppy ocean on a brilliant Sunday. 

My brother is healing.  We are healing.  Healing is a process that includes pain and tears, grief and loss, longing.  It also includes warmth and compassion, grace, and humility.  It is a wondrous process where love really takes hold.  I am grateful for the supports in my life, for the moments of oneness to all that is. 

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Best Yet

I just returned home from spending the weekend in San Diego.  A few days before, I had a dream that my brother was walking.  His pelvis did not look completely even, but he was able to walk with a limp and jumped up like he usually would.  When I saw him on Friday, he got out of the car and looked so tall.  He was walking with his walker up to see me!  It was so wonderful to see him upright.  He looked free and untouched by the weight of the tragedy.  We spent a few hours at a time together catching up.  I was his sister once again.  By the time I was leaving, he was walking with my dad's cane.  He had decided that even the walker was too cumbersome and he wanted to see if he could do it.  He will find out in physical therapy tomorrow if walking with a cane at this point is advisable, but until then, he is another step closer to his goal...his goal of being able to do backflips, as he described.  My sense of gratitude is present tonight, as I reflect once again on all of the blessings I have received.  I feel warmth fill my entire body as I realize that I am having conversations with my brother, I am connecting with my brother, I am experiencing the fulfillment of being a sister, and once again, I am walking alongside my brother, humbled by his courage and strength and unbelievable tenacity. 

Sunday, March 28, 2010

First Steps

It feels odd to be away from my brother as he made his first steps.  I received a text from my mom and later talked to my brother about his accomplishment.  Using the walker, he walked around his neighborhood, stopped to eat lunch, and sat down on a regular chair.  He said it felt amazing.  He described riding again as not so far out of reach, that he can now picture himself on a bike and it does not feel like a far away fantasy.  I am amazed by my brother's strength and perseverance to say the least.  He is an example of how much our minds play a role in our achievements and the relentless pursuit of our dreams.  My brother considers himself to be an average guy.  He in no way intends to stand out or take up too much space or use too many resources.  He's a minimalist, happiest amongst friends and nature, has little connection to money and material wealth.  He treats others as he would like to be treated, always.  And he never asked, "Why me?"  The closest he came to that question was, "Why now?"  Three months ago, I didn't know if my brother was going to live.  Three months ago, I was worried he would not want to live, given the severity and irreparable nature of his injuries.  Now, in March, I stand in awe of his progress.  I am forever grateful for my brother's life and I am newly encouraged by the quality of life he will likely experience.  Our lives and experiences, whether painful or pleasurable do not exist in the context of the individual.  We learn from each other.  We are touched by our neighbor's experience.  We are invited to see the interconnectedness amongst all humans.  We understand what our brother's suffering might be like the moment we open our hearts.  For this, we are blessed.  For this, we have purpose.  For this, we are one.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Riding Bikes

The other day I rode a road bike for the first time.  I wanted to overcome my fear and also feel what it might have been like for my brother on the day of his accident.  At first I felt selfish knowing how much he longs to be on a bike again.  It is the same feeling I get when I'm running or when I catch myself taking my range of motion for granted.  In the realization of impermanency, I feel so permanent, so attached to how I look and feel and operate, not wanting to lose any of it.  I don't really know what it's like.  I feel like I'm closer to knowing than ever before as I watched my brother long to get up from his wheelchair and yet a power beyond his control kept him in a seated position.  I feel touched by the gravity of his loss.  If only time really could heal all wounds.

So I rode my road bike.  I felt completely vulnerable and uncomfortable.  I am used to my mountain bike with thick, knobby tires and front and rear shocks.  It's like a cadillac in comparison.  I loved the speed, but as soon as I got up to speed, I was ready to slow way back down for fear I would forget again, for the third time how to place my hands to use the brakes.  I almost wanted to call it quits, but then I thought, "My brother wasn't scared of this."  In fact, my brother was genuinely stoked that I was going for a road bike ride.  He even warned me about things to watch for and told me, "I can't wait until I can ride again with you!  We have two awesome cities to explore."  If my brother's still not scared to get on a road bike, why should I be?  And so I kept riding...

Monday, March 15, 2010

How Are You Today?

Feeling a Sunday breeze, breeze through trees and lives, turning to chaos and back around to cool you down.  Lost an hour without even knowing it, how time flies.  Time, suddenly I'm lost in it, the second I can't relate to it because it's something I've created and not a long-standing truth.  And yet I'm so dependent on it, a sense of where I am in the world in relation to the day and sometimes I forget to take a moment and look up at the sun for guidance.  It's a Sunday.  What difference does it make?  Monday is work.  The same routine all over again.  But routine is the difference between surviving and thriving for most.  To know one thing about your day that is stagnant no matter what.  We all want that.  We all want that one thing.  So we get up with the sun and sleep with the moon, but what if that all changes?  In one moment, your life is turned upside down and what you thought was painless is only painful and the thing that brought you joy is now your worst nightmare and the life that you thought you loved is ripped to pieces bit by bit with the things you love the most shattered right before your eyes.  As you watch you wait to see.  See what will happen with time.  Time becomes the only measurement available and so you sit.  Sit with it.  And it slowly and ever so softly leaves the room.  What are you left with?  Only yourself.  Different than before, without measurement or weight.  Turning, following, breathing, longing, and no one knows.  No one knows because who could possibly understand this timeless feeling that we all cling to for dear life.  Who can you invite to sit with you here and just be, simply be?  Who has the courage or the strength?  Who has the patience?  We struggle to be who we are.  Yet we are only the dirt and the sand from which we originated.  Feeling a Sunday breeze, breeze through trees and lives, I find myself again, just as I am, knowing in a moment life can shift and it will no matter our efforts to remain the same.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

A Month Ago

One month ago I began the process of caring for my brother soon after he was discharged from the rehab hospital.  We were sent home with an illegible handwritten triplicate copy of his medication instructions and follow up appointments that we were responsible for setting up.  I took on a different kind of role with my brother than I ever had before.  I was still his sister, but I was also his caregiver.  I was responsible for helping him to remember medications, giving him messages from friends and family, and counting out his vitamins.  I cooked for him, I cleaned the bathroom, I picked up pieces of paper and bandages that had fallen on the floor that he could not reach.  I did his laundry and I made phone calls.  I faxed necessary paperwork and I made a calendar of his many appointments with several different specialists.  My mom and dad worked full time as well.  They were at the apartment a lot of the time, helping with transportation and coordination and they were also running around, filling prescriptions and grocery shopping.  We had no idea that it would take all three of us working constantly to fulfill my brother's one at the hospital talked to us about discharge planning.  No one sat down with us and made a list of some things to expect.  It took two weeks before in home nursing care and physical therapy started.  My brother went from having physical therapy three times a day in the hospital to zero times a day at home.  He began to feel like he wasn't making progress and it was difficult at first to get on a good schedule of sleeping and eating.  The final week of my stay seemed to lend the most consistency.  It took three weeks, though for everything to settle out and I don't think any of us were prepared for it.

My brother kept a positive attitude.  There were times of frustration for both of us.  I think we both wanted to feel that our perspectives and positions were understood.  My brother often wanted to "just get out of the chair and walk" but he knew he couldn't.  It was a test of patience.  It was a test of perseverance.  It was a test of communication and of understanding.  I think all of us endured the hardships and became closer.  I think all of us gained a fuller perspective on each other's experience.

Many nights I was inflicted with bad dreams.  I often couldn't remember the exact content, but they definitely related to my brother and the pain he was enduring.  I often woke up at 2 or 3 in the morning and didn't go back to sleep until 5 or 6.  As time went on, the nightmares faded and I was on automatic pilot.  Friends and family told me how nice it was of me to make the choice to stay with my brother.  I don't think "nice" has anything to do with it.  I love my brother.  I almost lost my brother.  Being there was a given.  People have asked me how it feels to be back.  I must admit, I don't know.  I hardly knew my feelings while I was in San Diego last month.  Now, the experience seems almost far away and distant.  I feel disconnected from it, but I also never felt that connected to it.  I was both fully present and fully absent.  I do know that since being back, I become quickly angered and the anger eventually gives way to tears.  I feel like a child.  I'm walking down the street with Brodie and Brodie won't drink water.  I'm worried about his transition to coming to live with me.  I don't know if he's dehydrated.  The pace is too slow for me.  I'm too hot in my jacket.  I'm thirsty and I didn't bring water for myself, just the dog.  I feel like punching something.  I'm overwhelmed by feelings of anger, sadness, and loss.  I picture my brother.  I feel the depth of his pain and I feel like I'm going to lose it.  I know I want Brodie to drink to prove that I can care for something, to prove that if you just exercise and drink water and eat good food, you will be ok.  But life doesn't work that way and the more I worry that he's not drinking, the more he refuses to drink.  It's a lesson in letting go.  It's a lesson in ridding myself of guilt, thinking that I somehow have more control over life's circumstances than I really do.

So, I'm back at home in South Pasadena.  I'm back to my life at work.  I'm enjoying early morning walks with Brodie.  I'm fostering my relationship, which has been seriously neglected in the past couple of months.  I am feeling my feelings for the first time in several weeks.  I feel grateful everyday for the many blessings I have received.  I make it my intention to notice the daily blessings...the gentle breeze, the chirping of birds, the clouds and the rain, the sun and all of its warmth, my friends and my family, a sense of hope.  It feels good to be back in a familiar place where the houses and trees and shops are all where they were before and even though so much has changed, from the outside, not a soul could tell.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Each Moment

Pictures from times before comfort me. I remember the experiences I had with my brother before the accident. He was always so strong and daring, always pushing me to step outside of my comfort zone, yet I always felt safe, knowing he would protect me from danger. I would like to be able to say I protected him from this danger. But I didn’t. I couldn’t. Life’s moments are so unknown.

I realized as I was falling asleep last night that pictures capture a moment in time. That is all they capture. I often see a picture and I automatically extrapolate, assuming that the moment the picture took place never changes. I then realized that it is up to the photographer to notice and capture a moment that most of us would not even recognize. A photographer sees a moment of beauty, a moment filled with meaning, a moment that describes an experience in ways words cannot and she snaps the photo. Moments change as rapidly as we breathe and the feeling of the moment changes with it. I wonder who else is paying attention. I wonder how many of us become disillusioned as we look only to one moment or one picture to describe our entire experience. I wonder how many children are fed the idea that a single picture-perfect moment will sustain for the rest of their lives. I wonder how we prepare ourselves for moments like this.

We have taken two trips to the emergency room since Matthew was discharged. An in-home nurse still has not arrived to provide Matthew with the care he was promised and the insurance still has not approved physical therapy. It's Monday and it's the beginning of a new business day. I will probably be on the phone today, attempting to get answers to questions I should not have to ask. If anyone has any question in their mind about whether the health care system here in the United States needs vast improvements, I would be glad to assure you that it is in desperate need of renovation. While Matthew was in the ICU, everything was taken care of. We could not have asked for better care. We had no idea that once he left the trauma care unit, we would have to fend for ourselves. There is no way to know how bad it gets until a person has to try to navigate the system. I am hopeful that one day our country will adopt a system that works, a system that incorporates all of the best ideas of the health care providers and the patients. It is absurd that it would ever take over a week for an insurance company to determine whether my brother with a broken pelvis meets medical necessity for physical therapy, occupational therapy, and nursing care.

I have been taking time to practice mindfulness. I am reading Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn, which is helping to liven my motivation and commitment to mindfulness. I am still relying on The Wise Heart by Jack Kornfield to keep this whole experience in perspective. I highly recommend both of these books. They are grounding and stabilizing. Life makes more sense and is much easier to bear when I see meaning and experience on a universal level. As I pay more attention, and as I focus on the moment I am in, I notice how my thoughts are full of fears and worries, followed by impulses. How much of my life is acted out of impulses in reaction to a fear or a worry? How much of my life is acted out mindfully, with intention and purpose? I am on a never-ending journey and I am eased by the idea that no matter what, I have nothing to achieve or accomplish other than noticing. What a difference we would make in our lives and in the lives of others if for just a few minutes a day we each made a commitment to notice a little more, to react a little less, to acknowledge our intuition, and to move forward from this place, rather than a place of urgency or fear...

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Home Is Where Sister Is

Matthew came home from the hospital Thursday afternoon after a long ordeal with doctor appointments and discharge bureaucracy. Matthew had to wait again for his pain medication because my dad had to run to the pharmacy and get all of the prescriptions filled, which takes time. Again, it is beyond me why all of this coordination of care could not have been organized by the hospital. With enough notice, everything could have been set up for Matthew upon discharge, but instead, all of it is left up to the family and we were not given any of the details until the day of discharge. Maybe in my free time I will pursue some sort of letter.

Matthew finally decided, hesitantly and with unimaginable frustration, that living with me in an apartment in San Diego would be ok in the interim, until he is stronger and farther along in his recovery process. I know how much he wanted to go home, but my intuition was telling me in an extremely loud voice that going home would not be the best option just yet. While I am so grateful and relieved that Matthew is here with me, the transition has been hard. I certainly do not want to be the source of disappointment and yet, I am willing to be for my brother's sake. I am learning to be patient and trying my best to avoid taking his expression of frustration and anger personally. The weight of what has happened is so heavy at times and I know he feels like he is carrying the whole burden of his recovery on his shoulders. He feels completely responsible for the amount of progress he makes. I hope to be a support to Matthew on this journey. I hope to remember my role and my purpose, even on the hard days. I know Matthew loves having his friends around and all of his friends support has been amazing. I need everyone's help and support in this and I know that my brother has some of the very best friends out there who will help carry him through this.

I feel at a loss for words tonight. I want to write about my own experience, but so much of my experience now is tied into his, I don't know where mine stops and where his begins. I may leave more of the details for Matthew to describe. My intention is to provide updates to the best of my ability based on my own perspective and experience. I hope this makes sense.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Going Home

Matthew will be discharged from the rehab hospital this Thursday. My family and I had no idea things would progress so quickly. It has been quite an experience to go from ICU to this in just over one month's time. I have experienced the lowest lows and the highest highs in the name of worry and sadness, love and joy. I have a newfound respect for life in all of its greatness and healing power. There is a place in my heart where I also find an internal sadness. It's a sadness that simply has not gone away and at times continues to grow stronger. I have lost part of my brother in this accident. Aspects of him will never be the same. He has made tremendous leaps and bounds over the course of a short amount of time, and again, I feel I risk discounting his progress in my expression of loss. His motivation has been inspiring to witness, yet I know there are pieces of this trauma that none of us, including he or I have fully come to terms with. To see him go immediately back to his house in North Park is terrifying for me. I have tried to ask my brother to give himself a month, to live with me in San Diego, to really allow the healing process to begin. I understand his want for independence and his strong desire to go back to his life, but I worry. What happens when everything is the same except for him? I am continuing to struggle with what is right, with how much of his family's voice it is helpful for him to hear. He is 24 years old. He is a man. He is my little brother. He is my mother and father's son. He is a best friend to so many. He is wise beyond his years. He is so young. He is still learning. How do we compromise? How do we come to a decision? I wonder if he looks back in several months or years, will he be grateful to us for intervening? Will he push us away? There is so much to feel angry about, so much sadness to feel. I want to be there with him in those moments, as much as anyone. Maybe he will listen to his big sister. Maybe he won't. To me it's a safety issue. To him, it's his life. I love my brother. I have to trust in that. I have to trust love.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Moving Fast

I know it has been several days since I wrote last. I was back and forth from San Diego to South Pasadena. My life is split between two places and sometimes I feel like I don't even know where I am or what my role is. I'm trying to stay afloat, but the stress is wearing on me and I won't be at all surprised if soon I break out in a strand of pimples that spell "STRESS" across my forehead. I was joking earlier that I would prefer that to the cold sore that appeared out of nowhere the other day and seems to only be getting more severe, despite the rapid Abreva treatments I applied.

So here I am, sitting late at night in San Diego in front of my computer trying to figure out the right words to convey the multitude of feelings and experiences I have had over the past week. Matthew is DETERMINED to get out of the hospital and return to his life. His courage and strength are admirable and demonstrate a will to move forward that goes unmatched by anyone I have ever met. I do not mean in any way to diminish how grateful I am for his determination and recovery so far. I must say, though, that I have had a difficult time coming to terms with him moving home so quickly. He wants to go back to his roommates, back to his friends, back to his life, and I certainly understand this desire. I also am so afraid. He came so close to death. I am afraid he is pushing himself too hard, too fast. I am afraid that he will injure himself in the process of attempting to maneuver on his own. I am afraid to feel the feelings I felt the first week after his accident. Of course, logically, I know that I have to let go, and that he technically is an adult and is in charge of his own decisions, and that I can't protect him from everything, and that I have to be able to manage my own feelings without allowing them to interfere with his process and progress. But let me tell you, this is hard!!! I think I have a taste now of what it might be like to be a parent and the many times a parent has to "let go" and allow her child to get to the next phase of her life. It's difficult to feel like I know what might be best for my brother, but to not be on the same page with his ideas about his own future. So, I sit and struggle. I write it all out so that it is not so caught in my heart. I write it so that I remember my own process. And I write for support.

We will see what the next week brings. I don't think Matthew will be discharged quite as early as he is expecting and we are going to be making sure that the insurance is not trying to discharge him early for the sake of monetary savings. In any case, we are on the brink of another transition, and as you can see, I have a hard time with accepting all of the changes and moving forward. I see my brother and I see how much love is there and I also see how some things never change. I will always try to protect him and he will always tell me, "Erin, I can do it."

I will keep everyone posted about the outcome of our team meeting, which is taking place this weekend. Thank you again for all of your support and kindness. You have been amazing.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The First Day of Anything is the Hardest

I came back to San Diego Thursday night so that I could be here Friday morning to interview with Channel 10 news. I don't think the story ever aired, as it was scheduled to Friday night. Matthew was also moved from Scripps Mercy Hospital to a rehabilitation hospital in San Diego. They determined he was ready to begin a more rigorous physical therapy routine. Unfortunately, a bureaucratic nightmare determined Matthew's well being yesterday, as the new hospital could not dispense his pain medication until it was "in the computer" from the previous hospital. At first, I assumed Matthew might have to wait an hour. An hour turned into nearly four hours and by this point the pain was excruciating. I asked the nurse several times, but unfortunately due to whatever policies hospitals employ, she could not do anything to make my brother more comfortable. The problem is that once pain reaches a high enough level, it becomes extremely difficult to control and to reduce. Matthew's nurse arrived with the medication. She maintained a very kind demeanor. He took it, but half an hour later, he was still in tremendous pain. After some time, we asked if he could be given an additional dose, but again, he had to wait a long time. I arrived at 3 to the hospital and at 7, he was still suffering. I took his hand and I ran my other hand through his hair and around his forehead. I tried to coach him to breathe deeply and focus on his breath, one moment at a time. After a few minutes, tears began to fall from the corners of his eyes. I told him how much I love him and I how glad I am that he is here, even though it is so hard. I noticed on the pain chart earlier, that a "10" (the highest level) is when someone's eyes are closed and they are moaning or crying. Here he was, a level 10 and there was nothing I could do. I kept telling myself that the first day of anything new is always the hardest. There is an adjustment period, no matter the excitement or anticipation that proceeds the event. My mom spent the night with him at the hospital last night and she watched him get into a wheelchair this morning. I think my brother was a bit distraught after his experience. He hadn't realized how much he is still dependent on the medication to support him in feeling well again. It was a wake up call and a reminder that this is a long road.

I have been hearing so much about the people of Haiti and the terrible plight they are suffering. I can't help but wonder why in an age of so much technology and innovation do people have to suffer so much after a disaster? Why can't supplies get in? Why can't we just figure it out and get past the obstacles? At times my lack of patience flares up, as I see my brother's suffering as connected to every other person's suffering in a tragedy. No matter how far we get, pain will always be. It is a part of our existence. It is part of our being. It is how we measure happiness and joy, against the depth of our pain. So as my brother breathes through his pain, I have to be able to breathe with him. And I will keep breathing for all those suffering, whether oversees or here at home.

Monday, January 11, 2010

New Schedule

I'm writing from home in South Pasadena. I have been here since late last night and it feels weird. I feel relieved in some ways. I went to yoga this morning, which was good, but also difficult emotionally. I am good friends with my teacher, so he purposely engaged the class in several heart-openers and releases through breathing. I felt such a well of emotion the entire class. As much as I wanted to be there, I didn't want to be there. I am realizing this seems to be the theme in my life lately.

I apologize that I have not written until now. Traveling back and forth provides me with less time to sit and write, unfortunately. However, I am always thinking about words I would like to write when I have the opportunity. :)

On Saturday, I made it to the hospital just in time to see Matthew get into a wheelchair for the first time. He had to sit on the edge of his bed for several minutes with his feet on the floor just to acclimate his body to sitting upright. He had the support of a very large male physical therapist. I realized that Matthew's muscles have atrophied so much, the simple act of sitting up is tremendously difficult. We all take this for granted everyday! (Well at least I did until now.) It was very hard for me to watch my brother struggle again and look so beat just from sitting. On the same token, there he was, SITTING UPRIGHT!!! He had enough strength to even wheel himself for a couple of minutes. He saw the 10th floor of the hospital for the first time from that perspective. He saw the view (an amazing ocean and city view from huge windows in the 10th floor lobby) and oriented himself. After 20 minutes, he was completely exhausted and it was time to get back in bed. This proved to be a feat, though, considering how tired he was already. This did not discourage him and after he was back in bed and had gone through incredible pain in the process, he asked the physical therapist about his time frame for being able to get into the chair himself. Matthew is looking ahead and he is so determined!

Sunday, Matthew sat in the wheelchair for over an hour. He ate lunch in his chair and went up to the rooftop patio to get some sun. I didn't see him at this time, but Amber was with him and kept him company. Who goes from 20 minutes in a wheelchair to over an hour the next day?? This means he is building muscle everyday and continues to have the same determination he had the day of the accident to live and not just to live, but to live fully. I wonder how many of us, including myself, at certain points in our lives have lost this determination, have become so caught up in the drama, in the distractions, in the negativity that we settle for our lives the way they are, or even worse, we resent our lives for the way they are. We stop trying to grow, to become more conscious, more loving, more compassionate. I wonder how many of us would come back to our determination if we knew that we may never use some of our limbs in the same way or that we may be bound to a wheelchair for quite some time? How many of us would dream and not just dream, but count on getting back on a bike someday? These are our lessons. As witnesses, we do our part by taking into consideration what we might otherwise miss when we are not paying close attention.

My mom has been counting the number of miracles that have occurred from the start of Matthew's accident. I don't know the exact number, but I know, according to her, there may be too many to count at this point. I talked to my mom on the phone this evening and she told me she had an amazing story to tell. She said that she went to the bank and she explained to the teller what had happened to Matthew. She said he listened so intently and then began to smile. At first, she and her friend who was with her did not know what to make of his smile. All of a sudden, he revealed that he was so happy Matthew survived the accident. He explained that he had seen the accident. He was on his bike on his way to work and had not worked at the bank very long. He saw my brother get hit by the truck and he was so worried about him ever since. My mom and her friend stood there in disbelief. My mom's story sent chills running down my spine and every time I re-tell it, I have the same experience. These stories are powerful. We are all so interconnected and our lives affect each other in ways we would never expect. We have made so many wonderful friends through this experience. We have seen the greatest of generosity and compassion. My brother's hope is an example of the hope we can each hold for ourselves and each other everyday, even in the simplest of situations. Maybe this means taking a risk to step outside our comfort zone and get to know someone and really listen to them. Maybe this means quieting our mind and returning to our kind spirit when we begin to beat ourselves up for making a mistake. Maybe this means coming to terms with the fact that our lives are not perfect or fair or guaranteed. For me this means trying to breathe more fully because I have life within me. It means building patience. And it means believing in a power larger than myself.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Feeling More

Today Matthew talked about feeling more sensations in his body. He described these sensations as painful, but also mentioned that the doctors told him, "This is good because it means you are healing." It must be so frustrating to feel pain and simultaneously experience an inability to move, while also fantasizing about riding and being out and about again. He takes it in stride, welcoming his visitors to talk about their normal activities, including riding. He wants something to work towards, to look forward to and he consciously chooses this over resentment or settling for less. He would probably be really embarrassed to hear me say this, but he truly is an example of the power of positive energy, of focusing on healing and wellness in the most tragic of circumstances, and I believe he has a purpose to serve in this life. We will watch meaning unfold as it is displayed both to us collectively and as individuals as we move about our lives. There are so many lessons of humility and courage and honor. There will be times when we are reminded of what is important, when we imagine the pain that Matthew had to endure and we will see our own pain as insignificant in comparison. We will build compassion for ourselves and each other, knowing that life hands each of us challenges we never knew we could handle and we succeed in the light of our resiliency to become more full human beings. Matthew's struggles touch us all and invite us all to grow a little. I want to protect him from his pain, but at the same time, maybe he is protecting me by teaching me so early in my life more about what is important, more about what is possible, and most of all to always hold tightly to hope.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


I apologize for not writing last night. My family and I were at the hospital late visiting with Matthew. He did not get out of surgery until much later than initially expected due to another person's surgery taking longer. The pelvis surgeon called us while Matthew was still in surgery with another doctor to inform us that Matthew did not need pins in his pelvis. He said, "It's not a pretty pelvis, but it's a stable one and that's what's important!" He also told us that Matthew's leg was out of traction. Matthew needed some new skin grafting, but not much. They replaced the other catheter while Matthew was anesthetized, so luckily Matthew did not have to endure any more pain related to that.

We saw Matthew a few hours after his surgery and he was in good spirits, despite some grogginess. He said that his leg started to hurt about an hour after the surgery and the doctors were not expecting that and therefore, had not prepared for it. He said he endured incredible pain for quite some time before some pain medication started working. He maintains the strength and courage of a lion, though, and although he talks about the pain, he never complains or resorts to self-pity. He talks about it like "it's over now, so moving right along."

I returned to South Pasadena tonight as I have work in the morning. Next week, I will begin my part-time status, where I will essentially split my time between work and Matthew in San Diego. I am going to give it a try and see how it goes.

My family and I had the opportunity to take our dogs to the dog beach in Ocean Beach today. It felt so therapeutic for my family to have some time outside amongst the wind and the ocean and many, many happy playful animals and people. We brought Matthew some delicious food afterwards from the Peoples' Co-op and then I went to the house and made a healthy, hearty dinner for my parents and me.

My mom and dad felt so happy today to see my brother eating well...a sign of life and wellness. I was happy to be around. I am happy to have my life and I am so happy to have my brother.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


This afternoon, I made the trip back to South Pasadena for the first time in 17 days. A part of me was excited to return to my life, even for just a few hours. I was happy to see my cats and be in my apartment. I am going back to San Diego tomorrow morning and I am hoping to get there to see my brother before his surgery tomorrow afternoon.

We had a bit of a scare this evening, which served to remind me how vulnerable Matthew still is. My mom told me that the hospital staff had nearly missed a crucial detail in my brother's care. Apparently, he had been suffering from "bladder spasms" and they had given him medication. When I first heard "spasm" the other day, I immediately thought "infection;" however, I didn't think to say anything and just went with the doctors' and nurses' decision to give him medication. It turned out that his catheter was not draining properly and his bladder was extremely full. They caught it at the last minute when a doctor who was about to leave for the evening was called to evaluate him. Matthew went through excruciating pain having another catheter inserted, and besides that, his urine was beginning to crystalize. My cat nearly died a year ago from a similar issue. I know that everyone is trying their best to keep Matthew safe, alive, and well, but I was suddenly struck by fear at the thought that the slightest error could be fatal. My mom is going to talk to the staff tonight and we are going to make sure to continue to follow up to do everything we can to advocate for my brother's well being. Thank God we are able to advocate. I thought of those of us who do not speak English or who are not able to take time off work to be at the hospital as frequently as we are. I thought about what might happen to the lives of those less fortunate. I once again felt grateful for my family's abilities and abundance of love and support. None of our lives are worth more than any one else's, yet we are separated and segregated by external factors that determine our superficial worth, such as money, power, and education. I pray that Matthew is safe. I pray that he is not subjected to the pain he was subjected to tonight again and I pray for all those who need our love, support, and advocacy. I pray that we all have voice when we need it most.

Please continue to keep Matthew in your thoughts and prayers.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Computers...I know nothing about them!

I want to apologize for the difficulty so many people have had when trying to post a comment. I am not computer savvy and I can't tell you why it's not working. I think if your comment is rejected at first, you can try to push the "post comment" button again and it may work. I ran across that problem a couple of times when I tried to post a comment.

Matthew is continuing to get stronger, although he suffers at night with a great deal of pain. Hopefully, he will have more medication tonight so that he can sleep better. He has been getting tired easily by visitors, but at the same time, seems to really appreciate all of the positive energy around him. I think that the time spent on his back is trying on his patience. He has mentioned several times that he looks forward to Tuesday when his leg will be removed from the traction. At that point, the pelvis surgeon will test his legs to determine whether his pelvis is stable. If it is stable, he will allow it to heal as it is. If he determines it is not stable, he will insert a pin into the back of his pelvis to achieve more stability. After that, Matthew will probably be able to get into a wheelchair and at least move around a bit.

I am amazed by how experiences like this slow life down. Matthew is looking forward to Tuesday when his leg can come out of a pin and it's possible that he may be able to roll slightly on his side to sleep. He can't wait. Three weeks ago I had difficulty holding onto those fleeting moments of pleasure. Many pleasurable moments would pass by and I did not notice. I intend to be mindful, but my mind was cluttered with the routines in my life. Whenever I go for a run in my neighborhood in the Pasadena area, I notice how my legs move so freely and I feel a sense of gratitude for my ability to run, for my legs and my health. I notice the breaths of fresh air I can take, the smells of the different trees and flowers, and the sounds of the birds. I feel grateful that I live in an area where I am surrounded by the beauty of nature. As my day goes on, though, I often lose sight of those moments. I stop noticing. I become frustrated with the amount of work I have to accomplish in a day. I become more and more worried and obsessed about what my future might hold and as my focus deepens on worry and frustration, I miss moments of beauty. I know Matthew will fully appreciate the moment when his leg is released from the pin and the weights. I know he will savor the first turn he takes onto his side and his first breath of fresh air outside of the hospital. This is such a clear reminder to me to appreciate, to express gratitude, and to notice the moments of beauty and of freedom in my life.

Friday, January 1, 2010


I want to wish everyone a wonderful new year!! My family and I are truly grateful for the blessings we have received and we feel ready to begin a year of healing and recovery. I am going to keep this short for now, as it is late, but I will write more tomorrow. I realized that I may not have included as many details about Matthew's current state of wellness as I would have liked in my previous posts. I want everyone to know that Matthew is eating solid foods, he is laughing and reading, he is planning his future, and trying to move around as much as possible while stuck on his back. He is amazingly strong. In this process, I recognized my own propensity to defend Matthew's condition, losses, and ailments. I wanted to emphasize his need for continued support while also highlighting his progress and sometimes this is hard. I know the losses he is suffering and the grief he is experiencing in some moments must be tremendous. Sometimes it hits me and I am overwhelmed by sadness, loss and anger of my own. This experience serves as a reminder that life is full of changing emotions, waves of different kinds of energy. We are all subject to react to these, to feed into these, to emphasize or minimize them. When a tragedy occurs, though, it seems as though we are subjected to the most intense waves of feelings and energy. We are tested in our abilities to allow each moment to come and go, to give into its power only with intention, to continue to feel the gravity, even if it threatens to break our hearts. At the end of each wave, we are invited to take a breath, to witness our own courage and strength, to heal a little more, and to appreciate the fullness of our lives.

I wish everyone a new year full of good intentions, positive energy, and most of all connection to our human spirit, full of compassion and wisdom.