One Life, One Race

June 15, 2013 -ONE YEAR

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. -Hebrew 12:1-2

This morning Dean and I awoke before the rooster crowed as we prepared for our first 5k together. (It takes at least an hour at high-speed to get ready in the morning and ten minutes to load into the van like a mom with an infant only supersized.) We were not alone as 120 participants geared up for the early race. Mercersburg Printing organized the 5k and Bake Sale on Dean's behalf which was held at Antrim Township Park. Many others in the community rallied around us to show their support and love in making the event a success.
It was a beautiful, crisp morning  with blue skies just like my memory recalls that Friday morning.  However, last year we slept in, enjoying our time together before he dashed across the street to work. The night before I asked Dean about preparing for a marathon and he wisely instructed me it would take a year of consistent training. (Dean was a marathon runner but I never ran a single race.) So that morning he told me to run 2 miles at the track to start, then eat was a blessing to have my husband as a personal trainer! If I was going to run a race, I wanted to do something big or what seemed impossible in my own strength. Dean came home for lunch as laughter and love filled our kitchen. He played some music in the background and asked me to listen to the words. He enjoyed music and had a great memory full of  lyrics and beats so much that he could pull a phrase from a song to describe his thoughts or emotions. I was too distracted by just being with him that I couldn't focus on the words as the beat disengaged my desire to listen. He insisted so he sat me down on the couch and repeated the words to me but I just didn't want to hear them. I didn't like the message of unanswered questions in life and I begged him to stay with me longer. I was bouncing around on the couch like a little girl, hoping to sway his mind. Not wanting to put an end to our fun, there was work to be done. He was 5 steps from the door so I showered him with more hugs and kisses in hopes to delay his departure or at least each step. Knowing he was dearly loved, he walked out the door with a smile on his face and skip in his walk.  As he placed his helmet on his head and stretched his long leg over the motorcycle, I ran to him.  Just one more kiss, so I squeezed my face between the face shield of his helmet not knowing it would be his last gaze into my eyes or our last true kiss. Perhaps, I've shared some of this memory on a previous blog but today brings back my longing to have in someway prevented this sharp bend in the road. In my moments of struggle, I'm reminded that God is Sovereign. The valley of suffering and trials of life are opportunities to experience the character of God if we open our heart to His tender touch. God is faithful! He gives me peace at night, hope in the morning and grace for the day.  Don't let this life pass you by without knowing and receiving God's eternal love and extending His love to others.
We have one life, one race. How will you run?  
Dean's Progress:
He's improving in conversation but struggles with making a sentence when given a specific word or category. He asks questions, makes statements and gives commands throughout the day. His comprehension continues to improve and we have to be sensitive when discussing his medical condition with him or in front of him. He will shake his head no and say it's not true. According to the Ranchos level of cognitive functioning, Dean is at Level 4 and 5 which is described as confused, agitated, and inappropriate behaviors. Dean entered Level 4 in December and with each passing day it seems to be escalating with more frustration.
Dean learned to swallow pills around February and was very cooperative. Recently, he decided he no longer needs medicine and seals his lips. So I'm back to crushing pills and hiding them in food. He is very skeptical as he even questions what's in the glass of water and resists taking a sip. I feel parched during the night and his lips seem dry but he will still decline. (Before the accident, Dean would place a cup of water on our nightstand and remind me to drink plenty of water during the day.) He doesn't consistently remember my name but he knows there is medicine in his water. He still says he's 20 years old and that he was born in 1982. He will often ask family their age and he responds with, "I'm young, only 20." We try to reason with him and even his parents' are unable to convince him that he was born in 1981 making him 31 years old. Even though he has many facts mixed up, we can see he is still strong-minded and not easily persuaded by others. 
We met with an eye doctor from John Hopkins in May to find more details about his eye condition. Because Dean's pupils haven't responded to any light since the accident, the likelihood of his vision returning is slim. As I questioned the doctor about his eyes, he spoke in a faint tone that basically Dean's blind. There are lots of unknowns because every brain injury is as unique as each person. I left the office disappointed with hopes of coming away with more insight or positive report.  Dean's ability to see again will be a true gift from God and complete miracle! It's not an impossible task for God since He created Dean. -Psalm 139
Dean's Activities:
Dean has been receiving Speech Therapy twice a week since January. I am thankful for the same speech therapist as it takes time to develop a relationship. Patience is required to understand and follow his thought process. However, those who spend more time slowly tune their ear to him like someone that speaks with a strong accent. It's easy for others to catch fragments of his words and come up with a word that he was not intending. There is a certain look that comes across his face as he repeats himself again as he tries to communicate his thoughts. He understands more than he is able to communicate. I'll often interpret his sentences or words to others. We are working on his enunciation so that he can be understood more clearly. He smiles or laughs when a word slips out his mouth in the wrong context or simply sounds funny.
Dean and I have made several trips to the hardware store as we slowly engage back into society. Dean and I also attended a dress rehearsal of the Easter Play at church to see how he would respond during an event. I explained to him where we were going and the importance of being quiet. We sat close to the front as he listened quietly. After awhile he seemed to get restless and spoke a little loud so I reminded him to whisper. We attended our first church service on June 2 and Dean sat quietly throughout the service. He shows much love towards his nieces and nephews as he allows them to crawl up on his lap or hang off his wheelchair. He has a real tenderness towards children as he pats, holds, hugs, or kisses them. (Before the accident, Dean enjoyed being the first uncle to hold the newest member of the family. He had a sincere love for his family and children.) In May, we had the privilege of holding our youngest nephew, Drew, just hours after his birth. (It was the first hospital visit where Dean was not the one being admitted.) Overall, Dean's becoming more aware of his surroundings and appropriate in those settings.
Dean's former voice teacher, has been gracious to give him music lessons once a week since the end of March. Dean was very musically inclined before his accident as he sang tenor and played the piano. The teacher was encouraged to see Dean's sense of rhythm and ability to anticipate the melody of familiar songs. He plays the piano while Dean taps out the beat on a drum, his lap or with sticks. They also practices singing scales and matching the correct pitch. Dean enjoys his time in class and I see his love for learning and drive to excel. He also sings along to a few well-known hymns each week. On April 18th, he sang the verse and chorus of "Jesus Loves Me" by himself accompanied by piano. We often sing together or play spelling games during our van rides. I've noticed his ability to substitute synonyms and at times antonyms in a verse without missing a beat. He also does this when we read together along with making up his own sentences with slight variations.
Dean's Trials:
He knows he's blind and says daily, "It doesn't matter, I can't see." Dean had difficultly with vision prior to his accident but he learned to overcome this weakness and capture the beauty of life through a camera lens. He loved to be outdoors and enjoyed every aspect of God's creation. He enjoyed reading but now he says he can't read because he can't see. He has little use of  his left arm, hand, and leg which limits his activities. Dean was always on his feet, running, working, involved in many outdoor activities but now he is unable to sit, stand or walk on his own. He is bored. I play books on audio tapes for him to listen but he finds no pleasure due to his lack of comprehension. He tells me that he's slow. If I read I pause after a sentence, continue on and then ask him a question about what I read. When the tapes play he tunes them out because it doesn't engage him at his level. It is a source of discouragement and frustration for him. He also lost his ability to smell which takes away much pleasure for eating. Dean had a highly developed sense of taste and noticed the slightest changes in recipes. In addition, he struggles with his memory and recalling events of the past. I try to remind him that he can still hear and feel things even though he lives in a world of darkness. In just one moment, he went from an extremely knowledgeable, quick, active, independent man to one who is completely dependent on others.
Our Requests:
If Dean could see, it would change his perception on life as he recovers, giving him more opportunities to learn. He would not only hear the voices around him but he could see their faces in hopes that would trigger his memory, along with pictures, words, objects, etc. 
Dean has said for months in response to how he is doing, "I'm surviving." I was astonished the first time I heard him say the phrase in light of his situation. His words and phrases never cease to amaze me. However, several words I've come to anticipate on a sadder note. So I'm requesting prayer in these two areas: that Dean would not say, "I'm surviving" but "I'm thriving." It's my desire to see Dean living, laughing, loving, and enjoying life as he once did and experience the abundant life God promised! 
The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. -John 10:10
We want to extend a special thanks to all those who organized, participated, gave, and supported us in the 5K today! It blessed my heart to see all your beautiful faces and I look forwards to the day when Dean can share this same joy! He walked the last 15 feet across the finish line (pictured above) with the assistance of family after I pushed him through the course but I believe next year we will run with him!

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