Today’s Word from Mark Winslow

This pandemic time reminds me a great deal of a previous time in my life about forty years ago. Walking in limbo.

I was 28 years old and experiencing the happiest day of my life, at that time. I was getting married to the woman I loved, Marsha. As you could imagine, it was a very special day. We celebrated with our friends and family. Fast forward, six weeks.

We are both at arms’ length, lying on the pavement. I am looking at her, listening to her moan, and speaking softly in much pain. We had just been hit head on, on the highway near Coupeville, by a drunk driver. It was 10:30 in the morning.

Marsha spent the next four months in a coma, at Harbor View Hospital. I was completely broken. There was nothing I could do for her. During that time, I remember my father advising me to continue to pray for a miracle, but to pray for strength as well, for both her and me. We would need that strength.

He also told me not to give energy, hate, and bitterness towards the person who caused this senseless and tragic event. My energy needed to be concentrated on helping Marsha get better. It wasn’t easy to accept that advice, but it was in our best interest. Bitterness, he said, could consume me, and it would not help Marsha in her recovery. He was right.

Marsha woke up from her coma about four months later. She was badly brain injured, and could not use the right side of her body. She also could not swallow, so she had to have a permanent Tracheotomy, which took away her ability to speak. It was, without a doubt, a living nightmare. I had no choice but to carry on, and do all I could for her. A few weeks after the accident I had to go back to work, had to pay the rent.

On my first day back at work, an older coworker approached me. She said to me, “If people offer to help you in some way, let them. Acts of kindness and love will help both you, as well as the people who care about the two of you.”

The hospital recommended that I transfer her to a nursing home. I just couldn’t bring myself to do that. I could not allow her to recognize that she was in such a place and surrounded, for the most part, by much older people.

I was able to get her transferred to a brain rehabilitation center. The facility had approximately 250 people, mostly young, that had also been brain injured. One thing that I learned in the Rehab Center was that everyone copes with their burden in a different way. For me, prayer, and my love for Marsha, was what gave me the strength to persevere. Even with that, I found myself feeling very alone. In limbo.

Many times, I asked myself, “Why did God allow this to happen to her, and to us?” All my friends were enjoying their lives. Later in life, I came to realize that everyone experiences tragic moments in their lives: divorce, cancer, betrayal, death, and a host of other sorrows and challenges. I don’t believe God plays a part in the tragedy, but He does play a part in giving us the strength to heal, and carry on. Life is hard. But we are not alone.

A little more than two years after the accident, Marsha’s body gave up the fight. She was stricken with Septic Shock. The doctor told me she would pass away within a few days. He was correct. At that time our families, several nurses, and I were at her side. All of us were crying. When she died, I felt her spirit fly out the open window. It was a very strong feeling. She was free. A few minutes later the chaplain approached me.

He suggested to me not to let others tell me “how” to grieve. He also said to not put a time frame on my grieving. God, and nature, would take their natural course, and someday in the future things would get better. I followed that advice. He was right.

It took a long time for me to get over this time in my life. In all honesty, I still carry a bit of that pain. But that is natural. A great deal of strength and recovery was due to the fact that I knew in my heart that Marsha’s spirit was with God, free from any physical limitations. She was happy again — so I was as well.

Since then, I have been blessed that my best friend and wife, Colleen, has come into my life. I have also been blessed by being surrounded by Whidbey Island’s beauty, and many kind and loving friends. Life is hard. No doubt about it. But life is good. If we open our hearts to others, we are never truly alone.

These pandemic times have us all, in a sense, walking in limbo. Someday, this will pass. In the meantime, my hope is that we will all remember that love, kindness, and the strength of prayer, will get us through it.

Live each day to the fullest. Keep your eyes and hearts open for the simple “good things” that occur every day. Life is good!