I think many of us start life in a bubble- protected by the love of our family and friends, seeing nothing but wonder and beauty in this world. I always picture this bubble a sort of rainbow glass shield, encompassing grassy fields, flowers, oceans, sunsets and puppies, and laughing children. The bubble is warm, safe, peaceful, and happy, but what I remember most about it is the moment it shattered.
It was one of the first afternoons in February, 1996, sunny and glorious, like many afternoons in Arequipa. I was just lately eleven, playing in the back yard with our doberman, when my sister came running out to tell me there had been an accident. A car accident late at night, on a winding mountain road with our family's best friends. Details flowed in slowly...desperately needed, and terrifying. Uncle Wade and Marcus were comatose, and not expected to survive. Aunt Nancy and Marcus were being airlifted to the States, Josh's injuries were minor. A horrible hush set in as we cried and prayed, hoped and feared, and tried to make sense out of the updates from the mission board, and tried to keep life as normal as possible.
February 29th....just 28 short days later, my mother was returning from a meeting in Lima, and pilot error and engine failure combined to create a fiery collision between the commercial airliner and the side of a mountain, just a kilometer or so from the airport. My memories of the next months are cold and blurry, but eventually Marcus woke up from his coma, went through physical therapy, made it back to school. It's estimated that he made about a 90% recovery.
Months later,Uncle Wade surprised everyone by waking up. He communicated at first by eye blinks, and then slowly, learned to talk again. Dad visited often during those first few years-he was going to seminary in Memphis, where our friends were. Uncle Wade struggled to communicate after the accident-his speech was slurred and hard to make out and he typed short sentences in all caps. After the accident, he couldn't be the great adventurer and joker that he was before, but he continuously tried to reach out to people - through funny email forwards, through facebook, and any other way that he could. After the accident, Uncle Wade fought to recover enough to return to Peru....
My Uncle Wade died this week-wheelchair bound and hard to understand, but with an amazing smile.
We who are his friends, in many ways a family, have been reaching out across time and space. It's easier now than in 1996; there are more tools than long distance phone calls and fax machines. We are shocked, and hurt again. He was 56, which seems so young to me- sitting at home reading, Wednesday afternoon, it seems either his heart gave out or a blood clot. I am grateful that he is free from his wheelchair. I'm pretty sure he's done an eternity's worth of running, laughing, and sharing stories already, and that he and my mother have had some much-needed catching up. But I miss them, and I can't help but remember the days when I couldn't imagine anything bad happening to them.