Note from Maryann: I am so pleased to share Jennifer Eikenhorst’s lovely essay, “Walking Into Another Year.” She wrote this shortly before the anniversary of her accident. Jennifer tells me that she made the day meaningful and spiritual, including a hike in some beautiful woods near her home. Jennifer and I invite you to find her on Facebook or check out her podcast called Accidental Hope.
I am walking into another year and I am not talking about The New Year. Soon it will be another year since my accident.
Anniversaries are always a topic of interest and extremely personal among CADIs. Do we honor it? Do we stay in bed and pretend the day does not exist? If we do want some type of remembrance, then how?
It was told to me by way of a complete miracle (my neighbor of 2 years who was also a CADI and I never knew) that the first year was the hardest. He was right. I was subconsciously ticking off the days, weeks and months leading to October 4th.
When babies are born we celebrate the days, weeks and months in an enduring way. “He is 3 days old,” a proud mom might boast. “She is 7 weeks old this Tuesday.” We honor the days that pass, and soon we will count the months leading to the years. Another way birth and death become sacred, the way we count the time. I remember when hours felt like a week and sometimes a day passed and I was shocked. I counted the weeks and hated every Tuesday as a reminder that another week had gone by in this new reality.
Leading to the first anniversary I was filled up with more anxiety than I care to explain, I was expecting for some unknown event to happen. It was a haunting, the anticipation leading to the day life changed for so many people. We countdown the days that honor the most painful day of our lives only to add another number, knowing full well part of us remains forever in that moment. In some ways it will always feel shocking that the time has passed.
But it has. In just a few days I will honor 5 years from when I held the hand of a man I did not know in the middle of a dark country road. Half a decade ago, it’s hard to believe. And because I have now “met” so many fellow CADIs that I understand the milestones of 5 years, 10 years, 30+ years, there is a sliver of emotion that still feels as fresh as 6 months post-accident. I am grateful for the honest truth of this kind of hard. I chose to paint on my first anniversary a scene that I imagined what the man in my accident would have loved, a motorcycle ride into the sunset. I got my hands dirty and covered up splatters of tears on the canvas with warm fall tones of trees. In the past few years I have acted on a random act of kindness on this day. Another year I sprinkled wildflower seeds near the scene. I always light a candle in memory of David or any other CADI that shares their anniversary with me. It’s a simple gesture that stirs gratitude deep inside me as I watch the flame flicker and pray for the family of the victim.
But this year I am walking into the next year from my accident challenging myself to grow physically, emotionally and spiritually stronger. I follow an account on social media that was calling on followers to make a goal to reach 10k steps/day. I tried several times previously to make the count and came up short. I averaged 7k steps no matter what I did. However, this same fitness influencer put out an official 10KDay Challenge with prizes and accountability. As quick as my finger could swipe up I was ready to join, and then the details caught me off guard. It ended on the anniversary of my accident. For a split second I hesitated and thought to myself, “but I don’t know how I will feel that day.” I may want to be under the covers, crying, resting and doing my best to shut out the world. The last four years have been a different flavor of emotions. Every anniversary comes with a hefty dose of grace for those emotions and the hard truth that you are still here to experience time moving forward.
I learned this lesson once already that I can’t hide from the day and it’s ok to be grateful for breath in my lungs. And you, you are alive reading this rambling blog post! Though I hesitated to fill out the join-form and began to weep as I filled it in, I knew. This is exactly what I needed and after a good cry I have this feeling deep down that the man from my accident that lost his life, I believe he nudged me to click submit. There was peace as I cried and smiled and said, “Ok, I am walking for me, and walking for those that can’t.” I am walking into this next trip around the sun stronger doing things I never thought I could.
It might sound superficial “a walking challenge” but my goal has absolutely nothing to do with fitness and everything to do with celebrating accomplishing something that reminds me of the gift of life. In August I had a pretty rough battle with my health. Today was day 1 of the challenge and I did what I thought was impossible. I hit those 5 digits (10,143) on the odometer and fist pumped the last bit of sunset. What was the special umph to make it happen? I think the community (like this one with Accidental Impacts), knowing someone out there is rooting for me and I them. I’m putting the energy that typically fuels anxiety leading to October 4th into something positive for myself and others.
No matter where you are in this journey, each new day is an opportunity to walk in the freedom that your journey is not over. If you are still in that space where getting through the day feels impossible and you can’t fathom doing this still months from now, you aren’t alone! Take one step at a time, leap if you are able, a hop-skip-jump into the hope of each new day, week, and even year that passes. There are no rules in this other than what you choose for you. But please be kind and compassionate towards yourself.
If you do, how do you honor the anniversary? Share ideas in comments.
Here are some that I would like to do someday: Plant something, pay kindness forward with a meal or coffee, write a poem, volunteer where you feel passionate, challenge yourself, take a small trip to somewhere new, light a candle, visit the site and share your heart with the deceased.
If you want to connect:www.accidentalhope.com