We all have those triggers. Whether you have experienced loss or trauma or both, there is that thing that never fails to slingshot your brain to the moment it all happened. Many times it is a variety of sights, sounds, and memories. I have several things that are triggers for me with SJ’s diagnosis of hearing loss. Usually, it happens around her birthday. When the St. Patrick’s day decorations start coming out I am transported to her 2nd birthday party. Some of you know this story. We threw her a great big Green Eggs and Ham party. It was perfect because her birthday is in between Dr. Seuss’s birthday and the holiday where everything is GREEN! That party was one of the last memories of life as I knew it before her diagnosis.
A few days after her party we took her to the pediatrician for her 2 year well-child exam. Her pediatrician then referred us to an ENT who did a sound booth exam and then referred us to an audiologist for an ABR exam. We were scheduled to see this audiologist in Louisville Kentucky for some conclusive results on May 4th, 2012. This was a very significant date in Lousiville because it was the day before the Kentucky Derby race at Church Hill Downs. People come from all over the world for this historic event. Festivals, parades, and parties leading up to the Derby leave the whole city abuzz at all hours on Derby weekend. May 4th is Oaks Day.
We sat through traffic on the way to and from the audiologist’s office that day. The streets were full of men in bowties and women with fancy hats sipping their mint juleps. The laughter and cheers of celebration echoing through the alleys of Louisville were an ironic juxtaposition considering this was the day we learned that our daughter couldn’t hear.
Every year since then I always got a knot in my stomach starting in March leading all the way up to Derby day. I knew what was coming. All the memories of the challenges we faced in that season would keep replaying like GIFs in my mind.
This year was different though.
I didn’t even think about the significant date until I was scrolling through Facebook and I had to do a double-take when I saw a photo of friends wearing flamboyant hats and toasting their mint juleps. I squinted in disbelief when I saw it. There must be a mix-up, I thought to myself, but then I looked at the caption. It read: “Derby Time!!!” followed by a stream of hat and drink emojis. I checked my calendar to see if it was true and the date confirmed that I had in fact forgotten the anniversary of SJ’s diagnosis. I got choked up. Don’t get me wrong, I know all too well the pain that comes when you forget the anniversary or birthday of a loved one who has passed. This surely wasn’t anything like that and I had nothing to feel guilty about, but it still was a shock to me. I guess the inner healing that seemed so distant before was actually present now.
I’ll never forget the 2 1/2 year mark when the time that I had known that SJ was deaf surpassed the time I was unaware. That first two years prediagnosis might be short in comparison to the rest of her life, but it was it all we knew at the time and the idea that our child had a disability never crossed our minds. That milestone was a big one but so was this year’s Derby Day.
I am reminded of a blog post I did back in 2015. I shared:
It’s been 3 years since SJ’s diagnosis and we are still in the transition stage. I look at the timeline like this- Old normal, shock, transition (or adjustment, or adaptation), and then new normal.
We spent just over two years living in the old normal, there was probably a year of living in shock and just doing my best to stay afloat. The last two years have been transition and we’ll be here for a while. I feel pretty darn close to “New Normal” but we still have such a long way to go. I feel like for us that will be when she goes to main stream schooling. I’m sure it looks different for everyone and more experienced moms could give a lot more insight into all this and the multifaceted layers. I am just learning, but this is my message for those in similar situations. Don’t feel like you have to rush into coping or adjusting.”
I can look back at this now and see that the year I almost missed the Kentucky Derby was a sign of our new normal. That doesn’t mean there won’t be any more transitions or hardships, but her cochlear implants really are second nature for all of us now.
I hope that is an encouragement for someone out there. Lately, I keep reminding myself of the Robert Frost quote “The only way out is through”. That’s my current mantra. You can’t go over it or bypass it. You have to face it and depending on what you are going through this can look like a number of things. If you are in shock you may have just enough strength to breath and wait on the Lord and that’s it. Keep doing that and let hope be your anchor. Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:22) and know that He who began a good work in you is faithful to complete it (Philippians 1:6). For everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven ( Ecclesiastes 3:1) and while I don’t know how long this season will last I do know that someday you’ll see a photo, or date on the calendar, or a trigger of some sort and it won’t be as painful and you’ll realize- you made it through.