Updated: Oct 20, 2022
Dicken Bettinger, in one of his talks, tells of when his son, Ben, was hit by a car at age 9. I will summarize his story as best I can recall.
A college student was speeding through the center of the small college town where they lived. Ben was in the street. He was thrown an alarming distance (30’?) by the impact.
He was in critical condition for days, and, even if he did survive, he was likely to have severe brain damage. And his treatments and surgeries extended to several weeks. If there was to be any rehab, that was yet to come.
initially Dicken and his wife, Coizie, were still functioning but in a state of shock. They called 911.They took care of their daughter (a few years older than Ben).They were at the hospital together… until it was plain that one of them needed to go back home, take care of things, and get some sleep there. They switched places with each other… between home and hospital for days and weeks.
But within a day or two after all the initial busyness and confusion had subsided... Coizie came to Dicken and said:
"I feel like I’m on top of a high wall… If I look down one side I see Ben as he was right up until the accident and I’m overwhelmed with grief at everything he and we may have lost forever…
If I look down the other side, I’m staring at a future based on how critical things are now – and I’m overwhelmed with fear and powerlessness to help him get better…
But if I just focus on the top of the wall – that’s where I am right now and all I really know right now is how much I love him. That love is bigger than me, it’s real, it embraces us all. I’m tempted to look at the past and the future – but my actual job right now is to keep returning to that love. That’s all I really know for sure."
To that Dicken replied: "Yes, that's come to me too. Staying with love is what we've got."
How others were affected too...
And in that constant returning from drifting into anxiety back to love… in that dwelling in love… the nurses found that they didn’t have to go into caretaking mode with Dicken and Coizie, it was easier to give accurate information to them, it was uplifting to be with them. The main surgeon realized that he was not under a constant anxious (possibly judgmental) surveillance from them. He relaxed in their presence. He too gave the best information he had. He actually sought them out to reflect on what real healing is about.
Over the weeks other families in the waiting room found a warm fellowship there with Coizie and Dicken. The waiting room became a healing place.
What were the results?
Even with such a dismal prognosis, amazingly, Ben recovered. In a few years he became a sometimes irritating teenager... who also had a good relationship with his parents. And eventually he discovered a passion for cooking and became a successful chef. Best I know, he's living a gifted life.
One way to take all this in is to breathe with it.
We'll save further reflection for the next post - and breathe now.