How To Thank My Retiring Therapist?:Kenny Loggins’ Lyrics Beat Out The Best Greeting Cards

Hallmark (and other companies) create greeting cards for nearly every occasion. Births, sympathy, encouragement, graduations…but searching racks and racks of prose, I just couldn’t find one that aptly says Good-Bye and Thank You to my retiring psychologist!

The card I finally ended up giving my therapist, I had narrowed it down to four possible but mediocre choices, was a bit wordy. On the front it said, “Finally, a thank-you note that says how I really feel.” Relational enough to give to a therapist, but even after a ton of descriptive words such as “grateful, happy, supported, content, forever in your debt, acknowledged, peaceful…” it still didn’t quite nail it. The writer in me added “thankful” and a deeply personal message. Yet, mere words didn’t fully express the depths of gratitude I wanted to convey to my professional advocate and guiding light for helping to save my sanity, salvage relationships as well as extricate myself from toxic ones, and who knows, possibly extended my very life! Reflecting now, I think that the incredibly accurate, succinct and perfectly-timed lyrics I heard on my car radio as I drove away from my last session fully expresses what is in my heart and pays tribute. Enjoy the song at the end of this post.

I had my very last appointment on August 28th with one of the most remarkable women I’ve ever been blessed to know, clinical psychologist Dr. Ella G. Marks, PSYD. I began seeing Dr. Marks on a weekly basis over four years ago because at 45, all the stuff I tried to keep stuffed down, held back, or tried to hide just wouldn’t stay buried anymore.  Four and half decades as an adult child of an alcoholic family, a product of divorce, years of appearing to “fly right” but still over-indulging in risky behaviors, being lost, pressing my luck, and meandering off-track had blurred and scalded into a hot mess. It began oozing out in physical symptoms of panic attacks and heart palpitations. I couldn’t ignore it. It was time to really take care of me and do some very heavy, but very necessary lifting. Or else.

I prayed and researched and left voice messages.  There was something about Dr. Mark’s soft-spoken, lovely, Virginian- accented-voice message that gave me courage and lead me to her kind but firm care. When I still rather hesitantly made my way to her creamed-colored office with a bright white couch in the office park in Madison, CT,  I was comforted by her soft creased face, her sparkling blue eyes and billowy white hair.  I found out by peeking at the dates on her framed diplomas in her office that she had to be in her early 80s. I learned early on that she had studied at first to be a dancer, but then married an Episcopalian preacher, had four children, and then decided to go back to college.

She completed her bachelors in her late forties, her masters in her 50s and fought to enroll in her doctorate program at the tender age 59. She served as a social worker, then earned and hung her shingle as a psychologist and bariatric medicine doctor at the age of 71.  How blessed was I to connect with her a decade later!

Quite a head case, I remember saying to her, ” I have lots of anger and confusion. Am I too much for you?” She smiled graciously and said, “No, you are not. You have a lot of mourning to do.”

I would discover over the next four years just how well-equipped this woman was for the likes of me. She guided me to some really tough and ugly places to repair years of damage, grief, and anger stemming from a tumultuous alcoholic environment as a first-born.  I worked honestly through confusion, hurt, betrayal, marital challenges, a serious motorcycle accident, extended family woes, and a recent exodus from a church I’d given my soul to for 46 years.  She praised me often that I was “what they call a worker,” and reminded me that therapy is a “partnership” whenever I thanked her for helping me. She gave me permission to give myself some credit for my healing, for good things I have done and am doing in my life.

I had written in my card to Dr. Marks that she will forever be a part of “my new psychological DNA.” I will from here on out have greater success with stopping a negative thought and replacing it with a better one. I will think of what she would advise and say in any given situation. A life-long dividend of the work we’ve done.

I know it was hard for Dr. Marks to retire from her beloved work. She who practices Pilates and walks every day is in excellent physical as well as mental shape and “presents herself” as someone at least a decade younger than her actual age.  She reluctantly wound down the over 20 years of her practice, extending her calendar for months since she’d first announced earlier this year she’d be retiring. “My family wants me to leave before they ask me to leave,” she’d smile, “but I am going on one more month.” That lead to another and another, until finally the end of August was really it.

I cherished her guidance and wisdom to the very last session. My throat tightened as I pulled into her parking lot. As I climbed the stairs for the last time, I took photos of the waiting room, her office, but out of privacy, I did not take any of her.

So surreal. She lead me in from the waiting room, the one last time. Into her office, one last time. “How are you?” She asked in her customary greeting. “Full of emotion,” I squeaked out. I noticed she was welling up a little, too. “This must be hard for you saying goodbye to everyone,” I said. “It is,” she confided.

Then we settled in across from each other. I gave her my card and photo of me hula-hooping that was taken at the recent Buzzi Reunion at my house. I joked that I wasn’t meaning to be a narcissist, but wanted to show her my happy spirit, celebrating our years of working together. She smiled, “You are a worker!”

As we sat, I said that I hoped we could see each other again, for coffee. Always the good doctor even up to the very last minute, she wanted to impart one last tool to help me hereafter to cope with stress and any mild depression. Meditation. She told me of a study where participants who meditated each morning and evening fared better than the group which took only medication and the other only talking therapy. I balked a bit saying I’ve tried meditating, but my mind wanders like a herd of cats even when I try focusing on a monosyllabic word or sound. Because she knows my faith walk, she said to me, “Just try to say, “Be Still and Know that I am God.”

I smiled because I was wearing that bracelet that very day for extra help knowing I’d be saying goodbye.

Half way through our last session, I had arranged for my husband Sean to come in and meet my Dr. Marks. I had shared so much between the two of them that it only seemed right they’d finally meet in person.  It was one of those spiritually-charged, crystallized moments in time as I made the introductions. Sean thanked her as he sat on her white couch next to me. They chatted casually, each feeling as though they’d known each other well—I guess after all this time, they sorta had!

Sean asked her what she had planned now that she was retiring. Without hesitating my heroine said she was going to travel to India where’d she’d gone many times on sabbatical, “but after the monsoon season in September,” and then she was going to join a hiking club!

God bless her!

When it was time to say goodbye, Dr. Marks and I hugged for a very long time. “We can get coffee now, can’t we?” I asked hopefully. “Oh, yes. We will no longer be bound by hippa.”

“We have each others phone numbers.”

As I began driving out of Dr. Mark’s office complex for the very last time, tears of every emotion streaked down my face. Sadness,closing a chapter, a sense of accomplishment, good health, new beginnings, joy!

All of a sudden Kenny Loggins’, “I’m Alright” began playing on my car radio. I kid you not. Sean, who was tuned in to the same station, called me from his car ahead of me. “Can you believe what is playing?” I blurted first. “You are alright,” he said.

I’m alright, Dr. Marks. Thank you, and thank you, God, for Dr. Marks! OK, and thank Heaven for the serendipitous Kenny Loggins’ lyrics as I was driving on!

"I'm Alright!"I gave this photo to my therapist on her retirement as a celebration of our work together over that past four plus years.
“I’m Alright!”I gave this photo to my therapist on her retirement as a celebration of our work together over that past four plus years.

Inappropriate and Nearly Uncontrolable Laughter Strikes Again!

Can you recall a time in your life when something struck you as absolutely pants-wetting hilarious but you were in a place where it would just be sooo inappropriate to let it rip? This happened to me, again, just yesterday in church!

My awesome and relational pastor was taking his place at the pulpit to give us a message about Palm Sunday. He began paraphrasing Matthew 21:1-11, “According to the Gospels, Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem…” Only my pastor did not say “donkey”. He inadvertently switched the “d” for an “m” and said, “Jesus rode a monkey into Jerusalem.”

At first there was a quick ripple of tittering across the congregation but then most everyone settled down to listen. Everyone but me and my dearly beloved, that is.  I don’t know who began quaking first, he or I, but our pew began to vibrate with stifled, almost-impossible-to-contain laugh-tremors. My mother in the pew behind us saw us rattling. She tapped my husband on the shoulder. He only shook all the more.

That only fired me up again. I hid my face in my scarf. I was trying so hard to control myself and set a good example to my 15 year old niece sitting beside me. It’s just that the mental image of our dear Lord and Savior being carried on the hairy back of a monkey, limping triumphantly into the crowds—and that my husband was also fighting hard not to lose it—that practically caused me to really LOL and wet my pants! At one point I envisioned us bolting out of the pew, racing down the aisle and bursting into the stairwell erupting and echoing with fits of “bwah, ha, has!”

Instead, I opened my hymnal to try to distract my mind by focusing on the lyrics of a random song. I struggled to tune into my pastor’s serious message of how we all have to face “Good Fridays” (tough times) before we could have our “Easter Sundays” (relief).  The only relief I wanted then and there was to either bust out or to chill out: pronto!

I recall one other time also in a church, when I was supposed to be quiet but something struck me as so funny, that I had to turn myself into Sean’s shoulder as not to “bwah, ha, ha!” at a wedding ceremony. The clever bride, wanting to recite her vows correctly had taped a note card on the backside of her bouquet. When it was her time to pledge to her betrothed, she flipped the card and read off it.  At the time I was in college and was no stranger to note cards in my speech classes, but taped on the back of the flowers just made me blow!  Please share a time when you struggled with overpowering inappropriate laughter!

A Man’s Craving for a Beer Saved My Husband’s Life

Editor’s Note: We were blessed to have survived this accident that occurred on June 10, 2012.

Sean has been cleared of all restrictions on his shoulder and is doing well with his neck, after the four breaks to his C-1 and a fracture to his C-2. He has some stiffness and aches and can’t turn his head all the way to the left, yet, but he is otherwise a miracle man! My knee is still a little tender and I can’t kneel on it. The doctor says that is it is good as it is going to get, but I am not complaining because I know it could have been so much worse.

I wanted to share with you that after all this time, we are still receiving confirmation of God’s mercy and love for us at the time of that horrific accident.

Last week, Sean met up with the man Patrick who “happened” to be just two cars behind us. It was almost as if he materialized on the scene back on June 10. As you might recall (or read), after we crashed, Sean jumped up, TOOK OFF HIS HELMET, and was heading over to the motorcycle to try to pick it up! Patrick, who saw the whole thing, came over to Sean and identified himself as former EMT, and basically ordered Sean to lay down so he could hold Sean’s head in a straight line. “I will move any way you need to move,” he said. By then the searing pain was ripping through Sean’s body. He was writhing and screaming. Patrick knelt with Sean’s head cradled in his hands, and kept Sean’s neck and back straight.

Patrick works in the security department at Middlesex Hospital. Sean, as a police captain, serves at a liaison between the hospital and the PD, and spoke with Patrick before their meeting. Sean thanked Patrick again, crediting him again, for saving his life.

Patrick explained the ‘odd circumstance’ that lead him to the accident scene. Patrick was just finishing mowing his lawn, when suddenly he had a craving to go to the local bar to get a beer. He said he never gets a craving to go to local bar. Further, his car keys were outside on the front step—and he said he ALWAYS hangs his keys on a hook inside his house. He snapped up his keys, got in his car and headed to the local watering hole…until he came upon our accident!

Have you ever had a strong impulse do something out of the ordinary to find you were being used for another purpose?

I’ll Be Dipped In Chocolate: Thinking About My All-Time Favorite Job

I am grateful for my flexible and part time job as a grant writer at St. Vincent De Paul Middletown, but if were to take an honest assessment of my work resume, I couldn’t say it’s been my favorite job. Whether I am just being nostalgic or the place I am about to mention truly was the best place to pull a paycheck, I would have to put a gold star next to my run as a Dairy Queen counter girl, 1981 to 1983.
Of course, I was sixteen years old when I started, and back then I only needed money for my car insurance (and repairs), gas under a buck a gallon, concert tickets, and white Nike leathers with the black swoosh. I had scoped out working at the DQ even before I got my license on April 4th 1981.

Before the plastic was even dry, I raced over to the Middletown DQ and applied. Sure, I’d had other jobs babysitting since I was a kid, and I was employed to do office work at age 15 through a program called C.E.T.A. (Comprehensive Employment and Training Act that provided jobs to kids in low income families), but this was my first “real” and exciting job that I could drive to myself! No more begging rides to the excruciatingly boring UConn Extension Center (C.E.T.A. job) where I filed papers or recorded data from various state surveys! No more dollar-per-hour babysitting stints! I’d be making three and change at the DQ! The big time, baby!

I reported to work wearing chocolate fudge brown chinos and the red, white and yellow waffle-plaid DQ blouse with the hallowed DQ patch over my heart. I was a nervous and conscientious worker and asked tons of questions so I would do things right. I kept in constant motion filling lids and cup dispensers, swiping down the counters and topping off the sundae topping wells.

This impressed my bosses—all four of them. Ralphie and Madge* were the owners and had to be in their fifties. They may have been older, but who can tell when you are sixteen? They were old and to be feared. Their son Ralphie Jr. and his wife Sharon were also my bosses. Sharon was serious and hard-working, but friendly. She said I reminded her of how she started, when she married into the family. Ralphie Jr., was more of a laid back, being a son of a DQ dynasty. He seemed to operate at a slower speed as he flipped burgers at the brazier. Because we were closer in age, we talked about the Moody Blues and Led Zeppelin, groups not quite qualified as vintage rock, just yet.
I drew my first tube of DQ soft serve into a waiting, wafer cone, carefully turning it to create the iconic, signature curl. I did a fairly good job with a lot of praise from Sharon. Whew! There was a scale on the counter for newbies. Our first cones were subject to a weigh in. A small cone was supposed to be no more than three ounces, a medium five ounces, and a large seven. If a cone was grossly overweight, the bosses (except for Ralphie, Jr.) had us scrape the top half of the cone into a large cup and bring the base back to the machine to try for a more slender, business-savy size. The aborted top half of a cone would never be wasted, but made into a salable product for the next shake-ordering customer.

I learned fairly quickly how to make model cones. I prided myself on the DQ curl and would silently affirm myself with praise! Yes! Imagine my sheer elation when I could dip the entire enterprise upside down in the dip well! I developed expert timing and a deft flick of my wrist, and mystifying myself and customers, was able to right the Holy Grail of all DQ treats into its standing and upright position. I confess, there were times even in my later days of my DQ career when approaching the dip well with a virginal cone to coat that some freak fault of physics (a drop in the dew point or extra gravitational pull) caused the cold content to slide out with a perverse plop into the dip well!
Shoot! Before it all melted into a contaminated swirl, I’d use the stir paddle on the dip cover to quickly ladle the mess into a future shake cup. Often, especially when the bosses were out, we’d happily eat our mistakes. Thank God I had a sixteen year old metabolism or I’d have blown out the seams of my DQ pants and pop buttons off my blouse from the thousands of calories I ingest each shift.

I enjoyed working with kids my own age and encouraged my close high school friends to apply. They were coming in the nights I was working, anyway. We tended to do that as teenagers—flock to the places where friends worked on our days off, as we aimlessly drove around. Soon there was a small entourage of my Haddam-Killingworth high school friends working alongside Middletown co-workers-turned-friends. We had a blast especially on shifts when the bosses didn’t come in. We’d invent new sundaes to eat in the back and flirt with each other in-between rushes of customers.

At night we’d follow a militant-style list of breaking down the machines and cleaning every crevice of the joint. Madge and Ralphie, Sr. would inspect each morning and if the crew the night before didn’t do a dilly of job, there’d be hell to pay. A critical note, a DQ scarlet letter as it were, would be tacked next to the work schedule for all to see. My pals and I were seldom scolded because we feared the shame of our employers and really were hard workers. Those who didn’t care as much usually quit after a short stint.

The fact that we ate a lot of our “mistakes” and were otherwise unskilled laborers probably contributed to the fact that in the two and a half years I worked there, I think I got one three cent raise. The fall after I graduated and began attending college, I quit DQ because I lived on Southern Connecticut State U’s campus and worked in Hamden and New Haven in Fotomat booths. During summers at home, I didn’t go back to DQ. Our old crew had dispersed and I picked up a more lucrative job driving bundles of newspapers around in my little red Ford Fiesta. I had mornings off having to report to the newspaper dock at 2:30 p.m. and get my deliveries done in less than three hours. I made over $200 bucks a week and had Sundays off.

I’ve never found another job as fun and exciting as working at Dairy Queen though. Before the DQ was knocked down on Main Street extension, and a damned CVS was put in its place, I had the opportunity in the mid-nineties to go in behind the counter and make myself a cone…for old time’s sake. It was just like riding a bike, I tell ya! I could still form a perfect DQ curl!

Sometimes after a long day of searching for grants for the soup kitchen and food pantry I fantasize what it would be like to go back now and work at a DQ, in my mid-forties. I certainly wouldn’t have a fast metabolism on my side, but I bet I would still find it thrilling. I’d cheerfully take orders, make fabulous cones and sundaes, run a register, make change, clean the topping wells, take apart the soft-serve machine and clean and lube its oh-rings, sweep and wash the floors—all at minimum wage— for what, maybe a week?

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Do You Have A Recipe That Has Made Someone Immortal? Doughnuts: Beryl Lougee

I have a handful of recipes that remind me of special people, as I am sure most of us do. The one I am thinking of on this snowy winter day, is the recipe simply called “Doughnuts.” It’s in a well-worn and stained, hand-typed, plastic-ringed recipe booklet that was put together by a few Methodist churches in the mid 1970s. “Doughnuts” was submitted by a church friend of my mother’s, Beryl Lougee. I remember Mrs. Lougee as a smiling, mild-mannered woman who on occasion invited my mom and my sister and I over to her house for visits. She’d serve my sister and I these wonderful homemade doughnuts on saucers, swimming in real maple syrup! I can still see them and taste them!

She was an active member at the Higganum United Methodist Church, but back then as a kid, I focussed on the fact that she organized the Easter candy sales at our church: chocolate crosses along with the chocolate bunnies.

Growing up, I remember my mom was forever trying new recipes. She adopted Beryl Lougee’s doughnut recipe. At least once a snow day off from school, my mom would whip up a batch of these wonderful wheels while my sister and I played in snow that seemed armpit deep. We’d come in, shuck our snow pants, kick off our plastic bag-lined boots, then saddle up to the table and dunk ’em one after another in our hot chocolate.

I carried on the tradition of making Beryl Lougee’s doughnuts when Erin and Chris had snow days! I swear I’d be as excited as they were went I’d hear school was cancelled due to snow!

Now my kiddos are in college; one in Boston, the other Vermont. It was a little bittersweet making the doughnuts today without them, but Sean and I kept a stiff upper lip as we carried out the sacramental rite. We took turns shaking the royal rings in paper bags of confectioner’s sugar and cinnamon sugar. Ceremoniously we sipped coffee and hot chocolate as we sampled a two, or maybe three.

There is something “magical” as my daughter said about making doughnuts on a snowy day, or any favorite, traditional recipe on a special occasion. Recipes evoke pleasant thoughts/memories of the person or people who shared them with us. What special recipe evokes happy memories of someone past or present in your life or of some special event?

All for a Toothbrush

I remember one of my earliest Christmas seasons at my place of work where I am  the grant writer for a soup kitchen, food pantry, assisted living, and community outreach programs.  My cubical office which faces the Main Street is situated in such a way that I can hear people talking outside at the call-box at the front of the building.  With my office door open, I can also hear my co-workers talking to the people at the call box from their offices.

I was supposed to be concentrating on my work, but my thoughts kept drifting to what seemed to be an insurmountable list of things I needed to buy and do before Christmas.  I had to find the right gifts for people, had to plan a big meal with fussy eaters, and deal with idiot relatives who mouth off when they drank too much.

“Yes?” the squawky voice of my co-worker, a Sister startled me from my dysfunctional daydream.  She was two doors down the hall talking to a man who had just rung at the box outside.

“Ma’am, I was just released from prison and I need a toothbrush,” the burly voice beseeched. That should be no big deal, I thought. We just received literally hundreds of them during our recent toiletry drive, we could spare one. To my shock, the nun said, “I am sorry sir; I only give out toiletry bags on Tuesdays.”

What?! It was Thursday, but this didn’t make sense to me. I didn’t want to go against my co-worker, but I just could not see not making an exception for this man. I jumped out of my seat and ran down the stairs.  I pulled opened the door to the large dark man slightly hunched from the cold.  He was wearing a coat but was blowing into his bare hands to keep them warm.

“Sir, why don’t you wait in the dining room and I’ll get you a toothbrush.”

“Thank you, Ma’am,” he said. I ran back up the stairs slipping past the sister’s door and up to the third floor where we kept the toiletries.  I stood before huge grey bins and plucked a boxed toothbrush. This man has nothing, I thought as I stuffed the toothbrush a nearby Ziploc baggie.  I added tube of toothpaste, deodorant, and shampoo. Our mission is to help those in need, I thought,  justifying the stuffed bag. Remembering his cold hands, I picked up a pair of large gloves from the shelf of recent donations.  I didn’t want to get caught with this contraband so I stuffed the loot in the large pockets of my sweater.

I met the man in the empty soup kitchen dining room; it was cleared out after lunch hour.  “Here you are, Merry Christmas,” I said, taking a step towards him looking into his dark brown eyes.  His cold hand brushed mine as I handed him the packet. “Oh, the gloves, too,” I said, pulling them out from my sweater pocket.

All of a sudden this man began showering me with a profound and holy gift. “God bless you, ma’am.  God bless you and your family,” he bowed towards me. “God, Bless You.” My being tingled in his warm glow and my heart beat wildly, flooding me with spirit.  Here I thought I was to giving him, this needy man, just out of jail, a simple toothbrush kit and a pair of gloves, but he gave me something greater.

Teary-eyed, I floated up the stairs and back into my office.  While I was away from my desk, my boss had laid a white envelope across my keyboard. I opened my Christmas card and two sizable green bills spilled out. I burst into tears.

Motorcycle Accident 6/10/12 God Sent Help!

As I go through life and grow and sometimes wrestle with my faith, I can’t help but give God the nod in a great many circumstances where divine providence has injected at clutch points in my life.  My two memoirs Raising Dad and my Desert Storm story (need a working title) give God the glory because the things that have happened to my husband, children and me are just too numerous to be attributed to freak chance.

Sean and I are sharing another very recent experience of how God provided for us, especially in a time of a life and death crisis.  Many of you know that about fourteen weeks ago, Sean and I were in a horrific motorcycle accident.  I basically walked away with a badly sprained knee (still a little purple), but Sean was severely injured.

You be the judge. Was it divine providence or just a coincidence?

It was an otherwise perfect Sunday June 10th as we made our first trip as a couple on our second, new-to-us motorcycle.  Biking was a rather new hobby of ours.  Sean had wanted a motorcycle for years but I’ve always countered, “Isn’t being a cop dangerous enough?”  Now that kids were older and we were working on doing things as a couple, not to mention he had completed the motorcycle riders’ course, I took a deep breath, said many a prayer, and learned how to be his biker babe.  It was a good exercise in letting go and trusting. I prayed every time we ventured out, though.

To be honest, I enjoyed the open air, the smells of cut grass, backyard barbecues, and fragrant flowers as we wound our way through bucolic byways of our state.  I’d squeeze Sean, give thanks for our time together, and think this is wild! This is so cool!

After a successful year and a half of riding on our small but dependable Honda Sabre–always wearing helmets, bike jackets and boots, never drinking, never driving stupidly–we talked about taking it up a notch and finding a bigger bike with saddle bags so we could ride off on romantic weekend trips.

Lo and behold, we spotted a 1200 cc Kawasaki Voyager motorcycle (resembling a Honda Goldwing) for sale on the lawn of a really nice guy in Essex.  After doing the research and test driving, we decided to buy it.  It was Day Four of ownership when I got on the back of the big bike for our first day trip together, June 10th.  What a great, smooth ride and comfortable, taller passenger seat than on our former Honda!  I could see over Sean and had more room for my legs.  This bike seemed so much more secure because of its size, I thought.

Earlier that day we had visited friends in Killingworth, and then caught the Chester ferry east of the river to say hello to friends on the Colchester green.  Our friend Melissa Schlag who was collecting signatures for her state senate campaign at the town’s fair-like gathering.  Sean and I had Philly cheese steak sandwiches there, decided we’d ride off for ice cream in East Haddam.

As we approached an intersection we debated whether to go the river route or the country route to Hillside Sweet Shop.  I didn’t care.  Sean at the last second decided we should go the country route and took a quick left turn.  Because the bike was a few hundred pounds heavier and lower to the ground than our old Honda, Sean wasn’t used to its less responsive handling.  One of the pegs scraped the tar.   I was unfazed as this had happened to us once before on the old bike and Sean straightened it out without issue.

Sean knew we were in trouble, but I didn’t see it coming. The bike was cruising out of his control.  Trying to avoid a metal road sign on the median between Routes 149 and 151, Sean drove into the curb.  I have no recollection of this, but we were both bucked off up and over the handle bars. I flew to the left and Sean to the right. The bike went down the middle.

Catapulted 15 feet through the air with arms with my arms stretched forward as if I was sliding into second base, I felt a thump.  Yellow, bristly, dried-up grass flew into my helmet shield as I skidded to a stop.  My left knee caught on a rock in the median that I found out later was the size of a small potato.

Stunned, I sat up with my legs stretched out in front of me. The left leg of my jeans was torn at the knee and I noticed a little blood.  I surveyed the rest of my body.  I was shaking, but otherwise seemed intact.  I turned to my left and saw Sean lying still on his back about 20 feet away.

In all of the 28 years I’ve known my tough guy, of all the years he’s been a police officer, I’ve never seen Sean flat out unable to move, hurt or in big trouble.  A bolt of terror ripped through me and I began to pray.

Oh, God, please let him be alright.  Let me stay calm. Let me stay calm.

“Seanie are you OK?” I called out shakily. “Sean?”

I heard him moan. “My shoulder, my shoulder.  F*&k! I dislocated my shoulder!”

“We’re going to be OK, Seanie. We’re OK.” God, please let us be OK.

I turned slightly to my right and behind me and saw the motorcycle on its side with wires spewing out. A man with a long red pony tail was standing next to it, his cellphone in hand, “I just called 911,” he said.

For a moment I had a crazy thought. Why? We’re going to be OK.  We just dumped the bike. We’ll be getting up in a minute and be on our way.

Maybe Sean felt that too because when I glanced over to him, he was suddenly up on his feet and had taking his helmet off!   He swore, and then walked toward the bike, in his usual take charge demeanor.  “I’ve got to pick it up,” he said to this dark haired man who suddenly appeared.

The man held up his hand to Sean. “I’m a former EMT. You need to lie down.” He was calm but firm.  He had witnessed the accident and the awful cloud of dust our bodies made when we landed. “I will hold your head and move with you anyway you need to move.”

For some reason, Sean obeyed the man. He knelt and held Sean’s head in his hands as Sean started thrashing and screaming as I had never seen him do in all of our time together. “My shoulder, my ribs, I know I broke my ribs!”  Thankfully, he stayed down.

“You’re going to be OK, Seanie.” I said. Oh, God please let us be OK.  Please keep me calm.

Sean looked up and he realized he knew the man who was holding his head in place.  It was Patrick Murray, an administrator at the security department at Middlesex Hospital. Sean actually meets with him and his staff once a month as a police department liaison. What are the chances that this man would be two cars behind our motorcycle and come to the scene to help?

I don’t know how long it took for the ambulances to arrive—we were out in the middle of Moodus—, but I just kept praying.  The late afternoon sun was a bright yellow-gold around us.  I know I was in shock, but I also felt a steady calm.  My knee barely hurt me.

Sean and I were initially taken to Middlesex Hospital.  As soon as Sean had a CT scan he was whisked Hartford Hospital because he broken his neck in five places!  Four in his C-1cervical vertebrae and one in his C-2.  More than one medical professional has told Sean how lucky he is.  Breaking the C-1 is one of the most life threatening breaks you can get.  One wrong move and your spinal cord could be severed resulting in instant death or paralysis. Sean had broken his in four places! He got up on his feet!  He took off his helmet!  He was walking over to the downed bike ready to lift it up when Patrick Murray came on the scene and told him stop!

Sean spent two days in intensive care and six more days after a precarious surgery to repair his “smashed” scapula (his surgeon’s words). Those five breaks were patched together by three stainless steel plates and nine screws.  He also had four broken ribs.

I escaped with a badly bruised/sprained knee and two little scrapes on my left knuckle.

Where are we now? We are alive and grateful!    Sean still has to wear his neck brace because one of the breaks in his C-1 is slow to fill in with new bone.  My knee is still bruised and not quite right, but we are both back to work. We believe God sent help.  We wonder what He has in mind for us after sparing us from paralysis or even death?

For more intriguing thought on this subject, I encourage you to read To Heaven and Back: A Doctor’s Extraordinary Account of Death, Heaven, Angels, and Life Again  Mary C. Neal .

Click here “A Man’s Craving For Beer Saved My Husband’s Life” for an update on this story.