She wasn’t sure how it happened, but it happened. The sun had set, the rain had started and the roads were slick, cars moving slower than usual, and drivers being vigilant. She didn’t see it happen. She felt it. A terrific bang from behind, then her car was hit. The night was going to be a long one.

Twelve-year-old Jason hit his head on the dash. His seat belt had been loose, worn that way as he always did, not liking the tightness on his chest. He used a clip that prevented the seat belt from being in its designed position. Not a good idea as it turned out. Unconscious at the scene, the paramedics carefully extricated him, followed trauma protocols, assisted his breathing and rushed him to the hospital. He and I met for the first time that night. We started a relationship that would last several weeks, granted one sided, with me doing all the talking, the encouragement and the news. Lots of bad news, some good. Jason was unconscious for almost three weeks, hooked up to machines, his breathing assisted by a monotonous bellows device. He had sustained a severe traumatic brain injury with multiple other organs injured, some more serious than others. He would survive but with some significant disabilities.

Accepting the Cards
I am always amazed at the resilience of children and how they adapt to the cards they are dealt. They innocently accept the cards, play them, making adjustments in their lives and move forward, very different than adults who when dealt a bad hand, either throw the cards down and fold, or ask for different cards from the dealer: God. The Dealer doesn’t always do so, suggesting that the dealt hand has meaning behind it. Jason, would recover from his coma, open his eyes and see what his world has become. He would shrug his shoulders, say little, and press on with what he was told to do. I watched it all happen, as did his mother. Jason was brave, she not so much.

Being Alive vs. A Meaningful Life
I’ve talked about this before. There is a difference between just being alive and having a meaningful life. For some, the degree of disabilities that one is given hinders a meaningful life and one just lives waiting for the end. Jason went beyond. He not only lived, but also found meaning in his life, centered on his disabilities and restrictions. Over the years he grew up as a representative of those with disabilities, sharing his limitations and how he got around them. He attended college, albeit with some learning disabilities, but got through it and got his degree in social sciences. His mother went to college with him, helping him with taking notes, studying, and more. She began to accept all that had been given to Jason and to her. She too found meaning in life, and together, she and Jason grew in their appreciation for the cards that they had been dealt.

I say all this, simply to remind us all, that we may find ourselves in situations where we didn’t plan on playing cards, but were dealt a hand all the same. Take a look at the cards, see what you have, and play them to the best of your ability. They have meaning. The Dealer never deals you anything that you can’t handle.

In all things give thanks,