20/20 Vision: The View from the Other Side

2022 is well under way, and as I do every year, I find myself looking back. Steve Jobs was exactly right when he put it this way: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards.” Wise words, and so very true! In so much of our life experience, things only truly make sense when reviewed after the fact. One of my Dad’s favorite insights was, “Hindsight is 20/20!”

The year 2020 dawned hopefully in numerous ways. I, and others, made word plays of the phrase “20/20 Vision”. A fresh new year with its own hopes and dreams, promising possibilities, and potential yet untapped. Now, 2 years later, we all must agree that we could never have anticipated the realities of what that year and the next would hold. A global pandemic, and the tremendous impact on every aspect of our lives, was something that few of us could ever have imagined!


On the very day our local school district announced that, for the safety of all concerned, teachers and students would not be returning to school in person until further notice, Jim was hit returning home from his bike ride. And thus began a journey he and I could never have seen coming! Nor could we have been able to imagine how we would go about negotiating all that lay ahead!


It has been a challenging two years in a great many ways. Even amid countless blessings, the reality is that On the very day our local school district announced that, for the safety of all concerned, many of the changes in our life are disappointing and frustrating. Adjusting to those things doesn’t make us any less grateful that Jim’s life was spared and for all the things he is still able to do. But life with a spinal cord injury is tough, and has certainly rearranged each and every aspect of our lives.


Accepting the enormous changes in where we’d expected our lives to lead has not always been easy. But this “rerouting” of our path has led to some unexpectedly satisfying places. I can’t change the events of 24 months ago, but I recognize and embrace some key priorities that will be guideposts in my journey going forward.


It was imperative that I come to grips with the fact that a 17-year-old had, in a moment of inattention, nearly killed my husband. Although what occurred was not intentional or malicious, the disastrous collision need not have happened at all! A driver who’s attention was focused completely on the roadway would have been able to take some kind of evasive action. There were surely options that would have made it possible to avoid plowing, without even braking, into a man on a bicycle!


It was devastating to think of a young person, exactly like one of my piano students, being responsible for such a horrible situation. And with ever-increasing fatalities involving young drivers, similar scenarios often result in even more devastating consequences. Statistically, young drivers are at fault in a disproportionate number of cases involving motor vehicle violence. In addition to the resultant injuries and deaths, I grieve for the young lives who will bear the scars of their actions for the rest of their days.


As an educator, I truly believe the young people who will lead us into the future are a wonderfully promising generation. They are deserving of significant investments in their potential, and I find being a mentor an amazingly rewarding experience. When those beliefs intersected with the realities of our personal situation, it was only natural that I would find my calling in reaching out to young drivers. Because of our experience, I am uniquely equipped to share the message of how vital it is to make responsible choices when behind the wheel. Describing what has occurred in our life adds weight to the message. When I speak to young drivers, mere statistics are replaced by real people with real faces. Every single victim is someone’s everything!


A crucial part of speaking to young drivers is to express my firm belief in them. I fully expect them to be good citizens, change -makers! I challenge them to lead us all into a better, safer future. I’m privileged to have seen my message connect with them on a deep level, and I’m convinced that lives will be saved and futures salvaged as a direct result of this outreach! [If you want to follow our progress, check out www.VRUnm.org.]


Secondly, I have had to admit and articulate my dismay and deep anger in the way Jim’s crash was handled by law enforcement. No citation was issued, the info given by the driver was never checked or verified, and there was no follow up investigation whatsoever. It felt not only like a miscarriage of justice, but it was heartbreaking to see my beloved husband dismissed so completely. I couldn’t rid myself of feeling that he’d received no more respect than a dead or injured animal would have.


Resentment and disillusionment, however, are not productive platforms. Allowing my anger to control my words and actions will never bring about positive change. I don’t wish what I’ve learned through this process to be wasted out of a misplaced need to “speak my mind”. I’m committed to taking charge of my emotions and seeking situations in which to initiate respectful dialogue. When opportunities occur, I hope to be up to sharing our story in a way which will have a positive influence on how law enforcement deals with vulnerable road users!

Evaluating the events of March 2020, everything else pales in comparison to the pure joy of having my husband alive and maintaining quality of life in spite of all he has been through! These last two years have shown us time and again that each and every day is a gift for us to share and enjoy together. Two weeks ago we were blessed to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary, and to rejoice in the fact that our life together didn’t end two years ago! Want to know how we celebrated? We popped the cork, poured the “bubbly”, and toasted 50 years of mountain tops and valleys!


The life-changing occurrences of two years ago have forced us to view life through an entirely different lens. And that's a good thing! The things that truly matter have now become crystal clear. We are so very grateful to have “20/20 vision”!


- Barbara