Punctuation, Anniversaries, and End of Life

I am a bit of a grammar nerd. It hasn’t manifested itself yet into a love of sentence diagramming, and I doubt that it ever will, but I do place great value on proper punctuation and magnificent word choice that can make plain and simple text come alive. These little bits of dots, commas, apostrophes, and lines should not be taken lightly, for their application can totally change the premise of a sentence.

Take for instance this classic example of comma usage: “Let’s eat Momma” or “Let’s eat, Momma” have two entirely different meanings. The first is asking for mom to be ON the dinner plate AS the feast, while the latter is requesting her to join you IN dinner by taking a plate and eating the feast as well. One small little swish of a pen or press of a keyboard button makes an adaptation to the sentence that can alter everything.

A little over a week ago, there was an event at church, and I couldn’t remember if lunch was provided for the kiddos in childcare or not. I texted a friend that was in charge and asked “Do I need to pack a lunch for my boys?” Brooke kindly replied “No, food is provided.” In the midst of busy morning, I gave the text a hasty read and quickly began packing lunches, cause after all, “No food is provided.” Turns out I, the English nerd, didn’t take proper notice of the comma she typed. No, accompanied by a comma, means I didn’t need to pack a lunch, cause one would be provided. When my kiddos showed up with their thermals, it all sorta clicked with me on my critical misread.

Punctuation matters, you see.

Commas aren’t the only critical elements. There are colons, semi-colons, even just a simple period. None seem overly important, but when you try to read a piece of writing where none exist, you realize that them being there is essential. If you don’t have any personal experience with such, just trust me on this one, for I have graded enough essays that have missed the mark in these concepts. It’s simply maddening.

I often teach the rules of punctuation in my classroom, yes even the collegiate one, especially the elements that are most easily confused and misused. The period, called a full-stop by the British, is where you stop reading and complete a sentence. Most can handle this one. Frequently avoided or misused due to lack of knowing how to have the right application is the semi-colon. This little gem works to combine two sentences together. When a sentence could have ended, it doesn’t; details continue on thanks to the punctuation combining with more details. Typically this element is applied in order to create a stronger, more effective sentence.


A year ago today, my life could have very well ended
. I blacked out. I wrecked. I was life flighted to the ER. A year ago today, the baby that was in my womb could have very well ceased to exist any more. Instead, today, I look at a beautiful 6 month old child, healthy and happy, even if a bit drooly from some teething. One year ago, on August 19th, my life could have been a period, ending with no continuation. Grammatically speaking, I could have been a “full stop.” Fortunately, God did not see it fit to call me home, and I was allowed a semi-colon; a possibility for things to end existed but ultimately I was given a continuation. I even have a scar on the middle of my chest, formed by shards of glass and the seatbelt, that oddly enough resemble a semi-colon when I look down at it: a small dot on top with a swoosh underneath.

I have more life to live.

This day has been on the horizon for me, a day I emotionally welcomed yet dreaded, a year anniversary of one of the most life-changing, miraculous, and yet scariest days of my life. At one point I had plans to try and fly in a helicopter, since my first experience in one was a vague memory of floating between consciousness and unconsciousness, restrained by a neck brace and an IV. With life’s craziness though, that idea seemed less of a potential. Sometimes I envisioned being alone on this day, reflective and worshipful; I had big plans to cry.

Yet, a bit unexpectedly, Mom’s sickness and cancer battle suddenly was expedited towards its close. That day definitely trumps the impact of this one. She didn’t get a semi-colon, she got a period, a full-stop. My mom died, sooner than a year after her diagnosis. Just like that, her sentence was over. Period.

Or, maybe not.

There is this one element of punctuation called an ellipsis. Often the ellipsis is used in informal writing to show that the thought has been left a little unfinished, not fully ended or complete. The sentence doesn’t continue on like it would if graced with a semi-colon. The sentence doesn’t end like it would if bestowed a period. It instead trails off, in a series of dots to represent the ongoing nature of the idea.

Mom, being a believer in Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross, had hope of an afterlife, a better place to call home. Her passing isn’t as simple as a full-stop period, nor is it a physical continuation here on earth like a semi-colon might provide. Now, rather, she operates with an elliptic life, one that has trailed off from here on earth only to continue more in heaven, free from suffering and pain. My momma knew of the Everlasting Life that can only be found in God and a life lived in Him.

Although I mourn that there is not time with her here, I rejoice that I will have time with her there….

Wreck Recollections

(The following is not a fabricated recollection of my recent wreck. This is how I remember things to be. Although the words might not truly be accurate to how things occurred, any missteps in facts or details are due to my condition at the time. I’ve written it mainly in one sitting, to keep it fresh and to not over think the process.)

8.19_wreck
Photo credit: http://www.lebanondemocrat.com/article/209336

Darkness.

“Ma’am…….Ma’am…..can you hear me? Ma’am……”

I open my eyes into tiny slits, just enough to see a completely shattered windshield just inches from my face.

Darkness.

I can hear the sound of crunching glass, bending metal, urgency, and lots of voices yelling orders back and forth.

“Ma’am……Can you move your legs? I need you to move your legs. Can you do that for me?”

Aware but with my eyes still closed, I wiggle my legs, immediately realizing there is no more room to move them anywhere else. They’re pinned in, stuck. Millions of little shards of glass sprinkle over my feet as I try to do something, anything with my legs. I make a mental note and thank God that I actually can move, feel my legs.

Darkness.

I open my eyes and see a small glimpse of the bright sky. I close my eyes again. Holding them open takes too much effort. Hard, firm, and sturdy, I realize I am on a stretcher. Something is on my neck keeping it still. I can hear noises all around but I can’t focus on anything.

“Ma’am, what happened? Can you tell me about what happened?”

I respond, or at least try to, but suddenly I realize that the droopiness I had felt earlier in my mouth wasn’t just because I was in and out of consciousness. There is an alarming amount of piercing pain there, and I have very little function or control. Somehow, I utter, “I don’t know… Nothing…I don’t know”

Then, as if all the terror of the situation is not enough, I realize they don’t know…..

“My baby! Is my baby ok? How’s my baby” I say with slurred, forced speech to anyone and everyone that will listen, cause even though I’m not looking at anyone, I know they are there. I need an answer.

“You didn’t have anyone else with you in the car. You were alone. It’s ok……” someone replies back.

“Pregnant” I eek out, “I’m pregnant,” I say as I struggle to lift my right arm and tap my hand on my belly.

Darkness.

Thump, Thump, Thump, Thump, Thump.

Photo credit: http://www.lebanondemocrat.com/article/209336
Photo credit: http://www.lebanondemocrat.com/article/209336

“Oh shit. I am in a helicopter. Dear God help me. This is a helicopter. They only put really hurt people in a helicopter; they call it ‘life flight’ for a reason. Oh God help me” I think to myself, eyes still closed. I begin to trace my tongue inside my mouth. I feel a gap. My thoughts run wild: Did I lose teeth? Oh wait, here is a tooth…..no, that’s not a tooth, that’s my jaw? Is that a bone sticking out inside my mouth? No, it’s a tooth out of place, right?

I stretch out my hands. I need a human. I want to touch another human, cause if I am holding tight to another person, I’m still alive and still here. To my left, I find the forearm of a man, strong and hairy. He allows me to keep a tight grip. I’m totally not letting go. I never see his face, but gripping him is helping to save me.

With my eyes now opened, I notice a woman that leans over me from the right. Her eyes are a brilliant blue, beautiful, like a perfect ocean. I can’t notice or remember anything else, just that her eyes are blue and her hair has a red tint to it. Those blue eyes and red hair look just like my friend Amanda’s sister, Sherry. It comforts me, perhaps because suddenly it feels like something “familiar” is near me. But mostly I think it comforts me because Sherry is a woman that is strong, resilient, and will fight for things. She does not give up easily, and she is determined. Having this “Sherry” with me during my helicopter transport is just what I need….someone that will fight for me, along with my unborn baby.

I close my eyes again, for I just can’t keep them open long. Too much stimulus, too much effort, too much everything.

“Can you tell me how old you are?” I’m asked by Sherry.

“Thirty-One” I mumble, but immediately I regret talking due to pain it causes and the energy it takes, so I then hold up three fingers on my right hand followed by one finger. I maintain my grapple on the man to my left. He doesn’t make me let go, thankfully.

“How far along are you?”

Oh Lord thank you they know and remember I am pregnant! One finger followed by four fingers is my next move, and Sherry immediately replies, “14 weeks…..congratulations!”

Thump, Thump, Thump, Thump, Thump.

Darkness.

Somehow, someway, I end up in the ER. I don’t know how I knew what hospital I was at, but it managed to get relayed to me. Maybe I just intrinsically knew. Without my grip on the man in the helicopter, I am floating in a pool of chaos, fear, and pain completely alone, unaccounted. I grab the hand of the next human that I hear near me. She allows me a few seconds of comfort but then has to return to responding to my physical needs: bleeding, IVs, removing glass.

With my eyes open, I see no one I know. “Husband. I want my husband” I utter. I don’t even remember what they tell me as a response, I just know I don’t see him, so I just begin to beg for my friend, Helen. I know that I am at her hospital, so if she is at work, I want her, and I want her now. I know she is close. “Get my friend Helen. She works with the babies. NICU. Get Helen” becomes my mantra. I say it enough to where I finally see the nurse pick up a phone and call Helen’s unit. The nurse never says what she was told, but I figure no response to me means my friend isn’t working today. I’m still alone, and I need someone. I begin to wonder: Do they even know who I am? No one has asked me. Could I even pronounce my last name well enough for them to understand me and could I give them a phone number if I had to do it?

I cry out in my heart for God to bring me someone to help me not be alone.

Soon, my love races into the room. He gently grabs my hand and cries. My neck is still in a brace, my body is achy, my jaw is throbbing, but suddenly my world becomes right, or as right as it can be considering the circumstances. “I thought I had lost you. I was so scared I had lost you” he tells me between sobs.

But he didn’t lose me, thank God. I know that I’m banged up and bruised and broken but I know that I am still here, and he is with me, and that is enough for this brief moment.