Kristen and Jeff had planned on going to Hawaii for their 10 year wedding anniversary. “Then everything changed. And our plans were washed away in the ocean with the setting Hawaiian sun,” writes Kristen. Jeff was paralyzed in a beach accident in 2013 and is now a ventilator-dependent quadriplegic.
New plans for their anniversary
“Jeff told me that he didn’t even want to celebrate,” she admits. “He didn’t want to be reminded that we aren’t where we had planned to be on our ten-year anniversary.” They toyed with the idea of throwing a Hawaiian themed party, but ultimately settled on a night at the casino for two. “We had been to this particular casino numerous times, but all before Jeff’s injury,” she explains. “So whenever we go somewhere we used to go – when we lived our old life – I always wonder how it will feel to be back now that we’re living our new life.” Despite the understandable anxiety, the night turned out to be a perfect one, a happy one. “And that’s the point, isn’t it? To be happy,” Kristen writes. “Ten years married, and despite everything we’ve been through, we were happy.”
They picked up a cake they ordered that was decorated in a Hawaiian style and went home to do the normal routine they have to manage Jeff’s paralysis. “We certainly didn’t spend the evening the way either one of us would have imagined ten years ago,” but there is no way around the demands of a spinal cord injury. “Later, as I went into the closet to grab supplies for Jeff, I noticed my wedding dress hanging there, twinkling in the light, surrounded by tubes, gauze, gloves, pills, and creams,” Kristen explains. “When I wore that dress ten years ago, I had no idea that this is where I would be right now.” And although Kristen and Jeff are facing challenges most couples never have to deal with, they persevere. They are resilient and focus on what’s important.
Understanding her role as a wife
“I’ve often heard the expression, ‘I didn’t sign up for this’ referenced when life doesn’t turn out the way you planned,” Kristen shares. “And while I certainly didn’t hope for this life – for my husband to be paralyzed and for me to take care of him – I most definitely signed up for it.” Reflecting on her 10th wedding anniversary, Kristen recalls the vows she made to her husband, verbally and on paper, to be Jeff’s partner in sickness and in health. “If that isn’t signing up for something, then I don’t know what is,” she shares.
Kristen openly shares the challenges and frustrations of her life as a wife and caregiver, including Jeff’s struggles with his physical limitations. However, together they are strong and endure. “Life has weathered our bodies and our spirits,” she writes. “We’ve seen beyond the blinding sun and faced the storm lurking behind. And we’ve survived.” And to Kristen, that’s what is worth celebrating.
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