Eleven years ago this morning, I woke up on the street corner of Damen, Milwaukee, and North Avenues in Wicker Park, Chicago. Cars were whizzing by me as I laid on the bitter cold blacktop while a man was guiding me thru my body ensuring I could feel it, allaying any fears I had of paralysis. A woman was attempting to guide the traffic so that none of us would get hit (again). Another was next to me crying hysterically. She was the woman who was driving the car that hit me while I was crossing the street. It was just another day leading up to Christmas, one in which I was making my way to the Blue Line into the office. It was 7:28 AM. I remember two things that would leave an indelible mark upon my heart and my brain:
- The nanosecond before I realized I would be hit by this car roaring 30 mph, my life flashed before my eyes, images dominated by everyone that I loved and loved me in return. I now like to think that there were some strangers in my brain, loved ones that I had not yet met.
- The realization when I woke up that I was still alive, a promise I made to God that I would tell the people I loved that I loved them wholeheartedly and that I’d do everything in my power to be there for them, whatever “being there” actually meant.
Eleven years have passed. Three years after that fateful morning, my niece was born. Upon hearing the news, I bought a ticket, went to the nearest baby store, filled up my suitcase, jumped on the Blue Line to O’Hare, flew to Philadelphia, took the train into the city and walked over to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. I celebrated the birth of a precious, new life with my family on that day as I celebrated a second chance at my own life — my sister a beautiful new mommy.
This day has become the most meaningful of all days. However for the first time in over nine years, my guy Taylor is not with me. We’ve had a tough time since he crossed the Rainbow Bridge, his essence still a big part of our daily lives, but his physical presence a gaping hole he’s left behind where the empty spaces of our time have been nearly impossible to fill. I realize that piece of my heart — a big part — that he filled will never again be whole, and that’s ok. It’s just a reminder of what he truly meant to Grace and me. He was there right from the very beginning of our relationship, truly remarkable considering he was also there from the very beginning of my brother and his wife’s relationship. He was a huge part of our lives, an active participant in our love growing. Grace and I have each other now, and that’s his true legacy.
In the days since, we’ve filled them with our family and friends, keeping them close to our hearts right where we keep Taylor. And in that way, I feel that we are both making good on my promise I made when I first woke up to love the people we love wholeheartedly. Not only do we need them, but I realize they need us with so many people that we love going through difficult times of their own, some even tragic. “Being there” takes on a new meaning when people really do need the love of their family and friends around them.
Every so often, I sometimes think of what would have happened if I’d never woken up? I would have never met some of the most important people in my life today, let alone another eleven years with those that I had already known and loved. I would have never met my wife. Taylor would have never lived with me. I would have never met my niece or nephews. I would have never lived in Sausalito, discovered the grace, love and presence of God in nature during my hikes with Taylor in the Marin Headlands, or traveled all over our beautiful country, or visited magnificent cities living unbelievably amazing adventures in India, Thailand, the Netherlands, Peru and Colombia. Those thoughts are fleeting, but very real, and inevitably they all lead to moments of sincere thanks. And with each collection of moments that lead me from one person to another, that lead me to places within my heart and outside my environment, become days then weeks then years when all of a sudden I’ve been given an extra eleven years. Waking up that morning in the bitter cold was one of the best feelings I’ve ever felt, and I’ve been bottling that feeling and sharing it ever since.
I was looking through Facebook the other day, just to take a look at the posts I’ve written on 12/22, and they all have a running theme: celebrating life and being thankful for it, cos you just don’t know when it will be just a memory, and that we are responsible for our own happiness not to mention sharing it with those around us, that we are not the victims to our circumstances but rather the creators of our destinies.
- Year One: 12/22/09 — happy holidays to all! one year ago today, i was hit by a car crossing the street and lived to see another day. today i celebrate life! live, love and laugh…
- Year Two: 12/23/10 — In 30 minutes, I will celebrate the two year anniversary of the first moment of the rest of my life. It’s great to be alive! Happy Holidays!!!!
- Year Three: 12/22/11 — Today is a great day! A day of celebration. Three years ago today, I was given a second chance at life. I’ve tried to make the most of it, living life to the fullest every day since. It’s a Festivus miracle! More good news to come…
- Year Three (continued): 12/23/11 — the best news ever! as of yesterday, my sister bess is a proud mom; and jon a proud dad! watch out world, beatrix marie said hello and is ready to take you on! i am now officially uncle cecil aka uncle cece aka uncle baldy!!
- Year Five: 12/22/13 — Today I celebrate for the sixth time, the beauty of a second chance at life, when I awoke 12/22/08 7:28 AM on the middle of the North/Milwaukee/Damen intersection in Chicago after getting hit by a car, feeling my toes move in the bitter cold the most wonderful of accomplishments. Today, more importantly, for the third time, I also celebrate the birth of the most precious and beautiful person in the world, two years ago, my niece Beatrix was born. Happy Birthday Bea!!!!!!!!
- Year Six: 12/22/14 — A second chance at life a precursor to the birth of a special baby… Today I celebrate my sixth birthday. Today my niece celebrates her third birthday. 12/22/2008 is a special day for me. It’s the day I died. 12/22/2011 is also a special day for me. It’s the day my niece was born. I’ll never forget that moment the car hit me, while I was crossing the street on my way to the train to take me to the office.
- Year Seven: 12/22/15 — When I was a little kid, I loved to suck the marrow out of the bones that were in the chicken curry I would eat for dinner. It’s been a long time since those days of bone marrow. This particular day is a special day for me. It has been for eight years running. I’ve always wanted a December birthday; and in a way, I now have one.
- Year Eight: 12/22/16 — Today’s a special day, for so many reasons. (1) Today is my niece Beatrix’ 5th birthday!! So we’re celebrating. (2) Today at 7:28a this morning is the 8th anniversary of the moment that I was hit by a car while walking across the North/Milwaukee/Damen intersection in Chicago on my way to catch train to the office. So we’re celebrating. (3) and like every other day, I am thankful for being alive. So we’re celebrating. (4) I will always remember the 22nd of December. So we’re celebrating.
- Year Nine: 12/22/18 — I thought it appropriate to share my first post on my blog since my birthday in April. This morning at 7:28 AM, I celebrated ten years since my accident crossing Damen Avenue on my way to work. I’m thankful for waking up that cold morning, and for all the people I’ve met and experiences I’ve enjoyed since that fateful morning, not to mention appreciate those who were in my life before then. Here’s to celebrating and LOVING LIFE!!!
- Year Ten: 12/22/19 — As I do every year on this day for the past ten, I celebrate my second chance at life. 12/22/08 at 7:28 AM, I woke up again on the corner of the busy intersection of North, Milwaukee and Damen Avenues, after getting hit by a car going 30 mph, blessed that I was still alive. This particular day at this very moment has not been easy because Taylor is no longer with us, but with the warm embrace of God’s grace, Grace, and our loving family and friends, it’s a day to celebrate. I look back on pictures over the past couple months and am so very thankful for everyone that continues to hold us close to their hearts as we hold them close to ours.
And so I enter this day and will leave it much the same way that I enter and leave most days — with love and thankfulness for the people I’ve been blessed to call my family and friends, whether I see them every day or hardly ever, the love I feel for them and the impact they’ve had on me, is a truly great and wonderful thing. Most of all, I’m thankful for having this wonderful woman to spend my life with. Celebrate Love and Life!
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4 thoughts on “Eleven Years Later”
Thank you thank you!
What an incredible reflection. It made me take time to pause and to be thankful for what we have. We are very blessed!
Thank you Cecil!
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Thank you Jeff!!! Merry Christmas to you and your family!!!!
Cecil, I met you through Derek and AlwaysBeEpic when y’all and David when you went to India & surrounding areas. I grew to know all 3 of you and you 3 became more like my sons or or at least brothers. I found myself wondering where you 3 would eat, where you would sleep and if you would be safe. I watched for your comments everyday through Derek. I started praying for all of you and felt so blessed when you all got home safe, especially after the rickshaw ride. I know I have never seen any of the 3 of you, I have known Derek’s mama all my life. That is how this big circle of being friends started with Sandra, then Derek, then you and David. I have since become close to Derek and closer to you since you have found beautiful Grace and we are fb friends. Amazing how life brings people together. I am so blessed to call you Cecil and Grace my fb friends. Loving you as always from the Buckle. Debbie.
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I’m glad we are friends too, Debbie! Merry Christmas!