Chapter 6: TBI – Music, Dreams & Memories

Pat&Ann

I read something profound recently that fits right here so I will try to paraphrase it the best I can.  It suggested that a light gets turned on when we’re born and it shines on throughout our lives, and that if all goes well, nothing gets in the way of the light.  But if something bad happens, part of us is trapped at that time, forever alone in the dark, still alive, while the rest of us moves on.  It makes sense to me somehow.

I don’t know exactly when I noticed that, for the first time in as long as I could remember, the music in me was gone.  I couldn’t sing.  I couldn’t listen to anything.  I had lost my passion.  It makes sense, I guess, because music has always been so connected to my heart and soul, and the tragedy of Pat’s accident and ongoing condition disconnected many things inside of me.  During the early days after his accident, when I was still able to hang onto the possibilities that hadn’t yet been taken away, I tried playing the piano a couple of times in a lounge just outside the I.C.U. but only in hopes that Pat might hear it.

I remember the night I heard a particular song on a television program and I realized by the end of it that it was the first thing I had been able to actually listen to from start to finish since his accident.  It spoke to me, especially the chorus, and I decided to make it our song; as it turned out, I would sing it to him every day for the remainder of his coma, usually putting one side of my headphones into his ear so he could also hear the music:  “…I have died everyday waiting for you, darling don’t be afraid, I have loved you for a thousand years, I’ll love you for a thousand more …”  Strangely, most days I was able to sing it to him without crying too much.  Months later I played it for him and he seemed to know the tune, which makes me believe he must have heard it while unconscious, because it wasn’t a song he would have known before. To this day, when I start to sing it, he usually sobs.

Gradually, over time and seeing the need for Pat to have music, I was able to play and sing for him, and in situations with other people when he was there to enjoy it.  I started keeping one of my guitars in his hospital room just a few months after the accident because he began asking to sing almost daily and still does. I can sing anything for him and rarely break down because I am able to disconnect myself from the music and focus on his enjoyment of it.  But I no longer have the desire to play anything for myself, and I still can’t listen to music just for the sake of listening, unless I’m with Pat and we have it turned on for him.  Then it has a purpose for his entertainment, and when I’m with him, I’m able to hide my own emotions most of the time so that he won’t see my suffering, much like a mother shields her child from knowing the truth about her pain.

From my journal, October 16, 2014:

I sat down to play the piano while I was home alone today.  I was in a good mood and just thought I should.  Of course it opened up a door I didn’t want to go through, and I thought if I just sat there and cried it out, I would move forward through it and be fine.  I did feel the music again as I played, but it will never be the same and the experience didn’t fix me.  I haven’t done that since, but I probably will again eventually because I know that I need to live some kind of life of my own.  I just don’t know how.

I’ve tried a few times to listen in the car when I’m driving by myself but it rarely stays on.  Most of it brings pain and feelings to the surface that I can’t bear.  I’m beginning to handle some of the bouncy tunes with no deep meaning in the lyrics, and last Christmas I actually tolerated our regular Christmas repertoire at home for the most part, depending on the day. Out of necessity, I have learned to force myself not to feel certain things, for my own survival.  As the quote above expresses, I know there’s a part of me still alive but trapped forever at that tragic moment, alone in the dark.  Maybe that’s where the music is too, and maybe that’s why it hurts so much because once I open up that door too many other things get through it.

Your eyes are wide open, you are waking up, talking to me, holding me, I can feel your warmth and your love and the peaceful relief that you are yourself and everything is going to be okay…I’m startled awake, my eyes opening to the darkness of the room I temporarily sleep in, and the tears flow time and again, dream after dream.  Nothing has changed, you are still in a coma.  

The dreams changed over time, sometimes they were about Pat waking up and being fine, and then I would wake up and realize it wasn’t true and the sadness was unbearable. Sometimes they were frightening flashbacks to the night I saw him zipped up into the padded bag waiting for STARS to fly him to Edmonton. Once I woke up suddenly after seeing him on that table in a dream, his eyes wide open looking to me for help, knowing I couldn’t do anything.  I can still see his face from that dream.

There are still flashbacks, moments when my mind plays through the whole ordeal from knowing he was too late getting home all the way to the ICU in a matter of seconds: the wrenching pain in my gut, the shortness of breath, the fear, the panic, the anguish, it all comes back along with the memory.  There will be no end, no erasing this memory.  It comes to me each time I hear a siren, each time I see the STARS air ambulance, each time I hear of a car accident nearby, each time I drive on that same highway from Whitecourt to Mayerthorpe and make that same left turn, unsure of my own judgment and never feeling confident that there really isn’t any other vehicle coming towards me. It is that part of me that is trapped in that space of time, alone in the dark, but still alive.

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