Life Before and After the Parentheses

It’s the cocktail hour….Let’s muse over Bomb Pop Cocktails

and some salsa and dip

Client friends of mine have a twenty-one-year-old daughter who is attending college in Chile.

On June 11th, Lily fell from a two-storey hostel and suffered critical head injuries. There was no drinking, no drugs, and no horseplay—it was an accident. A freak, awful accident.

Imagine being Lily’s parents in Chicago and receiving the phone call that your child was critically injured. The plane ride is 10 hours or so from Chicago to Chile,  the language spoken there is Spanish, and the current season is winter. The one similarity is that the Chilean time zone is the same as our US Eastern time zone (I found this fact fascinating), which prevented the family from facing jet lag when they arrived in Chile. As Lily’s dad put it, “we will take every positive we can get.”

Did your heart just clutch? Did your eyes just fill with tears?

When we hear tragic stories like this one, there seems to be a collective feeling of connection, understanding, and love as well as a desire to reach out with out with our prayers and healing thoughts. Tragic events often seem to help reconnect us with these universally shared feelings.

I’m happy to share that while the outcome of Lily’s injury is still uncertain, she is improving daily.  I would also like to share some of the other things I have learned, while following this family’s journey, since June 11th.

There are no HIPAA laws in Chile, which means the privacy ethic is very different from that in the United States. While many Americans would cringe at the lack of privacy there are benefits. Because everyone is aware of your troubles and angst, everyone cares about you and wants to share information with you. For example, Lily’s family found out from their taxi driver that she had broken her clavicle!  When one of Lily’s nurses sensed that her parents did not understand something the nurse had said in broken English, she called her sister on the phone to translate.

The Chilean medical community is extremely competent, while at the same time being warm and friendly: doctors embrace and kiss patients and families at each greeting, a Chilean custom. My American pediatrician could not shake my son’s hand because of the fear of transmitting germs through hand contact; rather, they bumped fists. While in America a hug or kiss may not always be the custom or appropriate in every context, a warm handshake, or even heartfelt eye contact, can be very meaningful, especially under stressful situations.

Healing can come from sources other than traditional medicine: everyone credits Lily’s Chilean mother for reducing Lily’s seizures. The woman waved her hand over Lily’s forehead and exclaimed “Fuera epilepsia! (Epilepsy be gone!)”

No amount of planning, worrying or stepping back from risk is going to prevent bad things from happening. Lily’s parents did everything right. They researched, made a visit to her host family and Chile before agreeing to support her extended stay there, and kept in close contact with her while she gone.

A friend of Lily’s family wrote, “We need to look as theses time as parentheses in our life story; there was much before, and there will be much to come.” What a wonderful way of expressing what I have tried to share with Cole ever since Joe died.… Terrible things do happen, but they do not have to define us forever after. We can acknowledge the parentheses in our lives without staying stuck between them.

Please keep Lily in your prayers and thoughts, and honor her journey by letting her story make a difference in your life.


6 thoughts on “Life Before and After the Parentheses

  1. How are so right…I immediately felt such compassion for the family and their daughter. . .I don’t know them but I don’t have to. I’m glad Lily is healing and I am grateful for the insights you have shared. So often we stay stuck or let fear keep us from moving forward.

    Odd offers such insight. Thank you KBJR.

  2. I remember your post on facebook, and yes, my heart clutch, and my eyes getting those warm feeling filled with tears, I will definately keep her Lily and her family in my prayers and sending them virtual hugs. Please keep us updated on her condition.

  3. My heart goes out to Lily and her family. Glad you could share good news along with the bad.

    Is true to often we let one event define us or a loved one–this family is very brave to live in the moment and to recognize the good moments now and the good moments that will certainly come later.

    • The family is very brave…I don’t want to give the impression for one minute that there ordeal has not been impossible hard but they are working through it with an enormous amount of grace and even humor.
      Hope to share more good news soon!

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