Happy Thanksgiving! I cannot believe it is already upon us with Christmas right around the corner. I thought in light of Thanksgiving I would put projects and interior design tips on the back burner and share more of a story with you this week….I often get asked how I got into woodworking. I love this question, because I get to share my story.
But before I can answer “How I got into woodworking,” I need to give some backstory and lead into “WHY I got into woodworking.”
Everyone has a story. The fascinating thing about each of our stories is that when shared, it is likely to help someone else. I believe God wants us to share our story; to be a beacon of hope to someone going through a difficult trial, to encourage them that we got through it…or if we’re still walking through it, to help carry one another.
Corey and I are coming up on our 23rd wedding anniversary this December.
Our story began at Ball State University. Corey was studying Finance and I was majoring in Geography/Travel & Tourism. After graduating in the Spring, we were married by December. We had our first two children within the next two years…Auston (22) and Chase (20).
During this time, Corey held four jobs so I could stay home with our boys. He was completely on board and worked his tail off to make that possible. I remember many nights he would only get four hours of sleep…home at midnight from one job and then up at 4 a.m. to go into the office to learn the financial business, before he had to be at his next job at 8 a.m. What an amazing man; such love and dedication to his family.
Corey’s ultimate goal was to work full-time in my dad’s business. He loved the world of finance and grew so much during this time. Little did we know, he would later buy the financial planning side of the business and it would become his company.
When Chase was 2 we decided to expand our family. But this time, it wasn’t so easy. We struggled with infertility for about four years, losing a baby through a tubal pregnancy in the process. But to make a very long story short, after an emotional rollercoaster we thought we would never get off of….we were blessed with three more children…Lauryn (14), Ty (13), and Grayson (11).
These miracles were exactly what we would need in the unforeseen year to come, when our entire world would be turned upside-down. These miracles would be present reminders that God is faithful, no matter how bleak our circumstances may appear…
I remember so much from that tragic day 7 years ago. It is forever engraved in my mind…July 9, 2011, a relaxing Saturday morning: sun shining, crisp air, the kids and I still in our pajamas, excited to get out on our new boat. We were all looking forward to a fun day ahead.
We headed out onto the lake. With eight of us, our boat was only half-full. It was a boat Corey had dreamed of owning for many years. Designed specifically for wakeboarding, it had all the bells and whistles. Corey and Chase shared this passion for wakeboarding. So, they were in awe over this boat, and couldn’t wait to see what all it could do.
After our friend, Jim, went out on a few runs, he hopped out of the water and Corey jumped in. He was so excited to show me what he had been working on in the early morning hours.
He strapped on his board, the boat took off, and he was up. Doing great! He had done this for years. Then he went into a turn and the edge of his board caught the water just right, smacking him down hard onto the water. We could hear the smack all the way up in the boat, about 30 feet away. I remember Jim saying, “That was a hard hit. I’ve done those before. That hurt.”
We pulled the boat around to Corey. Our youngest son, Grayson (3 at the time) said, “Are you alright, daddy?” Corey responded, “Yea, I’m alright.” Ty (5 at the time) said, “That had to hurt,” At that moment, Corey’s head fell back into the water and he lost consciousness.
By this time, we had floated farther away from Corey and rushed to get the boat back over to him. But, unbeknownst to us, the rope was wrapped around the board. Therefore, every time we gave the motor gas, we pulled Corey under water. Now he wasn’t only unconscious, but he was also taking in water…essentially drowning.
Jim jumped in and swam out to Corey. With his wetsuit dragging him down and no lifejacket, Jim was running on adrenaline to pull Corey back to the deck of the boat. That whole scene is vivid in my mind, but yet a whirlwind of mass confusion at the same time.
During this time, I was on the phone with 911. I think I was in shock, because I had a hard time giving the dispatcher the details of where we were and what was going on. I was also trying to console my children at the same time. Chase was in shock and the two younger ones on the boat with us, were very scared.
We finally got Corey situated onto the diving platform of the boat. Jim stayed with him to hold his head up, so he wouldn’t take in more water, while Jim’s wife, Kris drove us back to shore. This was the longest trip ever. Every time we tried to speed up, water would rush up onto the platform, so we had to go very slow.
When we eventually made it back to the cottage, we had to wait a little while for the ambulance to arrive. This felt like an eternity–although it probably wasn’t that much time at all. The whole time Corey was unconscious, he was making motorboat noises with his lips and clenching his arms close to his body. I would later find out the devastating reason why his body was reacting in this way.
The ambulance finally arrived and they immediately told me to head straight to our local hospital. He needed to be life-flighted. I grabbed the older boys, Auston and Chase, and left the younger ones with Jim and Kris. We made the one hour trek from Coldwater, Michigan to Fort Wayne in less than 45 minutes.
Praying and crying with my flashers on the whole way…I was motioning for people to move out of my way. For much of the drive, I drove on the shoulder. Looking back, God really had a hedge of protection over us. I was going speeds I didn’t know my truck was capable of. My poor boys were in the back seat praying not only for their dad, but also for their own lives.
When we made it safely to the hospital, Auston was in such shock. A girlfriend of mine took him home with her. But Chase wanted to stay. We were led to a room, “The Room” where they tell you bad news.
The doctor came in, sat down and told us the bleak news. I remember pieces of it. By this point, my mind was in such a fog. Severe traumatic brain injury; subdural hematoma; probably won’t make it; we’ll do what we can.
Chase lost it. My mom lost it. I hardly reacted. I couldn’t even believe what I was hearing. This couldn’t be real. Any moment I was going to wake up from this nightmare. I had to stay strong for Chase. Deep, deep shock.
We were allowed to see him one last time before they took him into surgery. We were led into a very cold, sterile room. Corey was lying on a table with several people working quickly around him. Chase saw his dad and couldn’t hold back the tears. He was trying so hard to be strong, but the reality of the moment set in and he turned his back and the tears came fast. A very kind nurse came over to him immediately, talked with him, and comforted him. She was so good. I’ve never been able to remember her name….but I wish I could…I would love to tell her “thank you.”
Every so often, Corey would move his arms close to his body. I thought this was a good sign–awareness. I soon learned it was not good at all. It meant he had severe damage to the brain.
While my mom and I were talking to him and I was leaning over close to his face, a tear ran down his cheek. I knew he could hear us. My heart was completely broken.
He was my everything. How could I possibly do life without him? He had to pull through this. We needed him. We had just been laughing and having a great time only a couple hours ago. Our lives completely changed in the blink of an eye. Was this really happening? It was all so surreal.
We said our “I love you’s” and headed out to the waiting room. I was overwhelmed to see the entire room packed full of family and church family. It was unbelievable. It gave me strength and comfort to know we were not alone and so many people were praying, loving and supporting us.
A few hours later, the neurosurgeon came out with the news…”he made it through surgery. The next 72 hours will be very critical. I think he has a good chance of pulling through. BUT it will be a hard road ahead.” I remember looking at my sister, with tears in my eyes and saying, “He’s still here, we can do hard.”
The road has not been easy. Corey spent the first year in inpatient rehab and then outpatient rehab. He still does therapy once a week and struggles with reading and writing. His TBI was a left-brain injury and therefore communication has been most affected. Both expressive and comprehension have been compromised…finding the right word can be difficult along with following in-depth conversations. But he has made amazing strides and we are so very grateful he’s still here with us.
We have so much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. I encourage you to share your story. We all have one. You never know the life you may impact and breathe hope into.
In two weeks (12/6), I’ll share HOW I got into woodworking. It’s amazing what God did to tie this story and my love for woodworking together.
Happy Thanksgiving Friend!