If you've lived through trauma and tragedy, you know how drastically life can change in an instant. On Dec. 27, our son, Hunter, was in a skiing accident in Keystone, Colo. As of "right now" or "today," as Hunter says, he's paralyzed.
The day-to-day feels dark, but we keep going. We hang on to hints of hope - the glimpses of light that reveal the path forward.
Hunter is the most faithful man I know, and I am honored to journey alongside him.
His accident has made news headlines. Other columnists have shared about Hunter and his character. His story is still unfolding as he embarks on his spinal cord injury rehabilitation journey at Craig Hospital in Englewood, Colo. I am staying nearby in family housing and spending my days alongside Hunter as his self-appointed cheerleader and helper.
As Hunter's mom, I won't be writing his story. Our goal is for him to write and speak about his own story one day in the future.
But I have my own stories to share. Early on, when Hunter was still in the intensive care unit, he said to me, "Mom, what about your work? Maybe Trevor (AgweekTV's producer) could come out here and you can do some ag stories here."
While Trevor and I haven't planned any ag stories from Colorado yet, I am dusting off my column and starting here. Hunter knows my work is important to me, and to our family. He also knows it helps keep me going.
On Jan. 6, my 41st birthday, Hunter was transferred to Craig Hospital. He asked the Craig staff to share their recommendations on where my husband, Nathan, and I should go for a birthday dinner. We hadn't been out for a meal together, other than to the hospital cafeteria, since the accident. We hadn't planned to go out for dinner, but Hunter insisted, so a friend of his kept him company while we took an Uber to Sushi Den in Denver.
Along the route to the restaurant, I noticed houses still beaming with Christmas lights. I could see Christmas trees still twinkling through the windows, shining brightly through the dark night. I commented to Nathan that it was the 12th day of Christmas on my birthday, or, as my mom reminds me, the day of Epiphany in the church.
Did Denverites keep Christmas lights on through the 12 days of Christmas? I asked our Uber driver. While he isn't a Denver native, he said his girlfriend is and it's an old tradition to keep Christmas lights on through the National Western Stock Show, which spans the month of January.
Each evening since my birthday, as I walk to my family housing apartment, I gaze down the streets and feel a purpose in the lights shining in the darkness.
I've asked medical and security staff at the hospital and more Lyft and Uber drivers if they know of this tradition. Newbies to the growing area do not. Natives often do. As I told an Uber driver about the tradition en route to Walmart one night, he offered to drive by a large tree in a city park shining bright with lights so I could take a picture.
When I got back into his car, he commented he has lived in the Denver area for 22 years and always thought people were just "lazy" for not taking down their lights because "we have a lot of potheads, you know." We roared in laughter together and he commented that his perspective on January lights had changed.
Christmas lights in January give me hope in the new year. The flickering light bulbs soothe my moments of numbness and feelings of helplessness, inspiring me to think ahead to the future we have together with Hunter. While our future is different, there is light, hope and many Christmases and Januarys to come.
Lastly, the lights shining in the darkness remind me of many of you. You have showered us with prayers, kindness, and generosity, which has brought us joy and comfort during what has been a dark moment in our lives. You have shown our son and our family more devotion than we ever thought possible.
Keep shining, not only for us on the dark days in January and beyond, but for others around you who are in need, hurting, empty or lonely. We all need extra lights in the darkness of January. No matter your circumstances, you can be a light.
And for those of you in Denver for the National Western Stock Show, carve out some time to soak in the lights. The simple beauty, even amidst a big city, is good for the soul.