Concussed is a now-familiar word, bantered about in sports. As I called my husband to tell him what happened and to think about solutions, solve this slick scenario, that word never came up. I never mentioned my brother's contusion to the brain stem, either.
I said into the phone, "I just had a Mary Aufderheide moment." He knew immediately the severity of my statement.
Mary had befriended me when my children were young. Without ever calling it by name, she knew my struggles, approached me after church one day and asked, "Do you need anything?"
Over the course of a few years, when I attempted to provide for my children while my then-husband drank up every last dollar we had, Mary negotiated my utility bills, arranged for my family to have presents at Christmas, and delivered boxes of food to my home.
Each time she came with groceries, her husband Bill back and forth between car and house, she'd touch my arm and say, "Now, remember, no one needs to know where this came from."
As I got my bearings after my fall recently, the memory of a call from a friend haunted me. Mary and others had been preparing boxes for the poor in the church basement when she slipped, fell backward, and hit her head on a step. breaking the thin skin of her 78 year old head, and causing a major bleed out.
A brilliant light went out that day. Mary, who served her name well, had filled a mother's spot in my life. Since the fall, I've been given to tears. It's as if I realized for the first time that life is fragile. I barrel through believing in my own invincibility while others have passed away.
Seven days after my fall, in deep December cold, the bruise on my backside lightens. The knot in my shoulder lessens, and my hard head is still intact. Perhaps I needed this trauma to remember the true meaning of the season. Mary's kind face present still.