Kara Swanson's Brain Injury Blog

May 26, 2011

Really, What Else Is There?

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 7:23 am

In the wake of the horrific and devastating tornado that ripped through Joplin, MO this week, there has surfaced a homemade video capturing the crazy-frightening moments survived by a group of people huddled together in a darkened store.   There is very little visual account, but the audio is breath-taking.

As I craned close to my computer speakers, I closed my eyes, listening to the raw and real emotions as the roar of the tornado engulfed them.   You can hear windows break and debris flying as the group realized that, indeed, this could be the last moments of their lives.

Humid.  Dark.  Bodies stumbling over one another.  The smell of fear.  The sounds of panic.  Huddling close and small, trying to hide from the looming monster.  Please, Please don’t take us!!!

And in what could have been the final breaths they took, the final thoughts they entertained, the final words they spoke, EVER-what I DID NOT HEAR was:

I’m too busy to meet you for lunch, dinner or a cup of coffee…I’m too tired to dance, take a walk after dinner, have sex, or play with the kids…I’ll do that next month, next summer, next winter, when the kids head off to college…   


I don’t like you because you’re fat, poor, rich, ugly, beautiful, disabled, White, Black, Jewish, Muslim, Christian, gay, straight, Republican, Democrat, or an Ohio State Buckeye fan…


I’m glad I didn’t go on more vacations with my family…I’m glad I worked 80 hours a week…I’m glad I held that grudge against so and so all these years…I’m glad I didn’t go visit my mom/dad in the nursing home more…I’m glad I didn’t spend more time with my kids…I’m glad I passed on all those invitations to meet friends and see family…I’m glad I didn’t act on my beliefs, follow my dreams, overcome my fears, seize the moments, enjoy the simple things in life…


I can’t do X, Y or Z because I have a brain injury (or a thousand other conditions), because I’m too fat, because there’s no time, because I’m not pretty/handsome enough, because I’m not good enough, because I’m not smart enough, because there’s no money, because I may fail, because they may not like me, because she/he might say no, because they might laugh at me, because it’s not the way it used to be, because there’s always tomorrow….

When they realized that there is NOT always tomorrow…When they realized that, OMG!!!!  This could be IT!  That, all of a sudden, their stories could be over.  Their sands run out….

That all the things they wished they could try, do, accomplish…All the things they put off, denied, avoided…All the words they refused to say, failed to say, spewed in anger, spite or jealousy…

When they realized that this moment, right here, was the last they would hold…That they were now reduced to a handful of moments, of precious precious moments, in an entire lifetime… 


I love all of you.  I love you guys.  I love you. 


  1. Hi My Friend!
    Tears and thankfulness..
    What a blessing you are.

    Comment by Barb G — May 26, 2011 @ 8:01 am | Reply

  2. I hadn’t listened to this audio until your blog post. I am so glad you wrote this. I listened to it a few times, and then watched the next day video he took of where they actually were. What a miraculous story, and inspiration to those of us who waste time on what doesn’t matter when you’re stripped down to life or death. Thank you so much, Kara, for this post.

    Comment by Vanessa — May 26, 2011 @ 12:23 pm | Reply

  3. My brain injury wasn’t severe enough to put me in a life or death situation, where the family gathers round the bedside holding hands, saying I love you, giving promises to be more present and loving with everyone, reflecting on what’s truly important and precious. But I still hoped it would galvanize my family, make us all more aware of the fragility of life and dreams. It didn’t.

    It has done the opposite. It has caused tremendous and terrible rifts in my family. My mother blamed me for lapsing in attention and causing the bike wreck and then cries to me about how awful she feels she couldn’t take the injury for me. My father and step-mother insult me for going to rehab. My sister did not begin to email me regularly until nine months after the injury, saying she was angry that I didn’t tell her I was injured the day it happened but waited nearly a week (mostly because of my brain-injury induced denial that I had a brain injury). Most of my friends do not come around anymore. I have no job, no income, and sometimes fall into the devastating isolation that is the curse of the brain injured and so many others who are in pain. I cannot pretend for an instant I know what it is to survive the tornadoes and the destruction of entire communities and livelihoods, but this brain injury has ripped from my life many things, material and non-material. I stand in my own corner, huddled against the sadness of isolation and wondering if I will ever be able to take a bus to work without getting lost and confused, and I give thanks for what I do still have. I do have my home, I have new friends with disabilities, I have health insurance that gets me to rehab, I have a loving partner who doesn’t make me pay rent anymore. I have deep gratitude for having a place to share with others the trials and the triumphs of life with an injured brain.

    Comment by Cheryl — May 27, 2011 @ 11:47 pm | Reply

    • Hey Cheryl: Please check your personal email

      Comment by karaswanson — May 28, 2011 @ 2:13 am | Reply

  4. Karen-
    I saw your presentation at the symposium and I was really touched. I have to admit it really spoke to me on so many levels, not only as a provider, but in my own personal life as well. I just popped over to check out your blog and read this entry. It left me with watery eyes. Thank you for remindig me what is important. Instead of vegging out on the couch this evening, I took my daughter to the park 🙂 Thank you for all you do!

    Comment by Julia Pierce — June 2, 2011 @ 9:17 pm | Reply

    • OOPs!!! Geez. I apologize, I have no idea where I got “Karen”! sorry ;(

      Comment by Julia Pierce — June 2, 2011 @ 9:18 pm | Reply

      • It’s OK, Julia. Laughing here. No matter what you call me, you still made my day. Thanks. :))))

        Comment by karaswanson — June 5, 2011 @ 9:45 pm

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