Fast forward 20 years from when I left the hospital blind and hearing impaired, to now. Last week was my family reunion in Montana that has been taking place every other summer since before I was born. Two hundred plus of my relatives gathered together at a lodge on Salmon Lake and spent the week swimming, tubing, water skiing, playing games, going on hikes, and just enjoying each others company. While life since my illness has definitely been a challenging “box of chocolates”, one thing I know for sure is that I could never have done it alone. I am so grateful for my family and their wonderful support.
The highlight of the trip for me was actually something I didn’t even know about. The Saturday after the reunion I spent the day at a local friend’s house playing poker with the boys while my sister, mom, and other relatives organized a surprise party for me. This July marked the 20th anniversary of my surviving and coming home from the hospital and I had no idea anyone had planned an event to celebrate it.
We had planned just the day before to go to my aunt’s house for a potluck to hang out with the few relatives who were left in town. Most everyone had said their goodbyes and convinced me that they had left town when in reality they were waiting at my aunt’s house to surprise me. When I arrived, my brother Scott took me around the back claiming the front entrance was inaccessible. When we got to the backyard, I was hit with a wall of sound. At first I thought it was maybe some loud neighbors, but soon discovered it was a large crowd yelling a big “surprise” at me! I was stunned and overwhelmed with love and gratitude, and was rendered speechless as tears filled my eyes.
My friends, life is most definitely like a box of chocolates, and though you never know what you’re going to get, with God’s grace and the help and support of friends and family, no challenge will be more than you can face. Your box of chocolates will always contain some flavors that you wish weren’t there. They sometimes won’t taste good, but you need to swallow them anyway and embrace the life you are given. When you can do this, only the best is yet to come!