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Gary Horton: Life is in control: embrace it

Posted: March 12, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: March 12, 2014 2:00 a.m.

Every now and again, life itself interrupts what we think or hope life should be and rudely reminds us that we are not as in control as we believe we are.

“Life happens”; it also ends, and we are subject to its whims at all points in between. We sometimes forget this, taking life’s goodness or kindness or calmness or joy for granted.

And then life changes without notice, and we can feel so forlorn and lost.

This past week we were traveling with our daughter, Katie, and son, Jon, to their special friend’s wedding in India.

We had met the Indian family through Jon’s fraternity at Berkely, and the group has become closer as the years have passed since college.

With months of planning and high expectations, we made the long flight to India and began what was to be a family experience of a lifetime.

On the second day of the two-week trip, the women in the group went out to buy saris for the wedding in the town of Jaipur. Like most Indian towns, it’s a crazy mixture of diversity, poverty, wealth, and horrendous roads and traffic.

Cars, three-wheeled carts and motorcycles move nearly randomly and erratically along crowded roads.

The group huddled in a store, joyously trying on the colorful Indian garb, and after a time, our daughter Katie found one that suited her wonderfully. She and a friend hurried to a tailor to adjust the clothing for the wedding the next day.

No more than 60 seconds later, we heard a loud commotion outside and a member our group rushed in shouting,

“Your daughter has been in an accident.”

Jon and I ran up the street to find Katie lying on the sidewalk, unconscious, head covered with blood, eyes blank, and breathing shallowly.

We shouted for an ambulance, but language challenges and packed rush-hour traffic made the attempt futile.

With time drawing down, we carried Katie to a motorized rickshaw, and with Katie lying on Jon’s lap, we made our way through impossible rush hour-traffic to the hospital.

Upon arrival we discovered their facilities weren’t adequate for Katie’s extreme injuries, and she was transferred into a micro van where Katie’s husband, my wife Carrie, Jon and I took her to a more advanced facility.

Four hours later Katie was having brain surgery for severe hematomas and to relieve brain pressure. Katie had suffered severe brain trauma, was comatose, and was at extremely high risk for her life.

Parents and spouses, or anyone with loved ones, who have experienced the unexpected know the fear, dread and angst of such moments. One minute enjoying a family trip of a lifetime, and the very next moment, without notice, your only daughter is in ICU on life’s edge.

As I write this we’re on the fourth day of Katie’s recovery. She survived the blunt impact, survived the surgery. She has kept up her vitals and has emerged out of coma.

She is moving and is now speaking words and short sentences. The prognosis has blessedly shifted from “hope to survive” to “hope for a good or full recovery.”

We pray that her recovery continues on its course, which has already been blessed and most fortunate.

We will likely be in India for two more weeks before she will be able to be moved. The wedding trip has moved along, as it must. We remain in a hotel nearby the hospital.

We are indeed seeing India, but in an unexpected way. Up close, we are experiencing the care, kindness, empathy, humility and humanness of this wonderful culture and great people.

We are ensconced in the love and concern of hundreds and hundreds of Katie’s and our family’s friends.

In our ordinary lives it’s so easy to get wound up in political battles. To chase excessively after shiny objects or wealth.

To build 10-step plans and to climb ladders.

Surely there is a place for these kinds of things if we are to progress and build a better society. But life itself is little, if none, of these things.

Hug your spouse a little longer. Say a kinder word. Phone your kids or your parents. Say you’re sorry if you need to say it. Fix a relationship if it needs fixing.

Soak up and breathe in every moment. They’re not making any more of them for us and those around us, and we don’t know how many any of us have left.

Be careful, cautious, guarded, but live to the fullest. Know that the ride of life stops; indeed, we know not when, and savor all people and aspects in it.

Today it appears Katie will recover, although this will take weeks, and perhaps months. But God willing, we’ll have our daughter, she’ll have us, and her wonderful marriage will continue forward.

Life teaches us again that it is tentative and fragile. Live and love accordingly.

Gary Horton is a Santa Clarita resident. “Full Speed to Port!” appears Wednesdays in The Signal.



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