The Christmas Card
Every December, a slow but steady trickle of Christmas cards arrives into my office. Most of them come from the businesses and professionals I interact with over the course of the year and, occasionally, there are cards from clients expressing their appreciation for the work done over the past year on their file.
But this year I got an unexpected Christmas card from my client, “Barb” (Barb’s true identity is being concealed while her case is pending). Two years ago, Barb was crossing the street when she was struck by a city bus and was knocked to the ground. Barb suffered a significant acquired brain injury and spent many days in the critical care trauma unit where her condition was life-threatening. Slowly, but surely, Barb improved and was transferred to a rehabilitation hospital where she underwent weeks of gruelling physical and cognitive therapy. Her brain injury has left her with significant deficits. Barb has had to learn again how to do the simple tasks of life that most of us take for granted, like walking and writing her name with her own hand.
Barb was discharged from the hospital and went to live in a long-term care centre because of the extra support she still required in her recovery. Not long after leaving the hospital, however, she was diagnosed with breast cancer (unrelated to the accident) and underwent surgery and months of physically draining chemotherapy. Barb’s cancer diagnosis was literally like adding insult to injury. But she persevered and is now in remission. I have found myself often wondering why Barb has had to go through so much? Where is the justice in getting hit by a bus and then getting breast cancer.
The Christmas card I will remember this year came from Barb. It arrived to my desk in a simple, non-descript envelope. There was no glitter and no sequins on the card. On the inside, it says, simply, “To Bill” and then her name, which she signed herself. I know that the effort that went into preparing this card, in her own handwriting, would have been significant, and required some assistance from a rehabilitation therapist who works with her. But the fact that she wanted to send me a card, and took the time and effort to do it, meant so much to me. A year ago, Barb wouldn’t have been able to send me this card, and I am glad that her condition has improved to the point where she can. It motivates me even harder to try and get the best possible result for Barb.
For many of us, Christmas can be a time to look back and reflect on the year about to end: to mark the high points and the low points; to learn from our experiences and try to improve for the year ahead. I have lots to be grateful for, and there are experiences from this past year that I might handle differently if I had the chance, but more than anything this Christmas, it will be the card from Barb that I remember most. For me, Barb’s Christmas card represents the hope and belief that tomorrow will be a better day.
I’m already looking forward, with hope, to the Christmas card that Barb might be able to send next year.