This event was planned and executed as well as anything I've ever seen. The venue, food, band, and speaker were all phenomenal. Casa Colina even created a deeply moving video of our lives and my recovery, which they compiled over nearly a year's time. They started at our wedding and even had footage from the ICU in it. It was tough to watch, but very, very beautiful. I'm going to post it here sometime in the near future.
The featured guest and keynote speaker for the night was Captain Mark Kelly who has particularly been thrust in the international spotlight as his wife, Congresswoman Gabriel Gifford, was shot in the head in a failed assassination attempt last year. She and I share some similar experiences in brain rehabilitation, but maybe more importantly, we both share the support of our wonderful husbands. Capt. Kelly was a fabulous speaker and such an interesting person in his own right as he is extremely well-known for piloting the space shuttle Endeavor's final mission last year. It was an honor to share the stage with him that night.
As the night came to an end, Jay and I were asked to share some closing thoughts. I praised all the many sources that brought me to that night by saying, "God spared my life. Dr. Gonzalez saved my life. And Casa Colina gave me my life back again." There was a standing ovation by the entire room which almost took my breath away. Flooded wth emotion about that moment/my recovery/all the folks who had carried me here, I wisely took the opportunity to acknowledge the many, many people in the room that night--family, friends, doctors, therapists, etc.--who played vital roles in my recovery, encouraging me every step, from the depths of brain injured darkness to being able to stand before the crowd that night.
After I spoke, Jay shared these profound words, "...I don’t want to sentimentalize the reality of brain rehab and the work that Casa Colina does on a daily basis. Stroke and brain injury likely touch all of us in some way or another, but why don’t we know more or want to know more about its causes and cures? As inspiring as stories like Katherine’s can be, they remind us of the fragility of life; the fact that the delicate balance that keeps all of us moving and loving and creating could come undone at any moment. The truth is, if we pull back some of the protective layers of our memory, the year and 3 months we spent at Casa Colina were some of the darkest we have ever known....We knew going to Casa Colina was a necessary next step in recovery, but in many ways it felt like a tragic nightmare, one from which we might never awaken. And yet, one of the deeper truths that we have found is that to experience real joy in life, you must first understand and experience the greatest sorrows. In thinking back on our time at Casa Colina, in many strange ways it feels like a comfortable old friend, a warm and pleasant dream--the town, the people, the little house, the milestones made, a sense that it beckoned us, “come, all you who are weary and heavy-laden and brain injured and I will give you hope and rest”.... Through my rusty Spanish, I translated early on that Casa Colina meant “house on a hill”. I could not help but be reminded of the parable in Matthew that says, “you are the light of the world, a city on a hill cannot be hidden”. The light that Casa Colina brings to this City and State and more importantly into the dark state of the lives of those afflicted by brain injury is something that cannot and should not be hidden. The light that Casa Colina shone into our situation not only allowed great healing of Katherine’s body but more importantly great healing of our spirits—empowering us with the hope that our lives were far from over. For that and many more things, we are eternally grateful, thank you so much."
Wow. I'm crying even rereading his words.
After this, I briefly closed. I shared about the tremendous amount of therapy I have needed to get me to a place of functioning semi-normally again, as well as the fact that my therapy journey continues to this day. I am dedicated to my recovery, just as Casa Colina was in the beginning, and as I told them, "the spray tan I got for this evening completely washed off because I had to go to pool therapy yesterday"!
Some of my sweet friends even got me this anchor ring to commemorate the night.
It was a night we will never forget. Thank you friends, family, and most of all Casa Colina for giving us such a special memory!