​Enjoy the Christmas Season

Posted by Amber Collie in Life After Paralysis on December 17, 2021 # Lifestyle

Zack in front of the Christmas tree with his dog. He is using a wheelchair.I can still remember that first Christmas after my oldest son Zackery was paralyzed in a beach accident. He was 7 months post-injury; we were still adjusting and figuring out how to live in the paralyzed community. After 15 years living as a busy able-bodied boy, now suddenly confined to a wheelchair. I knew nothing about spinal cord injuries. In the beginning, I was just trying to survive and wrap my head around the impossible reality that this tragedy had actually happened to my son.

The holidays have always been my favorite time of year. After death or a life-altering event, the first year can be extra hard. Especially, when you are faced with yearly celebrations that now suddenly seem so different. I had certain holiday traditions that felt completely different after Zack's injury. I describe these moments like mini blows to the gut. For example, when that first Christmas morning came after his injury, we had our usual family gift exchange. I remember handing Zack a wrapped gift and froze, realizing he could not open it. In that split second, I wanted to burst into tears, but I needed to keep it together. Zack didn't seem to notice, and with a big smile, he accepted the present. With mixed emotions, I watched as my now quadriplegic boy, with no strength in his hands, fingers, or wrists, tore into his package. Still smiling, he figured out a way to use his teeth, and he did it!

Zack's persevere tattooAt that moment, I felt a mix of emotions. I was so proud of him and heartbroken over the situation, but he proved to me his perseverance was strong. Zack set the bar. If he could handle this and he is the one in the wheelchair, then I, as his mom, could handle it too. I decided I could not be more upset than him. Zack adapted early on and never looked back. He reminded me one day of 3 simple words he heard back in high school from one of his teachers that has become his life's motto. When life throws you a curveball… Improvise, Adapt and Overcome. He also has tattooed on his arm the single word Persevere. This one word sums up living with a spinal cord injury.

I've always been a huge Christmas fan, and having 4 children makes it a magical time, especially when the kids were younger. I had so much fun when the holiday season rolled around. I love everything Christmas; it just makes me feel happy. When the decorations show up in the stores and the holiday music starts to play, I can't help but smile. I love the lights and classic holiday movies, making cookies decorating gingerbread houses and baking homemade sweets, picking out the Christmas tree putting Christmas nutcrackerson the ornaments, hanging up the stockings, shopping and finding that perfect gift for someone. I don't even mind gift wrapping. I will find my favorite spot on the couch to read a book with the fireplace going. One of the things I noticed is when you love something; you want to share it. My love for Christmas must have caught on because my kids all seem to enjoy the holiday. Zack, my oldest, has fond memories, and even at 27, he still will make time to drive around and look at lights with a holiday coffee or watch a Christmas movie and drink hot chocolate with his mom.

Happy Holidays!

My life has had many parts, I could write a book just on that section but let's fast forward to when I married Adron Collie. Two weeks after turning 20 (yes, very young!) I had Zackery at age 22, Levi at 24, six years later Kaden, and 18 months after that daughter Laila, making me a busy mother of four. At that time, I also ran a photography business. The year Zack was injured I had a child in Preschool, Elementary, Jr. High and High School. Four kids in four schools! I thought I was so busy, just getting their drop off and pick up times correct was a challenge. I have to laugh now thinking back on that because little did I know my life was just about to turn upside down.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.