​Holiday Cheer When Not Feeling Cheerful

Posted by Amber Collie in Life After Paralysis on December 14, 2022 # Lifestyle

zack collieHow do you feel when the holidays roll around? Do you like pumpkin spice season, Christmas lights and decorations, or does Christmas music want to make you throw something at the wall? Bah humbug. I have friends who hate Christmas. They cannot wait for it to be over. On the other hand, I can’t help but smile when I see those holiday decorations flooding the shelves in the stores. I didn’t grow up with holidays being a huge deal, so once I was married and had children, I wanted to make my own holiday traditions.

When my 4 kids were young, it was complete chaos and so much work. Sometimes wrapping gifts well past midnight on Christmas eve only to be woken up at 1st light to have them all ripped open in a flurry of excitement. As the kids got older, it was less hectic and more enjoyable, but I do miss the magical feeling that comes with small children believing. In 2010 I was a busy mom with my 4 kids. Zack was a freshman in high school and was at the age that being with friends was much more fun than family. On Memorial Day, Zack stood up from the sand and ran into the ocean; that was the last time Zack would walk. When he dove into the water, he broke his neck, becoming a C-4 Quadriplegic. Never in my then 39 years would I have thought anything like this would happen, not to us, not to my family. Yet it did. My life was over as I knew it. I entered paralyzed world. I knew nothing about spinal cord injuries. The first few years, I gathered information and told my son's story to anyone who would listen. It felt like life would never be normal again. I lost my hobby and photography business and became a full-time caregiver.

I tried hard to make sure my other three children did not feel neglected, but I am not sure I succeeded there since an injury like this dominates your daily living. Things that I used to love faded fast. I was lucky to get a 2-minute shower and put whatever clothes on that were clean. A new spinal cord injury is a lot like bringing home a new baby for the 1st time. You learn as you go, and caregiving, even for someone you love, is not for the weak. My love for holidays that 1st year was tested. I was not feeling the holiday spirit or at all cheerful that year. Zack had only been injured 6 months when Thanksgiving rolled around. He was 16 years old. I wanted to do something different since my life felt so upside-down why not, so we packed the car and went to Las Vegas for Thanksgiving. We saw some shows and ate turkey dinner in a smokey casino. Doing something out of the ordinary was good for us.

When Christmas arrived, I remember handing Zack a wrapped present on Christmas morning only to realize he could not open it. I felt like I got punched in the gut. Zack’s little 5-year-old sister came to the rescue and gladly helped him open his gift. It was a bittersweet moment. There will be lots of those, but do not be afraid to do something different. Allow yourselves to create new memories. Cheers.

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.