Happy ReBirthDay To You!
noun: RebirthDay; plural noun: ReBirthDays
a transformative event that creates one’s second chance at life
“The date of a lifechanging car crash”
I imagine most of you have faced a significant life challenge somewhere along the way… whether it was job loss, breakup, divorce, financial troubles, medical challenges, or simply surviving your morning commute. Take a moment to consider what that experience may be for you. Now I invite you to rethink that date as a pivotal turning point in your life or as your “ReBirthDay”. After all, it’s made you who you are today.
Many people living with brain injury, like myself, have a significant date when we feel our past lives ended and our new lives began. Many of us long for our former selves, and may sink into depression when we contemplate all that was lost. We have no control over the past, and there is nothing we can do to change the circumstances that brought us to where we are today. What we can change are our feelings about the injury and let go of the future life that we once anticipated. Imagine what could happen if you considered marking this year's monumental date as a celebration? Everyone is different and for many this may seem difficult or impossible. But after years of therapy and building my prayer practice, for me it has become less difficult and more of a way of life. My wish is that everyone can find a way to heal that works for them.
This July 31, 2018 will mark the 10th anniversary of when my husband Rich Betancourt was killed in a car crash and when my healing journey with a traumatic brain injury began. I consider it my "ReBirthDay" or second chance at life. Angela1 died beside her husband while driving home from a Yankees Baseball game on the New York State Throughway. Angela2 was born that same night while being rescued by the first responders and life flight paramedics. I talked about this in more detail in the chapter I wrote for Chicken Soup for the Soul…Recovering From Traumatic Brain Injuries.
A brain injury is one of a myriad of challenges a person may experience that can be reframed into the perspective of a second chance at life. Stowe Dailey from the singer/songwriters duo Stowe Good wrote this song about surviving cancer:
I’ll have a second chance
To laugh and love, to sing and dance.
I know it is a sweet and precious gift,
A second chance to live.
Reframing the date of a major life challenge can help us gain acceptance of this new reality. Intentionally choosing to change our mind does not make the problem go away, and does not bring back whom or what we have lost but it can help us shift our perspective from feeling like a victim to feeling gratitude. Someone might ask, “How can she possibly be grateful for a car crash?” One way, is that I no longer sweat the small stuff. After surviving the enormity of what happened, everything else pales in comparison. I live with an entirely new perspective on life, because it is so much more precious now.
My second chance at life also gave me a second chance at love. My twin flame sparked into existence when my dear friend Joanna Prisco invited me to her bachelorette party. It was held at her aunt and uncle’s Adirondack Lake House. Her cousin Adam Augustus Renzi was asked to be the cabana boy for the weekend, because he knew how to drive the boats, build the fires and use the outdoor grills in a way that, in his words, promoted “good lake house party flow.”
When I first laid eyes on this tall handsome bald fellow he was playing guitar in the home’s Great Room. I was immediately uncomfortable because this reminded me of my late husband Rich who was also a talented musician. While the resemblance was hard to miss and threw me off a bit, I am so grateful I took a chance on love again.
Rich was and will forever be my first love. Three years after meeting Augustus, while sailing Lake George on the Adirondac Steamboat, Augustus and I were married during a 1920s themed wedding.
I am lucky to have been and be loved by them both.
The pictures in my iPhone helped me recall most of my past ReBirthDays. Here is a highlight of how I have celebrated over the years:
- 2009: my Dad dropped me off in downtown Hendersonville where I choose to spend part of the day alone. I had lunch by myself and contemplated all that I had lost.
- 2010: my longtime childhood friends Neysa and Lance invited me to Salt Lake City where we walked the Cecret Lake Trail that my colleagues hiked in my honor two years earlier at the Outdoor Retailer Tradeshow.
- 2011: I met these same friends in Chicago where we enjoyed several tours including the Lincoln Park Zoo.
- 2012: I travelled to Florida and celebrated again with Neysa. She invited me to write a letter to Rich that I tucked into a red glass bottle and threw into the Gulf of Mexico at Fort Myers Beach.
- 2013: friends took me to dinner at the Boat Basin Café where we watched the sunset over the Hudson River. My friend Phil Vanaria also brought me a "Hummingbird" ReBirthDay cake to our TBI support group for my fifth year milestone. In South America, hummingbirds represent rebirth and resurrection.
- 2014: I recognized my “ReBirthDay” in California with my friend Alvin, and I reunited with west coast relatives whom I hadn't seen since my wedding 7 years earlier.
- 2015: went to dinner with friends from Unity of New York.
- 2016: Reunited in Norwalk, CT with a group of women I met at the HAVEN Writers Retreat, who served me actual birthday cake.
- 2017: Phil Vanaria took me to dinner at one of our favorite restaurants on the Upper Westside of Manhattan, Spring Natural Kitchen.
This year I am planning two big ReBirthDay parties to honor the incredible teams of healers who helped save and rebuild my life. In New York City, this includes life flight paramedics, surgeons, doctors, therapists, attorneys, fellow widows & widowers, brain injury survivors and friends, and my spiritual family Unity of New York.
In Western North Carolina, this includes the author of Me Now Who NextBill Ramsey, doctors, therapists, family, friends, fellow brain injury survivors, and those from my spiritual family Unity Blue Ridge. I offer my sincerest thanks and gratitude to each of you, and many more across the country who have touched my life merely by being in it.
I am here celebrating my ReBirthDay because of the amazing work done by each of you! So I’d like to wish you Happy ReBirthDay too!