Happy ReBirthday to You!
noun: RebirthDay; plural noun: ReBirthDays a transformative event that creates one’s second chance at life
“The date of a life-changing 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, or medical challenges. 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.
July 31, 2019 marked the 11th 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 Thruway. 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.
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 are some highlights of how I have celebrated over the years:
- 2009: my Dad dropped me off in downtown Hendersonville where I chose to spend part of the day alone. I had lunch by myself and contemplated all that I had lost.
- 2012: I traveled to Florida and celebrated with my childhood friend 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 in NYC where we watched the sunset over the Hudson River. My friend Phil Vanaria also brought a “Hummingbird” ReBirthDay cake to our TBI support group for my fifth year milestone. In South America, hummingbirds represent rebirth and resurrection.
- 2016: Reunited in Norwalk, CT with a group of women I met at the HAVEN Writers Retreat, who served me actual birthday cake.
- 2018: to mark the tenth anniversary of my ReBirthDay, I threw two big ReBirthday parties in NYC and in Hendersonville, NC.
- 2019: What adventures will unfold this year?
Last year, I planned two big ReBirthDay parties to honor the incredible teams of healers who helped save and rebuild my life. In New York City, this included 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 included the author of Me Now Who Next Bill Ramsey, doctors, therapists, family, friends, fellow brain injury survivors, and those from my spiritual family Unity of the 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.
This includes friends from BIANC and the TBI Support Group at CarePartners. We would not know or be in each other’s lives if it were not for our brain injuries, which have in some ways helped us create a special family. We all have a chance to support and celebrate one another when we face our own ReBirthDays. It may take years and years to be ready to celebrate whatever challenge you have survived. I am here celebrating my eleventh ReBirthDay because of the amazing work done by so many! So I’d like to wish you Happy ReBirthDay too!
ReBirthDay- written by Angela Leigh Tucker on June 13, 2018